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Why Justice Matters

family in doorway of a grass-roofed house
World Renew agriculture program participants at their home in Malawi. The pastor of the community church explained, “The church works better when people have enough to eat.”
“We’re well beyond ‘Why does it matter?’ It matters to God, so then it matters to us, the people of God, and we have a mandate to live that out.”

Justice is an important concept throughout all of Scripture. As Christ-followers, we believe the pursuit of justice is a key aspect of our faith walk. As members of the Christian Reformed Church, we embrace this as one part of our five-fold calling by saying, “Hearing the cries of the oppressed, forsaken and disadvantaged, we seek to act justly and love mercy as we walk humbly with our God” ( But why does justice matter? And what does it look like when we pursue this calling in our lives? Recently, several justice seekers from various CRC agencies and ministries sat down to discuss this.

Andrew Oppong, Thrive’s social justice content manager: If we look at Micah 6:8, the part where it says “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God,” it’s a very beautiful passage. We love it in the CRC. But what is happening in the previous verses? It’s Israel wondering, “With what shall I come before the Lord? ... Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, ... with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?” (Micah 6:6-7). That’s good, but it is incomplete. In the work that we are doing at Thrive, we are trying to remind people of that basic connection between biblical justice and discipleship. How you live your life, how you worship, how you do faith formation, how you do everything—it’s not a separate thing. They are all inextricably linked.

Cindy Stover, the CRCNA’s justice mobilization program manager: If we have this original creational order within our Reformed theology of understanding the way God intended the world to be—a place where there was justice, where there was shalom, where there was flourishing for all people and all of creation—then really that means relationships. Theologian Nicholas Wolterstorff talks about how the relational nature of righteousness and justice means to be in “right relationship” with one another and with all of creation. So to do God’s justice in the world is an inherently social act.

Adrian Jacobs, the CRCNA’s senior leader for Indigenous justice and reconciliation: I’ve been asked what the difference between Indigenous spirituality and Christianity is, and what I’ve always come up with is that an Indigenous spirituality and understanding of the spiritual world is embodied. Indigenous spirituality encompasses (questions such as): What is my relationship to the land? What is my relationship to other people? To me, Christianity and justice are sometimes not seen that way. I think of the long history of residential schools that occurred in Canada with leaders of the church, including the highest-trained leaders, priests, and nuns doing things to Indigenous children that are just so totally opposite to their propositional beliefs. If you are a Christian who is justice oriented, it has to be reflected in what you do.

Jodi Koeman, World Renew’s Church With Community coordinator: We need our churches to help us be justice so that when people experience our “putting things right” and wonder “Who do they look like?”, we can point them to Jesus and respond, “We look just like our Father.” We need our churches to help us be the justice the world is longing for.

Rachel Vroege, regional ministry developer (western Canada) for Diaconal Ministries Canada: In our denomination’s mandate for deacons is the calling to benevolence and justice ministry and how they’re intertwined. It says, “Deacons offer holistic responses that respect the dignity of all people, working to change exploitative structures and systems, equipping the church for ministries of reconciliation and peacemaking, and seeking opportunities for advocacy.” We’re well beyond “Why does it matter?” It matters to God, so then it matters to us, the people of God, and we have a mandate to live that out.

How does a deacon team offer holistic responses? Once you’re down that road and you’re working with people and building relationships with them, then you will see the way injustice is at work in our society, whether that’s a senior living on a fixed income, people with disabilities, or those struggling with chronic illnesses. How is the housing crisis affecting the refugee family the church has sponsored? Churches are directly involved with justice; maybe it’s just a matter of learning to see it and then not being overwhelmed. We need to see how to respond and work together.

Chris Orme, World Renew’s church relations representative: My starting point in answering why justice matters is usually to go back to Luke 4, when Jesus goes into the synagogue of Nazareth, opens up the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and says, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor, … freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Justice matters because it’s the blueprint for Jesus’ ministry. It’s the key to understanding what we’re being invited into.

Jacobs: Embodying your Christian faith in that manner of hospitality, that’s where the invitational life is. It's in you. Jesus said: “Everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). So it’s contagious. There’s something powerful about getting to know people, becoming engaged with them, and working through the tough stuff.

Vroege: Diaconal Ministries Canada works with a financial life coach. A deacon team in British Columbia had her come out and coach them in particular benevolent situations. She worked with people the church was supporting, and now those people may no longer need the financial support of the church. When a church engages sincerely and accesses the right resources, people can be empowered and lifted up to be able to have more agency in their own situations. You don’t want to be paralyzed by the fear of doing the wrong thing, but there are all kinds of barriers that can be addressed.

Koeman: I just started working with four congregations on shifting their food ministries from “food charity” to a “food justice” focus—not that they’re going to do a lot differently, but they’re going to work through a process of understanding and shifting focus. It’s not that we’re going to do less charity, but we have to add more justice.

Orme: If I’m part of a church in an urban food desert and we’re all about advocating for access to food locally, I’m going to talk about it globally too. World Renew is working with one congregation in Malawi building food security through garden irrigation. The pastor told us, “The church works better when people have enough to eat. It gives them more capacity to care for each other well, and to love each other well, and to look beyond the congregation too and see who else needs support.” Justice matters because it’s the heart of God. There’s no shortage of ways for how and what we can be involved in, but it’s better when more people are working together in community.

Oppong: I always encourage people that we are all interwoven in the great tapestry of God’s faithfulness. Wherever you are, there’s something to contribute. We always have to be invitational and know that we all have something to give. We all have different roles to play in justice work.

For more of this conversation, visit

Pursuing Biblical Justice: Places to Start

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