Justice is a hot topic in our contemporary world; it seems every time the news comes on, we're talking about it again. But that's precisely the problem, at least when it comes to what God requires of us: we're only talking.
Micah says that God requires us to do justice.
Doing justice doesn't mean that we sit around and talk about injustice. Doing justice doesn't mean that we raise our voices and declare that what we need is some justice. Doing justice doesn't mean that we sign a petition, hold a sign, attend a rally, or take a knee. Doing justice means that we actually do what it takes to balance the scales. (And, of course, that we don't do the things that unbalance them in the first place.)
And that's important, too. We have to understand that justice is a balancing of the scales, not a gut reaction that tips them in the other direction.
Sometimes, we think that justice is atonement. That we have to use justice to make up for the wrongs that were done, either in this time and place or in another. But that's not justice. Justice only takes into account this moment. Sometimes, we think that justice is retribution. We use justice to punish someone who did something wrong. But that's not justice, either.
Justice is simply putting the story back into balance. It's finding the place where the interests of every party are in equilibrium. Justice is that place where we can say, "Every man ended up with what was right for him, no more and no less."
That means that when we see injustice, we step in and do what we can to set the scales right, even if we only have access to one side of the scale.
For example, say you were sitting in a busy restaurant and the family at the table next to yours leaves. You notice that they leave a cash tip, say, $20, sitting on their table. Before the waiter has a chance to bus the table, another customer walks by on his way out of the restaurant and casually swipes the $20. True justice, of course, would say that the man must give back the $20. But you can't realistically make that happen. What you can do is give the waiter an extra $20 and balance the scale.
Or say that you see a person with a handicapped tag patiently waiting on a parking spot, only to have a non-handicapped individual careen into the spot in front of them once it becomes empty. You can't make the car move and give the space to the one who rightfully deserves it, but you can work with the handicapped person to safeguard another spot so that no one can rush into it before she has a chance. Or, if you are parked close, you can pull your car out and give her your spot. This helps to balance the scale.
In an ideal world, justice is done between the two parties that are out of balance with each other, but realistically, it's more often that justice is done between one man and "the world." And what this often means for the believer is that in doing justice, we absorb injustice. We're out the extra $20. We're left walking from the back of the parking lot. We're the ones who take on the force of injustice so that someone else can experience justice.
Why? Because we already have justice. We've already been put back in balance with "the world." It's no contest. And whatever injustice we encounter here, we know what to do with it - we take it to the One who has already given us justice. So in this special way that God has given us, we put more out into the world without feeling shorted.
Sure, we could just talk about it. We could just shout about it. We could tell the restaurant manager that his waiter was just gypped out of a $20 tip. We could follow the parking space stealer into the store and give him a piece of our mind. But that doesn't do justice. It's only talk. Doing justice requires actually, well, doing something. And no matter what this world wants you to believe, talking isn't doing.
So when Micah says that God requires that we do what is just, that's just what it means - we go about doing justice. Not demanding justice. Not facilitating justice. Not even ensuring justice. Not necessarily holding two parties accountable. Just balancing the scales the best that we can because we understand that justice can't wait for rhetoric to change minds. Justice can't wait for law to step in. Justice can't wait until it's more convenient or until it even seems possible. It's possible right now.
All we have to do is do it.