Of all of the things that we talk about in the Bible and in the gospel, I think Justice is a topic that is largely overlooked. I would like to explore this idea of Justice because it is one that is so dear to my heart. I could write volumes on this topic, but I’ll try to be as succinct as I can in these posts. I am starting a small series titled, “Justice in the Name of Jesus.” I’d like to begin with just how grave and important the issue of justice really is to God…
God hates injustice. Be sure of that. While there are many things in the Bible that I do not understand and many little issues we could quibble about, I think the most important ones are blatantly clear. And this is one of those issues. God loathes injustice. The Bible mentions God’s justice in at least 130 verses and over 110 of those verses are from the Old Testament. The Bible speaks often of taking care of the poor and the widows. James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Here are just a few instances in the Bible where justice is clearly seen:
The Jewish culture actually had a radical system in place called the Year of Jubilee. During this time, all debts would be canceled and slaves would be freed (Slavery, by the way, in their culture was more like indentured servant hood. I am not justifying it by any means, but I am pointing out that it was different than what we would associate as slavery today). Jubilee means “Liberty,” and it was a year of just that—liberty. This was part of the covenant that God first established with Moses who then went to pass the law down to the Israelites. It was a way of God ensuring that classes between rich and poor, slave and freed man, those in debt and the debtors, were broken down so that all men were provided with Liberty. This was radical in that day and age.
Another instance of justice in the Bible is the famous scene of Jesus and the temple. In the temple, when Jesus saw the practices of selling sacrifices and such, He became enraged. Men and women were being cheated out of their money just so that they could participate in their sacrifices. Jesus could not stand His father’s house being made into a circus of sorts. He overturned tables and chased the men out with a bullwhip. If you think this sounds like a man complacent with injustice, I think we must disagree.
In fact, here’s a verse with Jesus speaking to the Pharisees about the issue of justice: Luke 11:42 — “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.” Here Jesus is basically saying that even though the Pharisees followed the law down to the ridiculous last punctuation mark, they had no justice and love for God in their hearts. Notice that Jesus actually puts these two together. He says Justice AND love, not OR. He is suggesting that the two go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other, and following all of the “rules and expectations” without that love and justice is useless. Jesus actually has a broken heart for these men saying, "Woe to you!" Those are very strong words indeed.
So how important is Justice to God? It is vital. God is Justice. We speak so much of His mercy and grace that we often leave off the bit of Justice because it has almost a frightening connotation to it. We think of justice as punishment rather than correction. I must ask: Wouldn’t it be frightening if God were complacent toward injustice? What if He looked at sin and shrugged His shoulders? What if He didn’t care that people were hurting and suffering? What if He did not want to loose the chains of the enslaved or support the poor and the broken? Those are scary thoughts. Much scarier than the thought of a God who abhors the wrongs in the world and goes to any length to eradicate them… And He went to the farthest heights and depths to erase sin. He even went to the point of hanging on a cross.
So, God does care about Justice? What does that mean for us as Christians? What does that mean for the world? These are questions I would like to explore next.