The Justice Impulse – What it means

The Justice Impulse – What it means

When I was a little boy (around 9 years old), our home was robbed twice. A few weeks prior to the first robbery, our beloved dog was hit by a car right before my eyes. He lived for a few hours before dying. In the midst of the grief of losing my dog, our house was burglarized. The thieves stole pretty much everything of value, including a gold ring in the shape of Texas my grandfather gave me. My mom was keeping it for me until I was old enough to wear it. That gold ring and a pool cue were the only things I had from my mother’s dad. I still have the pool cue.

After the robbery, I remember feeling afraid and having nightmares.

About a month later, we had replaced most of the “stuff” like the TV and VCR. We installed a security system. My parents were divorced and didn’t care too much for each other but my dad bought us a puppy. It was his way of bringing some joy back into our lives. I remember mom let me name him Ralphie and let him sleep in my room sometimes. Within a few weeks, we were robbed a second time. This time the thieves entered through the empty house next door and broke through the adjoining wall of our duplex (to avoid the new alarm system and burglar bars on the windows). They took all the new stuff that replaced the old stuff… and they stole our puppy, Ralphie.

This time anger overtook fear. It dawned on me that something is wrong with the world. This is my first memory of feeling injustice.

Fast forward to the morning of November 10, 2015. I had been selected for jury duty. Sitting in a most uncomfortable chair, we were introduced to the case. It was the worst kind of criminal case you could be assigned as a juror. It involved an older man sexually abusing a 5yr old little black girl. Nothing could take my mind from my own daughter, who was 4 at the time.

It was the one of the most heart-wrenching, sickening and traumatic situations I have ever experienced. After six days of testimony, a heroic little girl took the stand and faced her abuser. After 9 hours of deliberation, we found the man guilty on several charges. He was sentenced to what would amount to the rest of his life in prison.

I walked away knowing that justice had been served.

What do I mean by justice?
I think that defining terms is very important when we talk about ultimate issues. John Stonestreet likes to say that, “People use the same words but different dictionaries.” To put it another way, people can use the same words in a discussion but those words have different meanings. A good example is the word ‘love’. I love my wife, I love my kids, I love cheeseburgers, I love my mom and I love my best friend. However, I do not love them all the same way. Love means something different in each instance. “Justice” has multiple meanings and applications as well.

Here are a few definitions of ‘justice’ from online dictionaries:

  • the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness:
  • rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason:
  • the moral principle determining just conduct.
  • conformity to truth, fact, or reason : CORRECTNESS

The definitions above are helpful but they don’t quite point to the source of justice.

Let me put forth a deeper foundation for your consideration.

From a biblical perspective, justice is rooted in the character of a creator God. Justice, also referred to righteousness, is an attribute that flows from God’s goodness. In order to flesh this out, we must go to Genesis 1. When God created the world and everything in it, he claimed “it is good.” When God created man in His own likeness, God saw everything He created and stated, ‘it (meaning all creation) is very good.”

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

Because we are created in God’s image, we carry some of his attributes. To put it another way, we have artifacts of God’s character woven into the fiber of who we are as humans. Every human life has intrinsic value and essential worth. Either this is objectively true or it is not. If it is true, then all humans have value on an individual basis no matter what and deserve dignity, protection and justice. If it is not true, then human value is arbitrary based on what those in power deem valuable – certain human-beings become expendable based on utilitarian values (usefulness). In the last instance, there can be no objective shared characteristic of justice – it evaporates in a mist of arbitrary relativism.  We need a unmovable point of reference.

We can’t say something is wrong unless we have some innate knowledge of what is right.

C.S. Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”

Genesis 1 tells us about the ‘straight line’ or goodness, rightness or correctness. However, we need to head to Genesis 3 to better understand ‘a crooked line’ or wrongness. When we juxtapose the two, we have a clearer picture of justice. Now we can reframe the dictionary definitions of justice with deeper dimension and meaning from an objective source.

In Genesis 3, the Bible tells the story of how humanity chose to reject truth, reject God and reject His goodness. This is called ‘The Fall’. Prior to this point, all things were ‘good’ and ‘just’ in the created order. When man rebelled, sin and brokenness entered the ‘very good’ created order. Disorder and injustice followed. Since that moment in time, we humans have had a sense that things are not as they should be in the world.

