July 2, 2009
Limited Too is Now Justice
And why Christians easily confuse justice, too.
by Troy Jackson
Recently I needed to repair my car and chose a mechanic across the street from Kenwood Towne Center near Cincinnati. Typically, when a mall is too proud to call itself a mall, the shops are upscale, and Kenwood is no exception. So while my vehicle was repaired, I went to the mall for an overpriced cup of coffee.
My eye caught an unexpected store name. In bright pink letters across the entry was "Justice," with a heart dotting the "i" for good measure. Seeing no photos of Martin Luther King or Gandhi or Dorothy Day, I looked up again to make sure I had read the sign correctly. Then I noticed a banner below the sign, which simply said, "Limited Too is now Justice."
Even entering the store, I knew that my definition of justice had very little to do with the products peddled by "Justice."
But the rebranding of Limited Too is part of a larger social trend. Justice is hip, even in our churches. Over the past five years, church after church has made justice a more prominent part of their stated mission, objectives, and vision.
But while we've added justice to our theological working vocabulary, when I closely at our programs and priorities, I see a much greater emphasis on compassion and mercy than on what the Bible describes as justice.
These compassion efforts are laudable. Who can argue with digging wells in Africa or tutoring poor urban children on the other side of town? Truly, that's caring for "the least of these." The renewed compassion and concern on behalf of the poor is long overdue. But to brand these efforts as "justice" misses the full definition of the term. We mustn't conflate charity and compassion with biblical justice.