I want you to imagine the final mile of the Great North Run that stretches along the North East coast from Marsden Rock to Gypsies Green. I can speak from personal experience when I say that every year in September the laws of space and time are stretched and the run to the finish becomes the longest mile and a bit in the world.
If you’re a spectator, you’ll know that this stretch is a great opportunity to see the elite athletes and fun runners alike as they sprint or crawl to the finish line.
But it gets a bit busy for spectators.
A few years back there were three siblings wanting to see what was going on, but the crowd was all the way along the barriers, and they were not yet big enough to see over all the adults, none of whom were willing to give up their coveted spots at the front, near the barriers.
But they had a plan. Each of them grabbed a plastic box – you know – those hard plastic stacking boxes that you can use for recycling or storage.
So they took them down to the road. Put them down and stood on top of them. That was fine for the eldest. They were grown up enough to just about see over the crowd anyway, although the box made it a really great view. It was also great for the middle kid, because he could now see over the heads of the adults.
But the youngest – well, one box was not enough and they still couldn’t see over the crowd.
So the oldest says – “Here, have my box. I can see enough without it”. And so they stacked the two boxes together, and then they could all just about see! They cheered as all the wheelchair athletes came past.
But then someone in the crowd turned around and saw the kids. They were shamed that all the adults had spoilt the view. They shouted out to all those round them “Hey – make some room here – let these kids through so that we can all see”.
So they did, and everyone saw the final sprint down the home straight to Great North run victory.
You see, sometimes people need a bit of a leg up. It’s not enough that they have equality – the same number of boxes. Justice means an equality of outcome – that they could all see.
Sometimes it works when those who have more share with those whose needs is greater.
Of course - that’s a fictional story. You may have heard something similar before and I can’t claim credit for its originality. But the point still stands…
Justice is about the giving people the opportunity to participate and engage with society on a fair and equal basis.
Across the world, we do not see people accessing the same opportunities… and that’s unjust. When people are trapped in a cycle of poverty, through whatever reason, it’s simply not right.
Proverbs 29:7 says:
The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.
So how should we respond?
Whether our response is motivated by faith in Jesus or just because we are a thinking human being with a conscience, the wisdom is clear.
To do the right thing is to care about justice for the poor. It’s a natural expression of the humanity that we’ve all been born into.
At the Great North Run this weekend, competitors had the chance to succeed – they were empowered with the opportunity to do something special.
Let’s work for the same quality of opportunity for all.