Is the universe still on the side of justice?

By the Rev. John Zehring

Principle number six of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Six Principles of Nonviolence is “The universe is on the side of justice.” Is that still true? It sure does not feel like it. It didn’t feel like it in King’s day, and it doesn’t feel like it today. If injustice were a market index, its stocks would be soaring.

Racism, getting worse. Policies, laws, rhetoric and politics favor with intensity the upper 10 percent at the expense of everyone else. The glass ceiling for women grows thicker. Safety nets for our most vulnerable are developing holes through which a tractor-trailer could drive. Fences rise and gates close to those named on the baseplate of the Statue of Liberty. Welcome and inclusion of LGBTQ people appear to be making giant strides in reverse. Climate change escalates geometrically, while foxes are placed in charge of hen houses designed to protect and care for God’s earth. Leaders blatantly place ego, partisan rewards and self-interest ahead of the common good. It feels like the moral arc of the universe is bending the wrong way.

King reminded that it will take a long time, as it took the Israelites a generation to reach their Promised Land. “We’ve got some difficult days ahead,” King told the sanitation workers four years after he won the Nobel Price for Peace and the day before he drew his last breath at the Lorraine Motel. “But it really doesn’t matter to me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life — longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And so I’m happy tonight; I’m not worried about anything; I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

In spite of violence, death, struggle and ugly injustice, King held to his principle: “Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice. The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win. Nonviolence believes that God is a God of justice.” Underline the word believes in King’s principle. Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice. Even when it feels like we are taking multiple steps backward for every one step forward, we, as Christians, cling with hope to that belief as well.

Perhaps King’s namesake, Martin Luther, famously said, “Here I stand.” Well, here we stand as God-centered people. Here we stand for agape — for love — for desiring what is in the highest and best interest for others, even our enemies. Here we stand for peace and the safety of all people, no exceptions. Here we stand for forgiveness, compassion and grace, which we give to others, even when it is costly. Here we stand for light, knowing that the darkness will not overcome the light. Here we stand for justice for everybody.

King taught that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Here we stand with Jesus, as he stood with all the Samaritans of the world. While it’s neither a popular nor comfortable thing to do, we choose to stand with him, as he stands for those most out of favor with the world.

We will stand with and speak for those who are despised, marginalized and neglected — like Jesus did, like Martin Luther King Jr. did, and like Paul did, as he held that “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Financial investors are warned about market psychology that makes decisions based upon emotions felt when a market experiences gains or loses. Do not try to time the market, investors are advised. Rather, make your choices based upon long-term goals and hang in there through bull and bear markets. So, too, with Christians invested in the belief that the universe is on the side of justice. Through past advances, present declines and hope for gains in the future, here we stand to be a small critical mass who hold the deep faith that justice will eventually win.


The Rev. John Zehring has served United Church of Christ congregations for 22 years as a pastor in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine. He is author of more than 30 books and e-books. His most recent book from Judson Press is “Beyond Stewardship: A Church Guide to Generous Giving Campaigns.”

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

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