Much will be said about the State of the Union Address delivered by President Obama last night. What will likely not be commented on in the main stream media is the use of the word “Access”. Six times the President emphasized the need for access to higher education, preschool education, jobs, health care, savings and electricity. The address emphasized opportunity, but only once mentioned justice: “. . . to promote justice, and fairness, and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen.” The only way for every citizen to experience justice, fairness and equality under the law is for them to have access to our legal and government systems. Access is key. Access is precisely why we continue to rank at the bottom of developed nations for upholding the rule of law in granting access to justice. I would argue we have the greatest justice system on earth, but when every citizen cannot access that system we erode the very foundation of our democracy.
In the church world we are fond of saying – “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” The problem is if the man cannot access the pond then severe consequences will follow. Our legal and government systems are gated ponds which every citizen cannot access. We need to change that.
At the risk of getting blasted politically let me state clearly my political position – I am a Christ follower – period. Christ was not a donkey or an elephant. He was a lamb. As servants, I believe we are called to love and serve our neighbors in need. One of those needs is access to justice. The President put out a bold call to action for 2014. There are areas such as immigration where the government must step up to provide access to justice. But most areas of action belong to we the people. We can choose to love mercy, seek justice and provide help and hope to those oppressed by legal injustice. Let’s take initiative. Let’s be people of action. Join with Gospel Justice Initiative as we seek to engage Christ followers to meet the legal and spiritual needs of the poor. As we provide access to justice. As we listen to our Lamb, hear his voice, and go and do likewise.