November 2, 1993
A few weeks ago, in front of her own four children, a woman shot and killed another woman, apparently because the victim had insisted the first woman put out her cigarette in the non-smoking section of a restaurant.
Closer to home, a young girl from an Alberta community was at the wrong place at the wrong time and was beaten up by several other girls. Her alleged crime was expressing some sort of opinion against one of her attackers, not that day but some time previously.
These, and almost every other news story, contain an element of injustice. The innocent are abused. Con artists rip off the unsuspecting. Drunk drivers kill children. Homes are robbed and ransacked. Even people who mean well are ill-treated by spouses, children, parents, and total strangers. Life is unfair.
An elderly friend of ours repeats a platitude from one of the television religious programs: “Life is not fair... but God is good.” How would those four children react to that? Or the mourning relatives of the woman who was slain? Or the young girl whose teeth were knocked out? Does the victim ever rejoice in the fact that God is good in the face of gross injustice?
Occasionally I read some of the Old Testament prophets and find myself getting a reality-check. They not only saw things like they actually were, but bluntly told about injustices for which their readers were responsible. That includes me.
For instance, Isaiah wrote to the nation of Judah after Israel split in two. They were making idols of the gods of the nations around them but also continued with the ceremonies of worship involving the true God. Even though the contradiction seems obvious, some may have wondered why God was not listening to their cries for help. Nearby political powers threatened to conquer them, they cried to God for help, but He was not listening.
At the command of God, Isaiah told them: “Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”
After saying that, Isaiah listed the injustice going on around them: “Your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things. No one calls for justice; no one pleads his case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments and speak lies.... Their deeds are evil deeds, and acts of violence are in their hands. Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are evil thoughts; ruin and destruction mark their ways.... there is no justice in their paths....”
Isaiah did acknowledge that not everyone was like that: “We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes.... We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away.”
The problem is not that God is uncaring. God feels the same way those people did, and as many of us still do: “The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice.” However, God does not hold Himself responsible for that kind of situation. He is not committing the injustices even though many people blame Him when evil people oppress them or treat them unfairly.
Isaiah goes on to talk about personal accountability and the need for each person to be right with God. If everyone took Him seriously, what would happen to the problem of injustice?