Part 2 – Justice
“It isn’t fair!”
I am amazed at how young we are when we learn that truth. Clearly there is something created within us that cries out for things to be fair. And certainly that is not only the cry of the young. “I cry out, ‘Help!’ but no one answers me. I protest, but there is no justice.” Job 19:7 NLT. Somehow we all want justice to be what is right for us. It is funny how we can laugh at children who scrunch up their faces and stomp their feet while decrying the unfairness of not getting something they want. But when God doesn’t give us what we want, when we want it, and how we want it, we react in the same way. And then we act like Adam and actually blame God. We say God is not fair. God is not just.
This is the second in a three part series answering the question, ‘why call this movement Gospel Justice Initiative?’ We started with the gospel. We begin with the gospel because it naturally leads to justice. The good news is that God is making right all that is wrong in the world. He is bringing justice and righteousness to the earth. If we are honest most of us like that idea because we think it is great that God will punish the wicked. Like an exasperated mom we think – “Just wait until your father gets here.”
Many of us think of justice as punishment for wrong. We think in terms of criminal justice and would define justice as receiving what is due or getting what is owed. There certainly are views of justice which would support this position, but that is not the Bible’s view of justice. In fact the Bible is careful to warn against taking the place of God and seeking to judge someone else.
In Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, there are two primary words used for justice – tsedek and mishpat. In English we translate these words as either “righteousness” or “justice”. In Greek, the language of the New Testament, the word used is dikaios or dikaiosunae, both of which are translated in English as justice or righteousness. We don’t usually think of these words as the same. But the Bible demonstrates God’s desire to make right relationships between man and God and between man and his neighbor. The Bible’s view of justice is one of restoring what is broken by sin.
Justice requires understanding who God is and how he acts in relationship with us. The Bible says “The Lord is known by his acts of justice; the wicked are ensnared by the works of their hands.” Ps. 9:16 NIV. “For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice.” (Ps. 11:7). “The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.” (Ps.33:5). God cares about justice. Jeremiah tells us that King Josiah “gave justice and help to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him. Isn’t that what it means to know me? says the Lord.” Jer. 22:16 NLT.
The Bible says that to know God is to practice justice. For God is “a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows” Ps. 68:5. “He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor.” Ps. 72:4. “For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help.” Ps. 72:12. God ask the same of us – “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Ps. 82:3-4. Put plainly, “Evil people don’t understand justice, but those who follow the Lord understand completely.” Prov. 28:5 NLT.
Understanding what God’s word has to say about His heart for justice is important. Take time to read the book Gospel Justice and the companion study guide which references all the books of the Bible except for Song of Solomon. Justice for the poor is the second most prominent theme in Scripture. So it must be important. God’s very character is rooted in justice as is His conduct and His court. If we are made in his image then we are to be people whose character reflects justice, who conduct ourselves in justice and whose courts should reflect justice.
God wants us to be conformed into the image of his son (Rom. 8:29), to be like Jesus. That means we must act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God (Mic. 6:8). That means we must do as Jesus did. That we must practice the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy and faithfulness (Mt. 23:23), beginning with justice. That we must – Go and Do Likewise.