Thursday, June 28, 2007

justice is...

What exactly?

A hot topic? A passing fad? A glimmer of hope? A radical calling?

Recently i've been drawn to justice. In my early years, growing up, justice was one of those attributes of God that seemed more painful than exciting. Like the green vegetables at the dinner table of God...i don't really want it, but if it means i get some heaven at the end, i'll put up with it. i think this was mostly because when i thought of justice i thought of God judging. and, in the massive wisdom of a human being, i didn't see why he got to judge folks and i didn't.

What i didn't grasp then was that when i judge, it's usually degrading to others. But when God judges it's freeing. His justice seeks to set the world to rights, to return it to the natural state in which he created it. And this is the definition of justice i've settled upon: returning the world to what it should be. Christ, thus, was a pretty big deal in all of this, because it somehow allows us to see the world aright again. It's like we've been standing tilt-headed for years and he comes along and sets things straight (and gets rid of that massive krick in the neck that had given us such a sour look on the world).

But as i've explored justice, i've been surprised by a number of my lack of knowledge about it (and, for that matter, why it took me so long to stumble upon a more compelling understanding of this astonishingly good attribute), by the church's often lack of care (we're too busy "loving" and "preaching the Gospel" it seems to be overly concerned with justice), and by it's burgeoning popularity, particularly in my generation.

So, as most twenty-somethings, i decided the best way to tackle the problem was to start a blog. Ok...perhaps not the best idea, but one of several ways i plan on pursuing this character trait. i have a blog already, but it's too scattered to handle this important idea. So here we are. i don't just want to know of justice. i want to be justice.


An Old Friend said...

Is justice, God trying to set the world back to the way it was created, -or- is it the reflection of His nature to be just, to do things right and true. Isn’t justice on earth, us attempting to correct and instruct the misguided to behave as they ought. Isn’t justice our tool to train the errant back to right living? When right living is achieved, justice will have been served; unlikely in a fallen world, but a good goal nonetheless. Of course this first requires the truth be known, the laws themselves be just and the judges honest. Also unlikely in a fallen world which uses man’s laws and has humans who are not dedicated to God’s truth, in the mix.

Bringing people back to right living (righteousness in the Christian world) will lead to those who can, help the poor earn a living, provide for themselves and their family and gain self respect. And for those who are the poor, righteousness will drive them to make every effort to escape from the captivity of the demeaning lie that they are a victim held back by social forces beyond their control and that they must look to a government to meet all their needs. The greed of fallen man is the fly in the ointment. The human heart is the problem and therefore its repair is the only answer.

What do you think? Is God more interested in putting things back the way they were at creation –or- is He more interested in man leaning to love Him with all his heart, soul, mind and strength and loving his neighbor as himself?

joeldaniel said...

"Is justice, God trying to set the world back to the way it was created, -or- is it the reflection of His nature to be just, to do things right and true"

i think, yes. as in, i think both. being just is part of his character...which is why when the world was created it was a good and equitable place. which is also why thinking redemptively is an approprate way to approach justice.

your questions regarding if justice is more about training the errant back to right living are good. but i think what i'm beginning to embrace about justice isn't an aversion from something but an attraction to something. not that that aversion won't exist, but that ultimately what's going to have me end living justly is realizing the goodness of what that lifestyle is/brings. seeing the goodness of God and pursuing it.

also, systems that create and sustain poverty (or slavery, or the abuse of creation, or...) are in and of themselves sinful...and the people who allow them to continue (myself included) sin in allowing them to continue. the Bible speaks to more than individual sin (though it definitely does that), but also to systemic sins of societies. Christians seem to embrace this idea when they demonize Hollywood or the media, or Democrats. but ignore it in capitalism, in environmental abuse, etc. so if we're going to correct the errant, there's a lot of correction to do. But again, I think it's more helpful to point people toward something, rather than away from something. Maybe that's why Christ was always talking to people about the Kingdom of God...the beauty of it, the desireable aspects of it. Not that he didn't address sin or the negative, but usually he he saved his harshest words for the religious, not those who were "worldly".

Bob Robinson said...

Great stuff from both of you here.

Here's an excerpt from a forthcoming book by Scot McKnight (I have the manuscript since he let me be one of its readers)--

Justice in the Bible is behavior that conforms to God’s standard, and we can plumb that standard in any number of ways – through Torah, through summaries of the Torah, through the teachings of Jesus, or through the Spirit-inspired life. Let me define a Christian sense of justice as behavior that conforms to the will of God as taught by Jesus, and let us define that will as I expounded in my book, The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others. But permit me two definitions: let us also define justice as behavior that emerges from the Spirit’s direction. Justice, according to the Bible, is behavior that conforms to loving God and loving others or behavior that conforms to life in the Spirit. It also refers to the establishment of conditions that promote loving God and loving others and living in the Spirit. For the follower of Jesus, justice is not defined by the Magna Carta, the US Constitution, Kant’s categorical imperative, or any other social formation of law. It is defined by Jesus and by the Spirit – and we learn of the Spirit-directedness through the Bible.

We can speak then of “systemic justice” and we can speak of “systemic injustice.” But, by those we do not mean the presence or absence of freedom or of rights but instead the presence or absence of responsibility to God, to self, to others, and the world, as the Spirit intends for each person to know. In a secular and secularizing society, in a pluralist and pluralizing culture, of course, we are not suggesting that we impose the Jesus Creed or life in the Spirit on anyone, but we are asking that Christians learn to define justice by the standard that is Christian.

Adam said...

"Justice in the Bible is behavior that conforms to God’s standard"

Look at some of standards that God set for the nation of Israel concerning Justice...

Exodus 22:25 – Charge no interest to a needy person

Leviticus 19:33-34 - Do stranger no wrong, treat them as a native born

Deuteronomy 15:1-3, 12-14 - Seven-year release from debts, etc.

Leviticus 25:10 - Jubilee year, this one is unprecedented!

Deuteronomy 24:17-22 - Leave gleanings for widow, orphan, sojourner

Joshua 20:1-5 - Cities of refuge

just some of God's standards for the Israelites, granted they didn't always live by many of them, and most likely they never observed the year of the jubilee, but I would state that God's character is absolute standard for justice. As we grow to image him more, I sure hope that I am growing in being just

Bob Robinson said...

Here's an excellent resource to learn about Justice:

A Covenant to Keep: Meditations on the Biblical Theme of Justice by James W. Skillen.

In fact, you should provide a link to The Center for Public Justice in your sidebar!