There is an “oughtness” that we innately know about how life should be. Because of this, we know all is not lost. Artifacts and reflections of God’s original intent – goodness and justice remain innately rooted in our being. We just know a moral law exists that informs us on the difference between good and evil – straight and crooked lines.

Where does the ‘Justice Impulse’ come from?
We’ve all experienced some form of injustice in life or at least witnessed it.  Something from deep within cries out, “That is wrong!” At the same time, from deep within we have this innate desire to make wrong things right. But, where does this feeling or impulse come from?

Some sociologists contend that it is learned behavior that is socially conditioned by our surrounding culture. I think that is partly true. Our culture can shape our conception of justice. But that does not explain the fact that even little children from various cultures have an innate knowledge of fairness and fundamental idea of justice and injustice, even if it is very elementary. When you hear a 3 year old yell “That’s not fair!”, you are hearing an impulse of justice. People have this innate sense of “thats wrong” coupled with a desire to see things made right.

You can go to any cultural setting on earth ask people if it is good to molest and murder a child. The overwhelming response will be ‘no’. Any exception will be seen as an outlier to what is normative across cultures. Everyone can agree that harming a child is wrong. To do so is unjust and evil.

When we were robbed twice, I felt pain, hurt, anger, frustration and fear. I knew what happened was wrong. At the same time, I wanted to see things made right. Justice was never served in those instances.

However, when I was on a jury that put a monster who did irreparable harm to a little girl behind bars, something was different. At the beginning of the case, I felt much the same way I did when we were robbed. By the conclusion of sentencing, I felt peace and a sense of rightness, even goodness about the situation. Given, none of my feelings change the trauma for that little girl. But, we did deliver justice to the best of our ability.

When I see a man pleading for his life, gasping for air under the knee of another man sworn to protect life and uphold justice, an impulse emerges from deep within. I see an image-bearer in agony under the boot of an image-bearer under oath to serve and protect. Both men are created in the image of God and worthy of dignity. Both are marred by brokenness and sin in the context of a fallen world. However, when the dignity of one man is discarded by another, we witness injustice. In other words, when image-bearers see fellow image-bearers attacked, we innately know that human dignity and value are being attacked. Those “artifacts” of God’s character that are woven into who we are emerge in the form of a justice impulse. That impulse can take many forms in its expression.

We could be silent, we could lash out in anger, we could protest, we could destroy, we could try to help, etc.

I have concluded that silence in the face of injustice may be the worst response. Silence basically seconds the motion. It allows, or dare I say, promotes evil. As misguided, wrong and evil as riots and destruction are in the face of injustice, silence carries with it a mixture of contempt and selfishness.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

I put forth the following regarding the justice impulse we all sense.

First, the justice impulse that we feel when we see or experience something wrong is good. We need to affirm that our sense of justice is indeed, good.

Second, justice needs space to be heard, cultivated and modeled within our homes, communities, businesses and our government. We all need to be free to rightly point out injustice when we see it. We need to allow truth to shape our concept of justice and love be the root of our response.

Third, we need to realize that in this broken world, injustice and evil exist. We will not completely rid ourselves of this reality. The human heart is deceitful. However, as image-bearers we can respond to injustice and evil with justice and goodness. We stop injustice by understanding that we all have dignity and value. You are sacred, I am sacred, your ethnicity and mine are sacred. We did not choose to whom, where or when we would be born. However, together, we can stand against evil even when we disagree on other things. And remember, evil begets evil. Disfunction begets disfunction. But, perfect love casts out evil, as light casts out darkness.

Fourth, we can restore the brokenness caused by injustice by promoting goodness and protecting the dignity of all human-beings – particularly the vulnerable and disenfranchised. We restore by bringing peace into a situation and ensure justice is served.

How do we as people who love justice respond to our justice impulse?

1. Pray. When events out of our control occur that cause emotional response, we must pray and ask for God’s wisdom to discern whether our impulses are just and good. If so, what is the right action to take?

2. Listen for understanding. Bear witness to someone else’s pain and suffering without judging. Be present in someone’s pain.

3. Learn to walk and chew gum at the same time. Sensible people faced with a complex situation do not need to be relegated to a tribe (or side). The “only two sides – pick one” dichotomy is elementary and childish. Remember, humans have dignity and a general sense of justice even when opinions differ on particulars.

