We often hear of downstream justice righting the symptoms of injustice, while upstream justice addresses the source of injustice. Sometimes, upstream justice is hailed as the hero, breaking new ground in preventing injustice, asking difficult questions and ultimately saving people before they fall downstream. On the other hand, downstream justice has felt like the younger overlooked sibling, labeled charity or compassion. But is this really a Biblical view of justice?
The importance of upstream justice cannot be questioned. However, I contend that downstream justice is not just a helping hand to those in need, but is in fact a central element to how God brings about justice. Both are critical, and neither is more praiseworthy.
In his new book Pursuing Justice, Ken Wystma states, “when we restore dignity, value, safety and protection we are bestowing kingdom culture.” For those victims and survivors aided by ministers downstream, that aid is justice, God- sent Biblical justice. Standing in court with someone while she testifies, taking her to the hospital and providing loving services, this is Biblical justice and not a lesser counterpart to upstream action. Wystma goes on to state that “justice is like a mosaic. It’s not only about single pieces – it’s also about all the pieces working together in a stunning whole.” As communities fighting slavery and violence against women, let’s work together in collaboration, acknowledging that all the pieces are needed in order to win this fight. None is more important or more heroic. After all, it’s Christ who really is the hero of every story.
Action Steps: Contribute something to Because Justice Matter's new Women's Center, The Well, see their wish list here.