Voices: Justice requires having eyes that see

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EDITOR’S NOTE: “Justice looks like …” is a special series in the Voices column. Readers will have the opportunity to consider justice from numerous viewpoints. The series is based on each writer’s understanding of Scripture and relationship with Jesus Christ. Writers present their own views independent of any institution, unless otherwise noted in their bios.

You are encouraged to listen to each writer without prejudgment. Then, engage in conversation with others around you about what justice looks like to you.

Click here for more information about the series. Click here to read the full “Justice looks like…” series.

What does justice look like? The first step of justice is sharpening our ability to see.

Jesus’ own miracles so often involved healing the blind. In these acts, Jesus repeatedly reminds all of us we have a blind spot, and God’s justice requires two kinds of seeing—eyes of conviction and eyes of compassion.

God gave me eyes of conviction when I heard the plaintive cry of a 6-year-old Black child, screaming over and over: “Nothing’s wrong! Nothing’s wrong!”

He saw an X on a paper, and in total frustration, he looked up at the teacher and screamed, “Nothing’s wrong!”

He was right. The X was the letter in the word “fox,” but he thought the X on his paper meant his work was all wrong.

“Nothing’s wrong,” he screamed with tears about to fall.

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He woke me up to the experience of children who have been told they are wrong so often by age 6 that they know the letter X means, “You are bad,” even if they don’t know it is a benign letter in the word “fox.”

Seeing in a moment

Eyes of conviction turn inward at a moment of insight, that moment when you realize something was there all along, but you didn’t see it. Your expectations, your assumptions, your privilege, your need, your sin—it all kept you from seeing … until one moment of revelation.

Some people say, “Now, I’m woke.” Others say: “I never knew that before. So, that is what it feels like to be told you are bad over and over. That’s what it feels like to be on the receiving end of prejudice.”

Justice is a place where understanding meets action. Justice looks like waking up. Justice looks like seeing. Justice looks like admitting you were behind the curve and need to catch up. Justice means marshaling my personal power—whatever that is—and putting that power shoulder-to-the-wheel for the sake of a common and bigger good.

Seeing with compassionate wholeness

Justice looks like compassion, not the greeting card version, but the place where I will relinquish the passionate concern I carry around for myself and my self-preservation and trade it in for sheer joy in someone else’s delight.

I think of Jesus stopping mid-step in a bustling crowd and saying, “Someone touched me,” and then turning amid the business of the day to the outstretched hand of a bleeding woman, crawling along in shame.

“You are healed,” he said.

“You are healed” was his compassion. It was her delight, and it was an example of God’s justice.

Jesus restored God-given health, putting her body in order. Justice is making people whole, making lives whole, restoring human qualities of dignity, opportunity, flourishing, joy.

Seeing the many forms of justice

Justice is the keys to a Habitat house in a strong hand. Justice is decent legal representation or a competent court appointed special advocate.

Justice is a second chance. Justice is time spent with someone else’s problems and someone else’s pain. Justice is sometimes eked out over a thorny path of details.

One hot night, I felt justice after 18 hours of wrangling with the payday lender to free a night nurse of predatory debt. Her words were, “Thank you.” Her experience and mine were rescuing justice from the jaws of a predator.

Justice and righteousness, conviction, compassion—justice looks like something from God, because when you are done, you are depleted, and you also are restored.

Suzii Paynter March is CEO of Prosper Waco, a nonprofit addressing education, health and financial security from a perspective of addressing equity issues. March is a former director of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission and executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Click here to read the full “Justice looks like…” series.

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