Saturday, 26 January 2013

Understanding biblical justice

“Do horses run upon rocks? Does one plow the sea with oxen? But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood” (Amos 6:12).

 When we think of justice we tend to think of it in a retributive sense, that is, you did this so now BAM! We tend to put this thinking on Gods character as well, separating love and justice in some sort of yin and yang type of understanding (God is this but he is also that). Yet the bible gives us a very different picture of justice, one that shows that justice emanates from Gods love and is meant to be restorative. The two in fact are not in tension but rather in harmony with one another.

Right here I want to add a little side note because as soon as you start talking about Gods love, some people think that you are trying to portray Him as some sort of giant marshmallow who hugs pink bunnies all day long and that you are flying the cheap grace banner by emphasizing His love. I do not believe that the cheap grace message supports a loving god but rather a neglectful one. While I believe God forgives, I also believe that He actively goes beyond that and wants to fix our brokenness. Therefore, I side with the historical view that the cross was about Christ overcoming death, sin and shame on our behalf (empowering the powerless), rather than the |Calvinist/puritan view of it being about God pouring his wrath on Jesus so that he could overcome his anger with you and I (more on penal substitution theory another day). Quite honestly, I am not sure how the innocent getting punished on the wickeds behalf would be considered a just act anyway.

In scripture, it's interesting how justice is often linked with concepts like love, compassion, kindness, peace and salvation. Micah said, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (6:8).  Hosea spoke similarly: “Return to your God, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God” (12:6).

I read a fantastic article here
that defines justice as "how love is expressed in the face of evil". So how has God dealt justly with the world? The gospel reveals that God, in Christ,  has reconciled the world to himself (2 Cor 5:19), it is important to note that in the next verse that Paul urges people to likewise "be reconciled to God". Just because He extends His hand to us doesn't mean that everyone will grab it. The message though reveals that He has sought to redeem us from our brokenness rather than simply act in a vengeful and retributive manner. Of course the bible clearly does speak of events like the coming day of the Lord when heads are indeed going to roll. It's important to understand these things in the context of what justice truly means though. Some will reject God and He will act because some refuse to be redeemed in Christ and the story goes way beyond restoring man anyway and runs into a new heaven (which suffered when Satan lead his rebellion) and a new earth where Christ Himself will reign  and rule . 

A shift in understanding of this one word has really wowed me, I hope that it hasn't stopped there and means something to you all as well.

Thanks for reading.

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