At times I have had conversations with people who object to the language of social justice because they believe (a) that justice is only a legal term about punishing criminals and giving people who have been wronged their legal due process, and (b) that social justice is really about mercy and compassion, not justice. In Less Than Two Dollars a Day, Kent Van Til takes on this very argument (p. 154):
Someone else may object that, while helping the needy is certainly a laudable thing, doing so is an act of mercy or love, but not justice. Again, I believe that the Bible speaks against that notion. The Bible makes commands: leave the gleanings in the field, declare a Year of Jubilee, redeem the property of your brother, do not hold back the wages of a hired hand, be open-handed toward any of your countrymen who are in poverty and need, and so forth. All of these are, very simply, commands. Not one of them is found in a biblical appendix labeled “For the Especially Merciful.” Furthermore, this objection is based on a false distinction between love and law. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” and “if you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love” (John 14:15; 15:10, NRSV). Law and love are not at opposite poles to each other in Scripture; the support each other. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia reference on “justice” puts it well:
The major point is that God’s justice is no abstraction at odds with an equally abstract mercy. To the contrary, as the description “a righteous God and Savior” implies (Isa. 45:21), God’s justice seeks concretely to express His mercy and to accomplish His salvation (Jgs. 5:11; Ps. 7:17; 35:23f.; 51:14; 71:15; 103:17; Isa. 46:13; 51:5f.)…. By these requirements [“To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8)] God’s goodness is structured into the social order.
To bring this to a real-world situation today, what does God’s love, justice and law say to human trafficking, as described in this video by the Shae Foundation: