At Last—Justice for All
“We will strive to listen in new ways . . . to the injured voices, the anxious voices, the voices that have despaired of being heard. . . . What remains is to give life to what is in the law: to ensure at last that as all are born equal in dignity before God, all are born equal in dignity before man.”—U.S. President Richard Milhous Nixon, inaugural address, January 20, 1969.
WHEN kings, presidents, and prime ministers take office, they are wont to talk of justice. Richard Nixon, former president of the United States, was no exception. But his eloquent words lose their luster when viewed in the cold light of history. Although he pledged ‘to give life to the law,’ Nixon was later found guilty of lawbreaking and was forced to relinquish his office. Three decades later, ‘injured, anxious, and despairing voices’ keep clamoring to be heard.
Hearing such voices and addressing their grievances is no easy task, as countless well-intentioned leaders have discovered. ‘Justice for all’ has proved to be an elusive goal. Nevertheless, many centuries ago, a promise was made that merits our attention—a unique promise concerning justice.
Through his prophet Isaiah, God assured His people that he would send them a “servant” that he himself would choose. “I have put my spirit in him,” Jehovah told them. “Justice to the nations is what he will bring forth.” (Isaiah 42:1-3) No human ruler would dare to make such a sweeping declaration, one which would mean lasting justice to every nation. Can this promise be trusted? Could such an extraordinary achievement ever be realized?
A Promise That We Can Trust
A promise is only as good as the one who makes it. In this case, it is none other than Almighty God who declares that his “servant” will establish justice worldwide. Unlike politicians, Jehovah does not make promises lightly. ‘It is impossible for him to lie,’ the Bible assures us. (Hebrews 6:18) “What I have determined to do will be done,” God declares emphatically.—Isaiah 14:24, Today’s English Version.
Our confidence in that promise is also reinforced by the record of God’s chosen “servant,” Jesus Christ. He who would establish justice must love justice and live justly. Jesus left an unblemished record as a man who ‘loved righteousness and hated lawlessness.’ (Hebrews 1:9) What he said, how he lived, and even how he died, all proved that he was truly a just man. At Jesus’ death, a Roman army officer, who apparently witnessed both Jesus’ trial and his execution, was moved to say: “Really this man was righteous.”—Luke 23:47.
Apart from living righteously himself, Jesus resisted the injustice that was so rampant in his day. He did this, not by subversion or revolution, but by teaching true justice to everyone who would listen. His Sermon on the Mount is a masterful explanation of how true justice and righteousness should be practiced.—Matthew, chapters 5-7.
Jesus practiced what he preached. He did not despise unfortunate lepers, the “untouchables” of Jewish society. Rather, he spoke with them, touched them, and even cured them. (Mark 1:40-42) All the people he met, including the poor and the downtrodden, were important to him. (Matthew 9:36) “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you,” he told them.—Matthew 11:28.
Above all, Jesus refused to allow the injustice around him to corrupt or embitter him. He never returned evil for evil. (1 Peter 2:22, 23) Even when in excruciating pain, he prayed to his heavenly Father in behalf of the very soldiers who impaled him. “Father, forgive them,” he pleaded, “for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Certainly, Jesus ‘made clear to the nations what justice is.’ (Matthew 12:18) What greater proof do we have of God’s desire to establish a just world than the living example of his own Son?
Injustice Can Be Overcome
Living proof that injustice can be overcome is also available in today’s world. Individually, as well as organizationally, Jehovah’s Witnesses strive to subdue prejudice, partiality, racism, and violence. Consider the following example.
Pedro* believed that subversive action was the only way to bring justice to the Basque Country, the region of Spain where he lived. To this end he became a member of a terrorist organization that gave him paramilitary training in France. Once his training was completed, he was ordered to form a terrorist unit and blow up a police barracks. His team was already preparing the explosives when the police arrested him. He spent 18 months in prison, but even behind bars he continued his political activity, participating in hunger strikes and cutting his wrists on one occasion.
Pedro thought that he was fighting for justice. Then he got to know Jehovah and his purposes. While Pedro was in prison, his wife began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and when he was released, she invited him to attend one of their meetings. He enjoyed the occasion so much that he asked for a Bible study, a study that led him to make great changes in his outlook and in his way of life. Finally, in 1989, both Pedro and his wife were baptized.
“I thank Jehovah that I never actually killed anyone during my years as a terrorist,” Pedro says. “Now I use the sword of God’s spirit, the Bible, to give people a message of true peace and justice—the good news of God’s Kingdom.” Not long ago Pedro, who now serves as an elder of Jehovah’s Witnesses, visited the very barracks that he had intended to destroy. This time he went for the purpose of preaching a message of peace to the families who live there.
Jehovah’s Witnesses make these changes because they long for a righteous world. (2 Peter 3:13) Although they trust implicitly in God’s promise to bring this about, they realize that it is also their obligation to live in line with justice. The Bible leaves us in no doubt that God expects us to do our part.
Sowing Seeds of Righteousness
True, when faced with injustice, we may feel inclined to cry out: “Where is the God of justice?” That was the exclamation of the Jews of Malachi’s day. (Malachi 2:17) Did God take their complaint seriously? On the contrary, it made him feel “weary” because, among other things, they themselves were dealing treacherously with their wives who had grown old, divorcing them on the flimsiest of pretexts. Jehovah expressed his concern over ‘the wives of their youth, with whom they had dealt treacherously, although they were their partners and the wives of their covenant.’—Malachi 2:14.
Can we legitimately complain about injustice if we ourselves act unjustly? On the other hand, if we try to imitate Jesus by rooting out prejudice and racism from our hearts, by being impartial and loving to all, and by not returning evil for evil, we show that we truly love justice.
If we would reap justice, the Bible urges us to ‘sow seed in righteousness.’ (Hosea 10:12) No matter how small it may seem, every personal victory over injustice is important. As Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote in his Letter From Birmingham Jail, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Those who “seek righteousness” are the people God selects to inherit his righteous new world soon to come.—Zephaniah 2:3.
We cannot build our hope for justice on the shaky foundation of human promises, yet we can trust the word of our loving Creator. That is why Jesus told his followers to keep praying for God’s Kingdom to come. (Matthew 6:9, 10) Jesus, the appointed King of that Kingdom, “will deliver the poor one crying for help, also the afflicted one and whoever has no helper. He will feel sorry for the lowly one and the poor one, and the souls of the poor ones he will save.”—Psalm 72:12, 13.
Clearly, injustice is not permanent. Christ’s rule over all the earth will conquer injustice forever, as God assures us through his prophet Jeremiah: “The time is coming when I will fulfill the promise that I made . . . At that time I will choose as king a righteous descendant of David. That king will do what is right and just throughout the land.”—Jeremiah 33:14, 15, TEV.
A substitute name.