Freedom is critical for the flourishing of people. Freedom is deeply connected to justice. Here are five ways to understand the value of freedom in the work of justice.
- Freedom and Faith.
This Sunday is Freedom Sunday. Our friends at International Justice Mission are spotlighting human slavery. Join us and access the free resources available at IJM.
We know our friends at IJM care about freedom and justice. They see the deep connection with faith. They understand that to free someone from slavery is to free someone from oppression. The oppression of sin, sinful actors and sinful systems “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2).
We believe Freedom Sunday provides an opportunity for the church and Christ Followers to join IJM in this critical international effort to end slavery. We also believe it is an opportunity to recognize slavery happens in America and to deepen our understanding of injustice which robs people of freedom.
See Our Related Article, Five Practical Ways to Help End Slavery Today!
- Freedom and Justice are related.
As Americans we cherish freedom. We are the land of the free. Freedom matters. As a nation we pledge, “liberty and justice for all”. That means freedom. Liberty is to ‘liberate’ or ‘set free’. The concept is certainly not new. Jesus’s mission was liberty and justice for all.
Jesus said he came to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners and …to set the oppressed free” Lk. 4:18. Our faith is founded on freedom. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Gal. 5:1. Trusting in Jesus sets us free from sin and eternal separation from God. More than 200 verses speak of free and freedom.
True freedom is always tied to justice. Freedom without justice is anarchy. Justice without freedom is tyranny. Our relationship with Christ is built on justice. We are justified. God’s justice is satisfied through the cross of Jesus so His grace can pour through the Holy Spirit into our lives. Grace is freedom.
As we celebrate freedom, we recognize justice. Slavery will not be ended, Freedom will not be achieved, without Justice. As Robert Kennedy said,
Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted, when we tolerate what we know to be wrong, when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy or too frightened, when we fail to speak up and speak out, we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice.
- Freedom allows Peace and Justice to Flourish.
This week is Global Goals Week raising awareness of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted last year by the United Nations. I don’t know if IJM intentionally tied Freedom Sunday to end that week, but it is appropriate. Goal 16 is Peace and Justice. The Goal’s aim is to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”
See Our Related Article, How to Best Advance Peace and Justice Today
When people are not free to access justice the rule of law breaks down. While this is most evident elsewhere in the world, we are not free of this challenge in our neighborhoods. This week riots broke out in Charlotte, North Carolina over the shooting by police of Keith Scott. Stories are divergent on whether the 43 year old black man had a gun or a book when shot. While the facts will likely surface, the underlying issue is a growing problem of distrust between African American communities and police. Underlying this challenge is a lack of access to justice. In frustration people take to the street. None of this is an excuse for either side, but rather a recognition that freedom cannot be experienced if one does not have a peaceful and inclusive society that promotes access to justice for all.
See Our Related Article, Seeking Justice Together – 7 Ways to Overcome Racial Divides
4. Freedom means Access to Justice
The concept of “liberty and justice for all” means all people must be free to access justice. Seems basic. Yet the United States ranks 65th in the World for providing affordable access to justice. That ties with Pakistan. The consequences can be tragic.
We admire the courage of our veterans. They fight for freedom. Yet upon their return they face barriers into civilian reentry. Too many find themselves homeless. And four out of ten of the largest barriers involve legal issues. Our freedom fighters find themselves fighting for freedom. That should not happen.
Last week the Self-Represented Legal Network released a helpful map of 18 categories of need which our neighbors face in the struggle to access justice. Veterans are one of the categories so you can see where the need is great.
Last week the Census released its annual report on poverty with welcome news of a reduction in the number of those in poverty. That still leaves 57 million people eligible for free legal assistance with only 1 in 5 able to find help. The report also demonstrates that 1 in 3 Americans fell into poverty for at least two months over the last four years. A major contributor – legal issues.
There is a federal legal aid roundhouse formed to address our access to justice problem. They are tasked with ensuring we are making progress on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Recognizing our ranking for affordable access to justice, this task force produced a report earlier this year. The report is focused on measuring access to justice in the civil context.
There are five major areas including:
- Civil Legal Aid as a Necessary Service for the Reentry Population
- Human Trafficking and Civil Legal Aid
- Consumer Protection and Civil Legal Aid
- Elder Abuse and Civil Legal Aid
- Domestic Violence and Civil Legal Aid
Each of these areas create barriers to true freedom. Barriers that should not exist in America. Each represents needs likely found in your neighborhood.
5. Freedom means freedom.
As we celebrate Freedom Sunday we are free to make a choice. Will we raise our hands in worship, say a prayer, and go back to our daily routines? Or will we use our freedom to help free a neighbor in need of justice? Will we be a Priest and Levite or will we be a Good Samaritan? (Lk. 10:25-37)
Will we join Jesus in his mission to set captives free? Or are we too busy?
Freedom means choice. Too many don’t have that choice. They cannot choose to access justice because they lack the needed resources. Consider partnering with Gospel Justice Initiative to free people from legal burdens so they can flourish. Visit gji.org to learn how.
If you have resources then like the Samaritan consider sharing those resources to help us launch a legal ministry in an area of need. If you have time let us equip you to do justice. We have all the tools, coaching, training and even grant funding to remove all the barriers. You just need to say yes.
Use your freedom to free a neighbor. Let’s go deeper together this Freedom Sunday.