4. Speak up in the face of injustice, even if it is unpopular. William Wilberforce is a perfect example.

5. Serve. I’ve learned the best way to restore a semblance of justice and goodness is to serve those in need. For instance, when we serve those experiencing homelessness, we are bringing goodness and restoration into their lives through relationships. We are acknowledging an individual’s dignity and value. We are saying, “I see you.”  People have value not because of their socio-economic status or ethnicity but because their imagery. All are made in the image of God. When I serve an image-bearer, I am serving the image-maker. When I lovingly raise my voice for the voiceless, I am doing justice, loving my neighbor and showing God’s mercy.

Finally, for the Christian, we must understand that all of these responses must be rooted in truth and love. We accomplish all things by grace through faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ who suffered the most significant injustice in history to justify those who trust Him. God sees injustice and will not remain silent. God’s people see injustice and we should not remain silent either.

Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

“He (God) has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

PS. I keep my juror badge (pictured above) taped in the back of my Bible to help me remember that I must work to stop evil and do justice.


Read previous post: “Thank you Ravi (Zacharias) – A Story”
If you like what you read here, please subscribe –  sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

The Story of a Little Boy and a Little Lady

The following was adapted from a talk delivered on January 20, 2019 at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Ft. Worth, TX. Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

READ the Comments… for the ‘rest of the story.’

Imagine a baby in the womb – warm and safe. It’s a little boy. He’s not aware of the outside world. He just knows he’s safe.

Meanwhile, his parent’s marriage is falling apart as brokenness and selfishness drive a wedge between his mother and father. The fighting intensifies into a crisis.

With the little boy in her womb, the mother goes to her doctor filled with hurt and fear. She asks physician to get rid of the little boy she is carrying. The doctor replies, “I will not do that.” He sends her away. The little boy doesn’t know how close he came to death that day.

As the fearful young mother leaves the doctor’s office alone, Something inside her changes…

She chooses to keep the child regardless of what happens with her marriage. She whispers to herself, “He is mine! He is my little boy. Come what may.”

And so the little boy is born into chaos and brokenness. His parents divorce but the fighting and turmoil will continue for years to come.

A few years pass by and the little boy begins first grade. The first weeks are a struggle because he gets out of school hours before his mother gets off work. She juggles work and picking him up from school. It’s not working out.

One day when the mom picks up the little boy at the church where the school bus drops off the children, she sees a little lady looking after the children on the playground. She is older, kindly and not quite 5 feet tall. The mother introduces herself and points out her little boy on the playground with the other children. She says to the little lady, “Do you see that little boy playing over there? He is mine.” The mother tells the little lady of her struggles picking up her little boy after school.

The mother asks, “Would you be willing to look after my little boy until I get off work?”

“Of course, I will look after him.” responds the little lady with a warm smile.

And God quietly sends a missionary into the lives of the little boy and his mother.

The little lady cares for him, prays for him and loves him. She shares Jesus with the little boy. In the midst of the chaos and struggles going on around him, the little boy has an anchor.

Years pass and the little lady encourages the little boy to make a decision about Christ and be baptized. He does and there is great joy – at least for a little while…

The little boy gets a little older and leaves home for boarding school far away. The little lady continues to pray and intercede for him. She sends him letters encouraging him and reminding him he is loved by God. He visits her when he’s home sometimes.

Time and distance grow between the boy and the little lady. She is growing old but she never ceases praying for him day and night.

The boy begins to wander into the shadows and valleys becoming enchanted with darkness. Now, he is at college far from home. He becomes entangled in snares and brambles of sin. The boy meets a girl on his dark path. They have a relationship and she becomes pregnant with their own child.

THE BOY HAS CHANGED
He has grown selfish, hard-hearted and filled with fear, shame and anger. He persuades the girl to kill the child in her womb. And with the death of his child at his own hand – something inside of the boy dies too.

From far away, the little lady senses trouble. She launches salvos of prayer into the very halls of heaven. But, no answers come into the life of the boy.

Time passes as the void left in the boy’s life is flooded with more darkness, shame and destruction. The boy attempts to remain afloat pursuing worldly pleasures to sedate the pain, as he tumbles into the abyss.

