We are nearing the end of the second month in our four month biblical justice series, and as I look forward to this weekend’s Justice Conference, I feel it’s important to remind ourselves what we are talking about when we say, “Biblical justice.”
Paul Louis Metzger was one of the first guest writers for the series, and he answered the question, “What’s the big deal about justice?” I think many would ask that question when considering the Justice Conference, so today, let’s answer the basic question, “What is biblical justice?”
Fortunately, Paul Louis Metzger has also answered that question for us in an article written for the Leadership Journal:
Biblical justice involves making individuals, communities, and the cosmos whole, by upholding both goodness and impartiality… Justice flows from God’s heart and character. As true and good, God seeks to make the object of his holy love whole. This is what motivates God throughout the Old and New Testaments in his judgments on sin and injustice. These judgments are both individual and corporate in scope.
If you have a subscription to Leadership Journal, you can read the entire article here.
Timothy Keller goes deeper in a post shared with Relevant Magazine:
The Hebrew word for “justice,” mishpat, occurs in its various forms more than 200 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. Its most basic meaning is to treat people equitably. It means acquitting or punishing every person on the merits of the case, regardless of race or social status. Anyone who does the same wrong should be given the same penalty.
But mishpat means more than just the punishment of wrongdoing. It also means giving people their rights… if you look at every place the word is used in the Old Testament, several classes of persons continually come up. Over and over again, mishpat describes taking up the care and cause of widows, orphans, immigrants and the poor—those who have been called “the quartet of the vulnerable.”…God loves and defends those with the least economic and social power, and so should we. That is what it means to “do justice.”
Keller continues his article by noting that justice reflects the character of God; justice is right relationships (in essence, justice is not simply something that we “do;” we must also “be” just people); justice includes generosity. Finally, he draws the conclusion, “If you are trying to live a life in accordance with the Bible, the concept and call to justice are inescapable. We do justice when we give all human beings their due as creations of God. Doing justice includes not only the righting of wrongs but generosity and social concern, especially toward the poor and vulnerable.”
Keller’s article is reprinted with permission from his book, Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. I highly recommend this book and have made it required reading for the women in the mentoring ministry at my church. Throughout the book, Keller uses theological reflection, biblical exegesis, and personal and ministry experiences to bridge the gap between religious piety and our understanding of the grace that is freely given by God, and our Christian responsibility to be just and seek justice because justice and righteousness are attributes of God. Biblical justice accurately reflects God love for all people. God’s grace does make us just!
Do you believe that biblical justice is an important priority for any Christian and Christian church? Why or why not? If so, where and how do we start?
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2014