No justice, no peace? Know Jesus, know peace

Race Issues
by Jarvis J. Williams

Posted on Tuesday, May 12, 2015, at 5:06 pm

New social justice movements have emerged in the United States as a result of disputed deaths of black men. These movements include various catchphrases, such as “black lives matter,” which was coined after the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012. Another phrase, “no justice, no peace,” was adopted by protesters in Baltimore last month following the death of Freddie Gray. With the recent murders of New York police officer Brian Moore and Hattiesburg, Miss., officers Benjamin Deen and Liquori Tate, angry citizens have begun to personify the chant “no justice, no peace” with violent attacks against policemen attempting to protect and serve their communities and citizens.

CNN contributor and Morehouse College professor Marc Lamont Hill recently asserted that it’s foolish and unrealistic to expect peace without justice for black people. His premise proved to be logically correct after the threat of more violence in Baltimore likely influenced state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby to bring charges against the six police officer involved in Gray’s arrest and death. Plus, after charges were filed, protests in Baltimore became more peaceful.

But the threat of “no justice, no peace” is actually void of justice. Instead, this chant is a lawless threat of violence against fellow man if those promulgating the chant do not receive their just deserts. However, the gospel promises peace (salvation) and divine justice (God’s righteous acts) for all who follow Jesus.  

Jesus’ vision for divine justice in the gospels places His Father, His kingdom, and Himself at the center (Mark 1:14-15). After reading Isaiah 61:1-2 in a synagogue, a text that promises the gospel’s justice for the marginalized (Luke 4:18-19), Jesus fulfills this Scripture by proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom of God to all sorts of marginalized people: the sick, demonically possessed, Jewish sinners, Gentile sinners, and women (Matthew 8:1-9:8, 18-34; Luke 10:38-42). His proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom demands repentance for society’s transformation from the inside out (Matthew 5:8,21) and offers peace and justice to the socially marginalized people of God who repent (Matthew 11:20-30, 12:18; Luke 18:1-8), while critiquing the religious for neglecting to show justice and mercy (Luke 11:42, Matthew 23:1-39).

Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom was a message of peace (Matthew 5:9) in the midst of war and violence (Matthew 5:10-11, 38-42; 11:1-30; Ephesians 2:17). It is a message that likewise expects His disciples today to show peace and justice to the unjust (Matthew 5:43-48). The path toward peace in a modern world of injustice is to fight injustice with obedience to Jesus and with an imitation of His ethics (Matthew 5:1-7:29). To know Jesus is to know peace and divine justice.

Jarvis J. Williams

Jarvis is associate professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and a former WORLD contributor.

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