Injustice. It seems to be everywhere. If you watch the news, or practically anything on TV these days, you’d easily get the impression that nearly everyone is a victim of something or someone. Grievance mongers dominate the news cycle and demand restitution and exact revenge.
But the victim identity can come at a great cost. Is it wise to fight every injustice? When should we turn the other cheek—and even offer the other—and when do we put on the armor of God and become warriors?
Let’s outline a few principles:
First Principle: What’s at Stake?
Life, Health, or Safety
When innocent lives are at stake, including your own, then fighting back against injustice is not only important but obligatory. But what of a situation that’s not as clear? Perhaps you’ve had a bad outcome medically. Here, some discernment is in order.
Was the injury due to negligence or incompetence? Has the injury impacted your future physical health or your ability to work and provide for yourself and your family? In such a case, justice usually dictates restitution or compensation for harm done, provided some other principles apply which I’ll discuss later.
Hmmm…is it right to fight for financial benefit or restitution? Aren’t Christians supposed to lend without expecting repayment? How do we square our duty to charity with actually fighting over money?
Finances are a necessary part of life. And to some extent finances actually can mean life or death. When faced with financial injustice we need to weigh the situation carefully. When gravely harmed by malice or extreme carelessness, letting such a crime go unpunished will likely embolden the offender to hurt others in the future. The financial injury may cause grave harm or it may not affect your future, but in such cases redressing the wrong in some way is important. From a spiritual perspective you endanger the soul of another by looking the other way when any grave sin is involved.
We should expect to be paid for the services we render or that other debts be paid back to us. But when financial hardship or disability hinders such repayment, in such cases, forgiving a debt and dropping pursuit of restitution may be the wiser and more holy thing to do.
Let’s face it, there are principles bigger than ourselves, things like life, liberty, truth, and justice. When a principle is at stake it may warrant us fighting and fighting hard. Defending the truth about the dignity of the human person by standing up to the evils of pornography, human trafficking, or abortion are a few issues that come to mind which demand our action. Defending the principles of truth, liberty, freedom of speech, and religion are other areas which compel us to act. How we act and when may require discernment and prudence, but to do something is a requirement. It may be as simple as praying, donating to charitable organizations, or defending the truth at a cocktail party. Silence and inaction can be consent. Fight.
Whether or not to defend one’s reputation can be confusing at times. Is it pride that we want others to think well of us? And if so, should we just take it on the chin and pray to grow in humility? Not responding sometimes speaks louder than mounting a defense. The truth usually comes out and those mounting such attacks look worse than the one they attack in the long run.
But what about when your professional or moral reputation is on the line? What happens when enemies make false accusations against you, endangering your ability to hold office, or gain employment? That’s the time to fight—and to fight hard.
A person’s reputation is a precious thing. And destroying the reputation of another is a sin, not only of bearing false witness but also against the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” It’s that serious.
Sometimes what we perceive as an injustice is actually just hurt feelings or disappointment. It may not fall into the category of injustice per se. It also, in many cases, may not merit fighting. When hurts occur in a personal or intimate relationship, discussing your feelings is important. But what happens when they don’t want to talk or don’t understand how you feel? That’s when it can be tempting to start the fight—to “show them.” And this is a good example of when to wait on God. Only He can heal our wounds and change hearts. When it’s a matter of our feelings (which can be oh so fickle) address it, but then, it’s generally advisable to wait on God.
Closely related to feelings is the spiritual vice we know as pride. It lurks everywhere and is subtle and seductive. Sometimes the most painful hurt we can suffer is a blow to our pride. That’s different than a blow to our dignity. A wound to our dignity is one that diminishes our value as a human being. But a wound to our pride is often a needed correction that God allows to save us. Whenever you’re tempted to go off on a crusade, stop and pray. Ask God to show you those hidden areas of pride that may be the true motivation. Then. Wait. On. God.
Second Principle: Who Else Can Get Hurt?
Will letting an issue go enable the offender to hurt others? If so you may have an obligation to at least report an offense to the proper authorities. Sometimes pressing charges or suing for restitution is also just. And sometimes it’s not worth it. Which brings me to the third principle…
Third Principle: What’s the Cost of Fighting?
Sometimes a cost-benefit analysis is in order. Will fighting this injustice negatively impact other vital areas of your life? Will it take you away from other, more important positive endeavors? You have to be careful as the devil can set traps to divert us away from good works. Injustices, or perceived injustices, can be the very weapons he uses. We live in an imperfect world. Tolerating a certain amount of injustice is often necessary for sanity.
At times though, if an injustice is grave and involves one of the serious principles listed above, it still may be worth the sacrifices and the effort. Take the time to really discern and pray…and wait until your anger is under control before making a decision to take action.
Fourth Principle: What’s the Cost of Not Fighting?
Sometimes by allowing what may seem like a minor injustice to go unaddressed, it may snowball into something bigger. For example, say one of your kids or their friends steal money out of your wallet. It may be a small amount but letting it go can have severe consequences in terms of future transgressions, once emboldened. In some instances, their stealing may be the first sign of a drug problem. By ignoring it or letting it go the first time, you may be contributing to a larger problem in the long run. Always think through the possible consequences of inaction.
Fifth Principle: What Do You Hope to Gain?
Having a clear idea of your goal when starting the fight is important for two reasons. First, it will help you to clarify if you should be fighting in the first place. Second, it will also measure success once accomplished. It can be easy to get swept up in emotions and keep fighting even after you’ve reached your goal. Define it.
Sixth Principle: Is Revenge Your Motive?
Sometimes we have to be brutally honest with ourselves and recognize that when we’re fighting “injustice” we may simply be exacting revenge on an enemy. Make sure that your motives are pure and the other principles above apply before embarking on your fight.
The Jesus Way
Even when we’re justified on all counts, there are many times when injustice is something we just have to live with. By accepting that, we can save ourselves a lot of heartache and suffering. The story of Immaculee Ilibagiza is a modern inspiration for all of us. Having survived the Rwandan holocaust that killed most of her family and friends, Immaculee turned her anger to forgiveness. There was no bringing back those who were lost. And continuing in anger and seeking revenge would only perpetuate the very hatred and rancor that lead to that tragedy to begin with.
Sometimes just letting go, letting God, and forgiving is truly the only road to peace.