As I mentioned in last week’s email, the short Old Testament book of Amos contains some words and concepts that will require some extra work for us to properly understand. Why? Because they’ve been misunderstood, misapplied, or straight out hijacked by Satan and his minions…so much that their original meaning gets lost.
Here’s a word from Amos for us to think about. It’s justice. Has there ever been a stronger public call for justice than we have today? The issue is that each person or group who is calling for justice expects everyone else to understand and blindly accept their definition of the word. Justice, these days, is loaded with competing values, expectations, and demands. It fails miserably to gain any consensus.
Let’s start with some simple “book definitions” of justice. “Reward or penalty as deserved. Just desserts.” “The notion of balance; that people receive what is right, fair, and appropriate.” “The quality of being right or correct.” “Impartiality; fairness.”
How about some “current secular definitions” of justice?
“Justice is leniency with someone – as long as he had good reasons for doing what he did.”
“Personal responsibility, fairness, capital punishment, these are antiquated concepts.”
“Justice/punishment is reserved for people who oppress certain races or lifestyle choices.”
“Justice is punishing criminals according to the current political climate.”
Because justice is talked about everywhere, especially in its secular forms, even Christians can forget (or choose to ignore) the real meaning of the word. This has caused some significant issues for the Church in our country. Many Christians fail to recognize that justice is a part of the fabric of being a disciple of Jesus. Some are hostile to the idea of doing justice, and others, especially from younger generations, view this as a failure. They desire to correct it and have adopted a public approach to justice. Hence, many of the problems we have today…
Then there’s Biblical justice. If we read through the entire Bible, specifically studying the concept of justice, we would find the earliest form of justice. Justice in the Bible is rich, strong, and life-giving. Biblical justice is different from any other form of justice.
Before defining Biblical justice, we have to agree on a few things: 1) the Bible is God’s word to us, 2) there’s a difference between Christian and non-Christian perspectives, and 3) that we believe in “common grace”. (Common grace is the area where Christians and non-Christians can have an impact together for the common good.) Without this basis, Biblical justice will be misunderstood.
We will be addressing some of the facets of Biblical justice in the next couple of weeks. First, we need to look at the character of God, which is the foundation of Biblical justice. Nearly all Christians agree or at least say they agree, that God is just.
I see God’s “justness” from two perspectives. One side is His judgment and punishment. If we break the rules, justice is required, because He is just. The other side is God’s restoration and renewal. This is a cooperative process between at least two parties to repair a broken relationship. God is just. I believe He is absolutely just from both of these perspectives.
The Bible refers to restorative and renewing justice again and again. Look at the cross of Jesus. His death and resurrection restored our broken relationship with God. Because of Jesus, through His grace and mercy, we have become right with God.
The cross is our foundation to view justice. Without the cross, we will find ourselves believing the loudest voice understands justice best. We will be tempted to buy into a hard right or left understanding of justice. Both get it wrong. One side rallies behind the idea that each person is only a product of society, structures, and systems — the other side steadfastly insists that each person is totally a product of their own individual choices. There is a constant debate among the ideas of freedom, fairness, happiness, power, and punishment. The cross must be the model for how we comprehend and do justice. Biblical justice is about making each one of us, both the victim and perpetrator, the wronged and the wrongdoers, absolutely whole again, and Jesus’ cross is the reason...
The entire Bible points to the cross where God did/does His greatest restorative justice — restoring our relationship with Him and each other. He calls us to represent Him here. We’ve been tasked to heal, restore, renew, and invite others to the same forgiveness and grace He’s given us. He wants us to live the life-giving, broken-fixing, reconciling justice He showed us on the cross.
I know many of you prefer a shorter email, but my hope is that we don’t ignore these important truths and that we open ourselves up to God’s leading in the area of justice.
Please join us this Sunday at 9:00 or 10:40 am as we continue in our study of the book of Amos.
Grace & Peace,