It sounds like a protest chant a March through the streets of the capital declaring loudly ‘Justice for all’. I must admit I have never joined intentionally any protest March, any political chanting in the streets so I may be a heathen declaring the chant. Last Saturday however I met my daughter and her young man in London, she had relocated to the capital in order to take a Masters in Art at Wimbledon Art School, we met to enjoy good company and a walk around the city. While chatting it came to light that one of our party had never stood outside Buckingham Palace so we went to put that right. While walking down the Mall towards Trafalgar Square we were amazed to discover that the Pope was due to take that very route later in the day, continuing toward Parliament along Whitehall as we passed all the Government buildings the crowd began to back up and we were caught in political jostling and shouting, some say around 10 ,000 people, finally being stopped in our walk by a 4 deep line of luminous yellow clad police preventing the protestors against the Pope to go any further, we had accidentally found ourselves in the midst of the protest. People could walk from Parliament to Trafalgar but who ever you were, innocent tourists or not, if you were coming the opposite way you were included as protesters and prevented from walking along Whitehall any further.
So here we were in the middle of shouts and debate, speeches against the Pope and the Catholic Church and his stance on abortion, gay, abuse by priests and everything else. It was rather a shock to be numbered amongst the shouts and protesters JUSTICE they cried, men dressed as nuns, and popes, women dressed in nun’s attire with extremely short skirts and stockings to make a point even some walked in their underwear to make the point for justice.
Its makes me wonder what Biblical Justice is? As people of God who have been commissioned to restore this creation/cosmos to Gods ultimate intention, his initial thought, restorers of creation and society, surely it is necessary for us to grasp justice correctly?
In essence Biblical Justice has to do with wholeness and not rights, seeing individuals, communities and the cosmos whole by upholding the grace of God along with being impartial and inclusive and upholding the goodness of God.
James in Chapter 1:27 (Message – Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world) tells us that it is true religion, a Christ centered life style, a way of explaining the Father to our society and world “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world”. If this was only said once here, we would have to deal with it, but this whole direction of instruction is found throughout scripture in word and deed Proverbs 29: says “The Righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern”.
As we read the OT we cannot escape the directness and the narratives that direct us to consider Justice to the differing groups found in society, consider this, you can not fail to see that the Father has a heart towards the widow the lonely and the orphan along with the fatherless, all this comes within the justice heart of God.
Read Ruth and watch how provision is made for the widow and see the justice heart of God being made practical. Not only that but one has to conclude that the provision in the field for the widow has a direct relation to the coming harvest. No provision and no harvest next season, practical justice creates, make sure you are a provider of justice and the future harvest is secured. Consider this theme taken into the NT, is it not that the first account of challenge in the verging church was a widow issue. The Father brings the issue of provision for the widow, justice in story form into the NT by showing that justice shown still has an impact along with responsibility. Interesting that the apostles did not depart from their intimacy and involvement of standing the court room of God but did make provision that the widows saw justice. Remember these were good Hebrew people with a strong understanding of God and his dealing from OT,. Not people like you or me who read the story line from a different vantage point. They understood provision for the widows justice had an implication of harvest. When provision was made the story line tells us that priest and governors began to be added to the church from that provision being made towards the widows, a different weight of harvest now came to the church. They displayed the way to live, to show justice is to show the heart of God. Justice opens a harvest in relation to widows!
Justice flows from Gods heart and character, he seeks to make the object of his love whole.
The transformation that we have received is so that we can transform society and see communities restored, while we see that morality and immortality flows from the human heart James 3:10-18 justice is centered in God’s heart, and we are to purify our hearts James 4:8 from sin others wise the human heart leads us to sin. With a transformed life we are not to wait until we get to heaven or be so removed from life and society, waiting for God to do it all, but the transforming work in us must find its way to my neighbor, extending God’s justice to the poor, orphans, widows without any partiality.
Matthew 5 tells us we are to be “…a light on a hill…” “…salt that has a savor…” how can we read that passage and only work to the Church Community. We are to extend our saltiness into the community of non believers showing the Justice of God as it flows from his character. The church being the visible manifestation of God’s kingdom, literally to be his nature, his life, advancing into every realm, every mountain of influence and every circle of life making the whole of creation, society, cosmos whole so that Christ will “…fill all in all…”
A just society is one that is filled with Christ essence, His likeness in every way, his interest, his way, justice!
Justice flows from Gods’ heart, one of the greatest injustices we succumb to is self-righteousness – the belief we do not need anything outside of ourselves. I am so amazed at what I hear especially in the business world as well as from people of all walks of life saying “how they are self-made” I am amazed as none of us are. The Justice of God starts here causing us to see our need of him to remove our sin and bring us to wholeness. We live in the light of Jesus restoring of all things.
Karl Barth once wrote that we fail to see Jesus as the righteous “judge, judged in our place” to bring the Fathers justice to us and the cosmos.
As we are restored, experience his justice we then carry this justice into our worlds, education, financial, health, political, art, family…..
James chapter 2:1-13
My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. 2 If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, 3 and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” 4 haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted?5 Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. 6 And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? 7 Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—“Christian”—used in your baptisms?8 You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” 9 But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. 10 You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others. 11 The same God who said, “Don’t commit adultery,” also said, “Don’t murder.” If you don’t commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder? No, you’re a murderer, period.12 Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. 13 For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.
James brings attention to injustice being practiced, he opens up the scene and denounces oppression toward the poor, he took by the scruff of the neck the leaders who favored the rich, looking down on the poor or those who were lesser in the society and the shout goes forth to remove and break down these divisions in this restored community as the Father seeks to bring his justice through us into life’s situations.
Even Jesus own words carried the charge to be responsible in the ways of being Just in Matt 23:23 he says “You’re hopeless, you religious scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God’s Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required.” or as the NASB puts it “but you have neglected the more important matters of law – Justice, mercy and faithfulness”
We live in a world that is so different to that of our fathers gone by, especially the days of Jesus and the NT church, we live in a society where many have “rights” and even the ability to influence policies and legislation, we can consider how the justice of God’s Kingdom influences our involvement in matters of community, society, governance.
We cannot read the narrative of Jesus or the people of this new way this restored Kingdom that is restoring and not see Christ like people engaging, involving, ministering to the poor the marginalized and challenging the structures that weigh down on the poor. Today we are to be the carers, the pastoral ministry of Christ extending to society. Rather than being concerned about me and me having a pastor for me, to pray for me, council me “my pastor” but being a people who pastor the cosmos, including in this inclusive Kingdom, reaching out with the justice of the King’s domain.
We must not forget that the kind of life, faith, Christ life the Bible advocates, asks for us to demonstrate and explain is rooted in justice that flows from the throne of the Father, and seeks to bring all things into the fullness of Christ the wholeness of the Father. We are as those justified by the God of all justice in our own experience we are to extend His justice being the Christ citizen and bring about restoration.