All over the world people are pleading for justice.
In our country’s major cities people are protesting for justice.
I think today it would help me to write about and for you to learn with me about justice.
We all want the facts, and it’s the best we can do in this world of opinions if we can boil things down to the facts. We see images of injustice but what are the facts? So first, let’s establish a simple fact. God prioritizes justice. Let’s get one more fact: the Bible speaks in Old and New Testaments about justice.
Let’s get a visual on this. One resource that has really helped me to grow in biblical understanding of justice is the Bible Project. Take about 6 minutes to watch their video presentation on biblical justice, and then read what follows.
What does the Bible say about Justice? Just a sample of texts reveal its relevance to God.
 Open your mouth for the mute,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
 Open your mouth, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy. (ESV)
Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. (ESV)
The LORD watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. (ESV)
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (ESV)
What is Justice, according to God’s Word? Here’s what I learned from the video and putting the biblical texts in context.
Justice is a radically selfless activity that aims to be restorative:
- by seeking out the vulnerable who are being taken advantage of and helping them
- and by advocating for the vulnerable and taking steps to change the social structures that cause injustice.
How should we apply Justice?
Let me suggest a few things about how we who call ourselves Christians should think and act justly.
1) Recognize first that the justice we deserve is the justice of God for our sin. We will not see clearly to offer restorative justice to others if we do not first see our common plight as creatures made in the image of God who fell willingly into sin. Whether we are black, white, Asian, Middle-Eastern, or some ethnicity in between, we are all made in the image of God. Whoever we face we can acknowledge that we are all equal in the eyes of our Creator God, and that should be all we need for classification. It’s because we still have indwelling sin that we make unholy distinctions between ethnic groups. Wasn’t the imagery of people pushing others down in the video so true to what we do? Or at least to what we allow? We deserve the just penalty of God for our sin.
2) Jesus lived out justice toward others perfectly. He condemned the Pharisees for tithing on minuscule spices (which made them seem important and holy) yet failing to show mercy, justice and faithfulness (Matt. 23:23). Jesus says mercy, justice and faithfulness are the weightier things of God’s law. Jesus hefted those weighty matters, seeking out the marginalized, the oppressed, the prostitutes, the zealots and the tax collectors. He created His new family out of such people, and He achieved the justice that God demanded.
3) Yet Jesus was killed as if He was unjust, all on our behalf. This is the great image the video used: our unrighteous red covering was put on Him, and His righteous white covering was given to us. The great exchange of the Gospel is that we who live unjust lives were shown great mercy. Oh, how we need mercy! Jesus has given us mercy.
4) Christians are called to be the leaders in showing true justice. Remember, justice is about retribution for one, and that means appropriate punishment for crimes. But justice is also about restoration, looking out for the oppressed and seeking to help them, even changing social structures that continue to oppress them. Ironically, just like we experienced from God, this means applying mercy, even when we are certain someone deserves justice. The media wants to capitalize on the polarization of our country. It sells news. But what an opportunity for us who claim to know Christ to not give in to the world’s views but to see those oppressed as well as the oppressors with eyes of mercy. Quick to seek out the good of those oppressed, and hanging in there for the long haul to help all who are trapped in the world’s system, both oppressed and oppressor, to repent, believe the gospel and to join the family of Christ.
This has been a high-level overview of the topic of justice today. Think about this and consider further applications. I’ll leave you with this from the Lord:
For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (ESV)