Superheroes are all the craze at the moment: the ultimate enforcers of justice! Marvel and DC have created a universe of heroes and villains, and we anticipate each movie to see what happens next. Our children grow up aspiring to be the next Captain Marvel or Iron Man; even our teenagers are pulled in – they have universal appeal. But what if instead of pretending to be them, we show our children that they can be heroes in their own right?
Greta Thunberg has become a pretty well-known name of late, thanks to her commitment to advocating against climate change. One of the biggest comments surrounding her work is her age: she is only a teenager. At 16, she has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and has sat amongst (and challenged) some of the world’s most influential people. Greta could be described as an agent of justice; a climate change hero. If Greta can do it, why can’t our children?
It is tempting to think that ‘change maker’ is a title reserved for those with degrees, experience and a certain number of years behind their name. We encourage our children to think about what they want to be when they ‘grow up’ and dream about the difference they might make one day. But what are we doing to encourage them to start making a difference exactly where they are, right now? I’d like to argue that the young people under our care can be agents of justice in their schools, communities and friendship circles, and we are the ones who can draw this out of them.
Why justice matters
Biblically, God created us in His image; therefore, we are all equal, all valuable and all deserve to be treated with fairness and justice. Created in His image, we were made to abide by His morals and concepts of justice. But we know we failed at this right from the very beginning, instead choosing to define what is right and wrong for ourselves.
Sadly, the young people in our lives are confronted with injustice more often than we would like. Poverty and inequality in our country, gender-based violence, corrupt politicians and even the bully at school. There are too many to count and the example will depend on your context.
As Christians, we know and trust that God is a fair, just God who carries out His justice at the right time but we need to decide: do we live our lives according to justice and righteousness as He intended, treating others decently and fairly as though they too are images of God, or do we turn our back and look out for ourselves?
Justice should matter to us because it matters to God.
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” – Micah 6:8
So how can we become agents of justice?
Being an agent of justice doesn’t look the same for everyone. For Greta, it’s a world stage amongst world leaders. For your child, it might be sitting with the student at school who has no friends. We might not be able to end poverty in our country, but we can smile at the person begging at the robot because they are human and valuable too. Here are some practical things you can do with young people to start conversations about justice:
- Teach your children that all people are equal and valuable to God, no matter what they look like, where they’re from or who they are.
- Speak to them about people who are different (race, social standing, religion, language etc). Ask them if there are people who they struggle to talk to or accept, and ask them what they can do this week to treat this person/people fairly. Pray about this with them.
- Talk to them about what it means to act justly: teach them what justice is and how we should care about it because we know God does.
- Challenge your own beliefs: are there situations of injustice that you are ignoring when you could be doing something? Our children learn from us.
- Ask your children or youth group what situations of injustice they care about, and brainstorm ways to make a difference. Sometimes it’s practical, like reporting a bully or sitting with the outsider, and sometimes it’s committing the situation to prayer.
- Speak hope always: when you see injustice around you, remember that God sees it too and cares about it. We can take it to Him and trust Him with it – there is always something we can do.
We need to be smart as well. We don’t want our children to run into a fight to break it up or put themselves in dangerous situations. Help teach them to be discerning and talk about who they can speak to when they see injustice (a leader, trusted adult, teacher or parent can be the first point of call). Pray for injustice. Pray that God would show you and your children what to do and pray that you would pursue justice in every part of your life.
Agents of justice are cool
Superheroes are cool, but agents of justice are cooler! Our children don’t need to wait until they’re older to care about justice. They can start today.
“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” – Amos 5:24
Justice is not reserved for a few, and agents of justice are not only the heroes we read about. They are you, they are me, they are our children.