What is justice? Like real, life-giving, healing, and unity-building justice? Recently, “No justice, no peace” is one of the sayings going around in the peaceful demonstrations and posts. I don’t know about you, but justice as punishment, finger-pointing, and shame (go to forms), has never helped me. Quite the opposite, actually. I think of my 15-year battle with porn, wherein the traditional form of punishment did nothing but make me ashamed, insecure, and fearful, while keeping me addicted! What freed me, though, is justice that sees and heals wounds, brings peace where there’s violence, Loved me exactly as I am, and turned my focus from my wrongs to my rights.
One of my favorite words and concepts of all time is Shalom. I’m so taken with this ancient Hebrew vision; I even have it in a tattoo! While it’s used as a greeting and typically translated “peace”, it means SO much more! From my studies and experience I’d put it like this: Shalom points to a reality where everything is as it should be, captures the fullness of flourishing for humanity, animals, and the world, and paints a picture of peace, togetherness, communal joy, wholeness, and a Love-soaked world!
With that in mind, I’d say any justice that stops short of doing our best to bring shalom to ALL parties misses the mark. In other words: No justice, no shalom. This means: No justice, no peace, no wholeness, no healing, and no flourishing. Is this idealistic? Sure! And it used to be idealistic to think women would have the right to vote, a nation could have freedom of religion, and a black man could become president of the U.S. Idealism is reality in the womb, because it takes dreams to create new, more beautiful realities!
In wondering what it takes to live in harmony with creation, in Loving unity with others, and connected to the Divine, I read the prophet Micah as saying it’s NOT from extravagant sacrifices or by being punished for our crimes, “but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”. (Micah 6.8b, NRSV) I mention this because my spirit-sense says it’s showing us justice, Love, kindness, humility, and journeying through life “plugged-in” to the Source of this all, are all inseparable. True justice is animated by Love, acts with kindness, admits and addresses its limitations, and remains open to the Spirit that connects us all.
While justice in our world generally dwells in a negative, eye-for-an-eye space, meaning it takes and punishes, I believe the justice we truly crave restores and reconciles because it flows from a positive place. It heals, unites, and fosters wellbeing, rather than the wounding, division, and downward spirals we see all too often in our systems. Justice, in its fullness, creates an upward spiral that GIVES life.
Hopefully, as we’ve gone you’ve picked up that I’m talking about justice at an individual, relational, communal, national, and systemic level. After all, the macro reflects the micro, the big picture mirrors our regular lives, and vice-versa. So, let’s talk a bit about my porn addiction to wrap things up.
Googling “justice” defines it as “just behavior or treatment”, which I read as meaning systems, guidelines, and programs that help us live well (i.e. justly) together. Quick side note before I start, recognizing studies show the majority of men look at porn and that there are positive benefits to it in some forms, all I’m saying here is porn was/is wrong for me. When I was mired in the mud of porn, I viewed justice as punitive, strict, angry, distant, and shaming. Knowing I was doing wrong, wanting to do right, and praying for Divine help and guidance, for years the cycle went something like this:
I looked at the images and enjoyed their addictive ecstasy. Then, I’d feel guilty for acting against my conscience. Shame for objectifying and denigrating women, as well as for betraying my wife at the time, would leave me curled up in a metaphorical corner. Following this came an imagined sense of anger and hostility from my picture of Spirit, in addition to feeling impotent for not being able to control myself and do better. The end result of the only justice I knew was feeling unlovable, insecure, afraid, small, disconnected, hopeless, helpless, alone, and stuck in a seemingly endless downward spiral.
What changed for me and brought me into an upward spiral of freedom some 12 years ago was the reimaging of justice I’ve described above. One that begins and ends with unconditional Love and acceptance, names wholeness, embodies healing, preaches understanding, fosters togetherness, and will do its absolute level best to bring restoration and aliveness to all involved.
I dream of a land where everyone experiences the kind of justice that freed me. I imagine a world saturated with shalom. I believe together we can make this vision real!
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