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“Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.”

May Justice Roll Down

A week after all the hype of opening presents, drinking too much hot chocolate while sitting by the fire, catching up with extended family, and retelling embarrassing childhood stories I had to fly out for a conference that involved 1,000 college students, numerous amazing speakers, and several absolutely necessary coffee runs.

During the conference I had many interactions with students, but one of them in particular never left my memory. One night a group of students and I were having a discussion on the topic of justice and mercy. We looked up a few verses and I asked them to create a definition for justice in relation to what Scripture teaches. One student, Chad, made the comment that in Scripture the word and topic of justice is usually paired and corresponds with righteousness. That profound statement has stuck with me for months.

In the book of Amos, it teaches us to “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.” The imagery here, I think, is absolutely beautiful. My friends, if God’s justice is overflowing with mercy, how could its waves not roll on like a bubbling brook? International Justice Mission’s definition of justice is, “The use of power to give to others their life, liberty, and dignity, which are the fruits of their love and labor.” Therefore to “do justice” means to give to others their God-given gifts – to do what is right in the eyes of God. Chad captured the idea of justice perfectly: righteousness cannot be separated from justice, nor can justice be separated from righteousness.

This conversation made me begin to think deeper about how I treat others, myself, and the world around me. I can look at a woman who is homeless and perhaps give her a few extra dollars I have that are crumpled at the bottom of my purse, but do I look at her with deep compassion? Honestly, rarely do I look in the mirror or at another human being and see someone worthy of all of God’s gifts. I do not have all the answers, but I do know that every human being, created in the image of God, is born with the worth to have liberty and dignity – and that includes you.

Chad’s words have been rooted in my brain. I hope they remain in yours and grow something that is beautiful and right in the eyes of God.

Halie Keays