The Language of Justice

by Matt Cairns

Injustice rightly gets our blood boiling, and engaging in conversations with those who perpetrate or support those acts of injustice can get quite heated.

“How can you….?!?!? How dare you treat them like….!!!! You heartless so and so….!!!”

In messy and painful conversations about social justice issues, it doesn’t take much for our language to descend into back-and-forth name-calling and megaphone diplomacy. This type of dialogue is ineffective in changing someone else’s mind, reflects poorly upon us as ambassadors for Christ and his Kingdom and, according to scripture, unwise.

American writer and activist Rita Mae Brown said “Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going”, and as people of the Word, our language needs to reflect that. The Apostle Paul encourages us to “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

We may be speaking for a righteous cause but if we are not speaking with love then all people will hear is noise – for as Paul reminds us “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1). The message will be lost in the din of harsh noises, and so too perhaps the cause.

Instead, we must champion the cause in the name of Divine love as outlined to us in 1 Corinthians 13:

  • Be Patient – allow those you are in dialogue with to express their opinions, and genuinely listen to them. Being intentional in this will help form a relationship in which all ideas can be heard and discussed. A lack of patience will only ever end the conversation quickly.
  • Be Kind – Understand that not everybody will be on the same page as you, and even though you might be on the side which you believe to be the side of justice, speak into the situation with kindness and gentleness. Harsh words will only ever escalate the tension and more often than not create a larger divide between you and those who you are wishing to influence.
  • Don’t be rude – my mum taught me this… and she’s never wrong. Being rude to others in your justice conversations is neither helpful nor God-honouring. Colossians 4:6 says “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
  • Believe, hope and endure for the righteous cause – Psalm 89:14 says this of God, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.” We can trust that justice is from God. Even if your justice conversations don’t seem to be going anywhere, know that all of God’s intent is working for justice. As Martin Luther king Jr. said “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”


We need to be grace-filled conversation partners in all aspects of our life, but especially when we are talking about elements of the Kingdom of God – like justice. We are speaking into these hard places as God’s ambassadors and so it is essential we sound like the one we represent – speaking with faith, hope, and when all else fails… love.

“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1)

One Comment Add yours

  1. John Herring says:

    Well said Matt. There is too much hate/judgemental language being used by many today who seem hell bent on polarising instead of reconciling.


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