And one day, the little lady who had prayed and prayed for the boy dies and goes to the Father in Heaven. Still, no answers in the boy’s life… Did the sustaining prayers die with the little lady?

Many years later, the boy has fallen into a deep pit in the valley of shadows – exhausted, ashamed and lost. He believes the only way out is to die by his own hand. After all, it is what he deserves.

THEN, SOMETHING CHANGES
In the boy’s darkest moment, mighty God shuts the mouth of the roaring lion. He stays the hand of the enemy and declares, “This one is mine!”

Into this dark valley of shadows, the good shepherd seeks and searches for the one that wandered off. Over the mountains and through the valleys and brambles he finds the one he is searching for. He stoops down and lifts up the lost sheep. And he returns it to the fold with the others.

Do you see that sheep laying torn, bloodied and exhausted so very close to the good shepherd’s feet?
Can you see him resting there?

The good shepherd with wounded hands binds the wounds of this sheep. The shepherd looks into the tired and tearing eyes of the trembling sheep and whispers, “I have a plan and purpose for you. From the time you were in your mother’s womb, I watched over you and protected you. I love you more than you will ever know.”

A light dawns on the horizon of the boy’s life. And so the boy limps and stumbles down a path toward God.

Now imagine a magnificent morning in heaven. Absolutely glorious. The little lady goes up to worship and praise the Father with the multitudes. The halls of heaven fill with God’s glory. An angel steps forward to announce that the little lady’s prayer for the little boy has come up for memorial before the Father – a prayer from decades ago – that God would bless, protect and use the little boy.

And so the Father in Heaven listens and sends forth a gentle rain of answered prayer into the life of the boy.

I am that boy.

I STAND before you today under that gentle rain of answered prayer – to bear witness to what Jesus Christ has done and proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom to the nations.

Dearest Friend, You are loved by God. You are created in His image. He sees your pain and affliction, and extends a hand of mercy, forgiveness and peace. Won’t you take hold of that hand? Can’t you see there is no sin beyond the forgiveness through Christ?

John 3:16

(For the ‘rest of the story…. read the comments below)

Images of the Little Boy and the Little Lady

Note: I must credit imagery captured about the lost sheep was inspired by FW. Boreham’s “The Pasture Green a Journey Through Psalm 23”. The imagery of answered prayer as a “gentle rain” was inspired by O. Halesby’s book, “Prayer”.  I highly recommend Boreham and O. Halesby to fellow pilgrims. They will enrich your life beyond measure.

Read previous post: The one who states his case first seems right, UNTIL …
If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

Iraq: How did I get here?

Iraq: How did I get here?

The this is a continuation of a previous story, you can read the first part here ….


It’s the end of August and I am sitting cross-legged on a rug in a refugee camp in Northern Iraq (Kurdistan). A girl politely places a glass in front of me containing very strong piping hot tea loaded with too much sugar. I can’t understand the quiet conversations going on around me as our team and our hosts settle into their spots on the rug along the dark walls of the tent. The inside of the tent is a cool oasis from the scorching 109F heat of the day. As if on cue, everyone begins stirring their tiny teas with tiny spoons. Everyone smiles at one another as a strange symphony of chiming metal against delicate glass fills the space. I don’t know our hosts except from reading about them but I feel quite welcome.

I am seated across the tent from a group of shy but seemingly contented Yazidi women and girls recently rescued from the Islamic State terror group (ISIS). ISIS terrorists are masters of human trafficking among other evils. Women and girls are stolen from their homes and sold as sex slaves. The boys are turned into child soldiers, suicide bombers or simply discarded. A few months ago, these women and girls were experiencing horrors beyond the bounds of human comprehension. Just thinking about what they’ve undergone is more than enough to break your heart and mind. But, they are survivors and resilient.

The epicenter of something massive on a global scale

Its difficult to fathom exactly how I got here. Yes, I flew from Dallas-Fort Worth to Frankfurt, Germany to Erbil, Iraq then drove north for a few hours. But, thousands of tiny threads converged to arrive at this moment. This is the epicenter of something massive on a global scale.

