The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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The horrific blaze at Grenfell Tower last June has seared scars deep into public memory.

As a tower block made up almost entirely of social housing was engulfed in flames, what might have been a one-off tragedy came to symbolise an unjust divide between rich and poor in the heart of London. ‘If you want to see how the poor die, come see Grenfell Tower’, wrote Ben Okri in a response poem for the Financial Times.

Now, almost a year later and following the five published reports this week, the word ‘justice’ is reappearing in headlines. As various factors are discussed, from the combustible cladding to the emergency services, the ongoing inquiry marks what the Grenfell United organisation has called ‘the beginning of a long road to justice’. But what kind of justice do we all want?

Does justice mean a furious public outcry and punishment for those most responsible? Compensation and rehabilitation for the survivors who are still living in hotels? Rapid intervention and legislation change to prevent similar scenarios in future? All of the above?

Psalm 9 reminds us:

‘The Lord reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. He rules the world in righteousness and judges the peoples with equity.’

PSALM 9:7-8

God can be trusted to exercise complete and impartial justice, and the call on his people to act justly is a major and recurring command throughout his word.

As Tim Keller explains in Generous Justice, the Hebrew word for ‘justice’, mishpat, appears more than 200 times in the Old Testament. It means both punishing wrongdoers and caring for the vulnerable. But biblical justice also involves tzadeqah, which Keller describes as ‘righteousness’ or ‘being just’: this is a hallmark of a life in which all relationships are conducted with fairness, generosity, and equity. It’s a form of living that flows out of right relationship with God. Biblical justice is not solely reactive but proactive.

As the Grenfell inquiry continues and tensions mount, ‘justice’ may become a shout which accrues a weight of public outrage. May it be a word which we speak back in prayer and live out in action. God calls his people to be characterised by justice – both mishpat and tzadeqah – in the way that we speak, serve, and give, seeking to transform culture more into the likeness of the coming kingdom.


Katherine Ladd
Katherine is in her final year studying English at Cambridge University. She blogs the occasional thought here.


  1. Life building message today! Thank you Katherine.

    By Yazz  -  8 Jun 2018
  2. well said and a continuous challenge to how i live my life.

    By Simon Shutt  -  8 Jun 2018
  3. Very helpful Katherine. At our Women’s Connect group last night, similar thoughts were expressed without the theological references or hebrew translation. I will forward your reflection to the group. Thank you.

    By Lesley Tate  -  8 Jun 2018
  4. Thank you, a timely challenge

    By Katherine Pickford  -  8 Jun 2018
  5. A clarity of thought- very well expressed Katherine – we certainly have a duty of care for the survivors and their relatives

    By Ann Blackmore  -  8 Jun 2018
  6. Thanks Katherine – a great reminder that we are called to act justly in all spheres of life and community. I started work this week in a 26 storey building – roughly the same as Grenfell. I haven’t had a moment’s concern about the building’s safety and about the stringency of its fire precautions – so different from the experience of the Grenfell survivors. “Acting justly” in light of Grenfell means creating the conditions in which ALL can live and work in high rise buildings without fear about their safety, regardless of wealth or social status.

    By Nick Tatchell  -  8 Jun 2018
  7. What I’m not picking up in Katherine’s piece, or in the comments so far, is any sense of righteous anger at what happened in Grenfell.
    Where is the prophetic cutting edge of, say, an Amos: “You trample on the poor….you deprive the poor of justice in the courts….you who turn justice into bitterness….” with stark warnings to the Lord’s people about complacency, acquisitiveness and unacceptable worship?

    And, according to a programme on ITV the other evening, there are another 297 high rise buildings which still have the same cladding as Grenfell. Shocking.

    For God’s perspective on Grenfell, perhaps we also need to pay attention to Amos chapter 5.

    By George Irving  -  8 Jun 2018

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