Of the 28 occurrences of justice in the King James version (KJV) of the Bible, it’s only used six times without association to the word judgment.
Is that what justice had been narrowed down to nowadays — judgment?
If the answer is yes, those who operate from such a standard can’t truly be deemed wrong, especially if it’s only used six times without the word judgment.
The Hebrew meaning of justice is righteousness; what is right or normal. If we use justice in correlation to the judgment, the two words don’t seem to balance the scales. You see we can incorrectly judge, and in turn, incorrectly apply justice. Incorrectly applied justice rules out safety. Neither is right nor normal. See how the rabbit hole gets deeper?
What if we steered clear of the rabbit hole and looked at justice another way? What if we utilize justice from a just is point of view — based on a judgment free zone of right? Before you sigh heavily, Kanye shrug or roll your eyes, hear me out. It’s very probable and possible, by way of empathy which is the idea of placing yourself in someone else shoes.
Let’s take a look at the Syrophoenician woman (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-29). She was a foreign woman who boldly approached Jesus. She didn’t consider her lack of cultural agreement with Jesus nor the disciples. She had one objective — her daughter’s healing. Nothing else was of her concern. Nothing else including the unnecessary, prideful announced annoyance of the disciples nor the culturally influenced, snide remark of Jesus.
The Syrophoenician woman wasn’t making any moves away from the table until she had the assurance that her daughter was healed. You can’t blame her, at least not validly. She took a risk leaving her daughter. She took a risk making her uninvited presence known at the table. She took a risk talking to Jesus and reiterating her point when he was noncompliant.
This shows there are times where for the sake of just is we have to be willing to take the risk. As I see it, it’s that risk — the selfless reason for the risk, the legacy in the risk, the reward in the risk and the power in the risk — that makes it worth it. More so, it’s worth it because she placed herself in her daughter’s shoes
The Syrophoenician woman was a mother. She was an aunt. She was a partner. She was a friend and a daughter. She was an advocate for just is.
For her, just is inclusive healing, where even the dogs, the lowest of the low, are able to receive. For her just is taking such courageous action that you are positively unforgettable. Not only is she remembered as a woman of great faith by Jesus, but her actions caused her to be remembered for generation upon generation. For her just is ignoring egos as she gave not one iota of thought to the disciples thinking she was there for them. For her just is being seen until you are heard.
In Matthew’s text, Jesus didn’t answer her immediately. We don’t how long it really took. However, she was like the tree in Psalm 1 that wouldn’t be moved and didn’t allow her leaf of empathy to wither. She didn’t allow her stance to weaken, even though Jesus’ actions could’ve been a deterrent and a determining factor to turn around and go home.
It took one courageous, consistent move.
It takes one move of just is to affect the whole.
Are you willing to take the risk?
Rae Karim, formerly chapel director at Christian Theological Seminary, is now pastor at First Christian Church of Honolulu. She can be reached at email@example.com.