Two years prior, on a chilly morning I was invited to a meeting with the Fort Worth Police Department to address the sex-trafficking epidemic in Fort Worth. This small group of loosely affiliated agencies and non-profits were trying to get their heads around the problem. We were pressented with cases where little girls were being bought and sold for sex in my city, I was in a state of shock. The police department was overwhelmed. Local government was in disbelief and I’m considering vigilante justice.

Fast-forward a year. I’m now deeply involved in a taskforce combatting human trafficking in North Texas. The tiny group has grown to over 50 agencies, non-profits and departments. Over previous 12 months, I’ve made connections across the country with leaders and agencies dealing with the issues of human trafficking.

The Threat

One Thursday evening, I’m preparing to leave my office when I get a call from a woman in our church who is in a US city that will remain unnamed. She’s a part of our anti-trafficking community, she’s a friend and she’s attempting to rescue a girl and her infant baby from her trafficker.

I hear fear in her voice. She’s at an airport with the victim, the victim’s baby and another woman assisting the rescue. The trafficker is part of an organized gang, very dangerous and issues an ultimatum to the victim; “Be at my house by 11pm or I’ll kill you.”

I’m sitting in my office in Fort Worth 8 hours away staring at a clock on my laptop screen edging closer to 6pm. The victim can’t board a plane because her trafficker has confiscated her ID. The women can’t leave the airport because he may have people looking for her. Local law enforcement cannot be trusted and hospitals are not geared up for this type of situation – they will just call the police. She can’t go to her parents because one of them sexually abused her for years. The three women and baby are stuck. They begin to panic.

I begin thinking and praying through the situation. The safest place at this point is the airport. But, they can’t stay there all night without raising suspicion of airport security.

From my office, we make a plan to get them to the airport hotel and into adjoining rooms. One room is for guests with physical disabilities. That way, they would be near an elevator and they could activate emergency devices in the room to call for help. They could flee to the adjoining room if necessary. Our plan was a tiny bandaid on a massive problem. They didn’t know if they were followed. The victim will be going through withdrawals from Oxycotin soon (her trafficker keeps her doped up in order to control her). She will need medical attention and aftercare to stabilize her from years of trauma. The baby will need formula and fresh diapers.

I’m thinking, “What the heck are we going to do? I have a friend in a potentially deadly situation and I have no way to help.” It’s now approaching 9pm. I’ve called everyone I know with access to aircraft. I considered renting them a car but then they would be driving for several hours without protection. I’m out of ideas. My assistant and I are staring at Google maps and the clock. We were both praying. This situation is far beyond our abilities or experience. We’re in way over our heads.

Then it hit me, “Wait a second! I know someone who knows a guy who deals with this type of situation!” I made a phone call and we prayed. “Lord, help them, help them …” That is about all we could pray at this point. We sit and stare at the clock. Nothing is happening. Minutes are rolling by. Still nothing.

The Call

Finally, I get the call I’ve been waiting for. First thing in the morning, a private plane will be dispatched to a small municipal airport outside the city. In the meantime, a retired US Special Forces guy will be parked at the hotel to keep watch over the sleeping girls. Like clockwork, the next morning (Friday) a plane arrives and the security team bring the victim, her baby, my friend and another young woman back to Fort Worth safely.

On Sunday, the victim (now trafficking survivor) is receiving care in a local facility and her infant girl is at our church for Sunday Services (in the caring arms of a young woman who agreed to babysit while her mom received treatment). When I got word the baby was on campus I knew I was walking under the gentle rain of answered prayer. Incredible!

There are people in our world willing to risk their lives to rescue forgotten women and children from evil and walk with them toward restoration. I had to learn more and God opened the door for me to do just that… I will take you on that journey.

To be continued…


Read previous post: Welcome to Iraq dude – A wild ride
If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

A man’s morning prayer – November 4, 2017

A man’s morning prayer – November 4, 2017

Lord,

I look to you today for guidance, contentment and strength. You are my only hope and comfort in this dark world. I am bound to you, Lord. Each moment brings me closer to meeting you face to face.

Your cross shakes me from my icy pride. You broke the shackles of sin and death.

Help me be a good husband, father and minister – a faithful servant, full of the joy of your spirit; a man of peace…..

Formidable yet good.

This is my prayer today.
In Jesus Name, Amen.

Meditation – Psalm 8:9


Read previous post: Hurricane Harvey (Video): A story from the Texas Coast.  If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.