When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.
Though it seems that justice is a trending topic in our day, it has always been on the heart and mind of God. God is just. It is one of the core essential truths we must become wise in understanding as followers of Jesus. As such, the pursuit of justice is not reserved for a holy few, but it is the pursuit of all those who claim to be after the heart of our Lord. With this in mind, parents must consider how they are cultivating a heart and mind bent towards justice in the lives of their children.
If there is a truth I cling to more and more, daily living and working in one of the most under-resourced communities in Atlanta, it is that God’s heart for justice far outpaces my own. This does not, however, mean that God is accepting of my apathy at times. God lovingly corrects and graciously pursues us as co-participants with him in bringing about justice on earth as it is in heaven. This is great news, and a powerful invitation. As a parent, I am convinced that the way I shape my children’s worldview to bend towards God’s view of justice is a core part of my responsibility and is frankly good stewardship.
There are 3 core things I believe every parent should consider in cultivating hearts and minds towards justice in our children:
It is critically important to differentiate between mercy and justice for our kids to be wise in their pursuit of justice.
Mercy is often a momentary act of compassion or relief, while justice is the complete reversal or upheaval of a system to bear its original intent or purpose. These two are not two sides of the same coin. I do want to be clear though: mercy and justice are both central to God’s heart for the world. Making this critical distinction allows us to see that the work of justice will frequently require more effort. Learning to count the cost is essential to following Jesus.
What often happens when parents desire to expose their children to the effects of injustice is that they do so simply by participating in acts of mercy or service. While on the surface this is well intended (and these times can produce incredible fruit in the lives of the server and the served), it is important to go beyond just acts of mercy and service and engage our children in age-appropriate conversations about how the people being served may have come into this situation in the first place. Lead your children to consider that those being served are made in the image of God. Their present circumstance may not merely be a result of their own choices, though that may at times be the case. We can help our kids have a bigger view of the way systems and structures interact in the world to bring about present realities. This will require intentionality, forethought, and even perhaps research on the part of the parents before engaging in this way with their children. The end result, however, will be a much more fruitful experience and a heart and mind that is filtered by the justice God desires for the world.
A mind and heart towards justice must be taught AND caught.
While this may sound contradictory to my last point, I assure you it is not. You will need to show your children how to properly engage in the fight towards justice. Conversations are key, yes, but they must also see your life making intentional steps towards fighting for justice on behalf of others.
I was talking with a friend who is the leader of a well-known and respected ministry in Atlanta that works primarily with the city’s homeless population. He was sharing that parents ask all the time if they can bring their kids to serve. His response to them is always “no,” initially. However, he follows up by asking the parents to consistently commit to serving for a period of time so that their children will begin to ask questions about what they are doing. Over time, kids can answer from a place of deep commitment towards justice themselves.
One of the most critical components of working towards justice in the lives of others is to know their names and stories, knowing who it is and not just what it is you are fighting for. This process my friend describes is a powerful way for a mind and heart towards justice to be taught, through conversation, and caught, through children seeing you serve, know, and fight.
Justice can produce joy.
Lastly, it is key that our kids see that the fight towards justice can produce joy. A joy and a peace that surpass our understanding will make us magnets for children seeking to establish a faith of their own. Our kids will never even be interested in having hearts and minds of justice if it looks like the fight for justice is going to crush us beneath its weight. Sure, there are hard days in fighting for justice in this world. Yes, when faced with the many injustices in this society, we grieve and mourn. However, our kids should have an opportunity to see the wellspring of joy in our lives that comes from joining God where He is at work in making all things new.
Justice isn’t just central to God’s heart; it is where He is actively working in our midst. We would be wise to join Him in His relentless pursuit of justice and cultivate hearts and minds in our kids to do so as well.