The word “justice” often makes us think of legal matters, or even punishment. In biblical terms, though, justice has to do with being faithful to the requirements of a relationship. God’s justice happens in the context of a covenant relationship with God. Because of God’s covenant relationship with God’s people, justice means that God always acts in a manner that is in keeping with God’s promises to defend, protect and remember us. That’s how God executes justice. When Christians are doing justice, we are living in right relationship to God, to one another and to everything in creation.
Therefore, biblical justice is more than a legal concept. Biblical justice touches the economic, social, environmental and spiritual spheres of life. Jesus came to set the prisoners free because for human beings to oppress or abuse one another is to disregard the proper way of being in relationship with one another. Oppression is unjust. Similarly, Christians are called to care about climate change, because Genesis 1 tells us to be caretakers for God’s creation and not destroyers of God’s creation. Disregard for the environment is unjust.
As we reflect on what it means to be proclaimers of God’s word, it is important that we preach God’s justice and that our sermons stretch beyond the individual level. From the individual perspective, justice is what each of us deserves. This is called “ethical justice.” Ethical justice tells us what “thou shall” and “thou shalt not” do. If we do the right things, we deserve a good reward. If we do the wrong things, we deserve punishment or correction.
However, faithfully preaching God’s justice also considers how we structure our schools, businesses, neighborhoods and society. The living wage is a justice issue for the working class in America. Equity in educational opportunities and access to healthcare are justice issues for the “least of these.” The equality of women in ministry is a justice issue.
Justice is at the core of who God is, and God’s vision of justice is for everyone created in God’s image and everything in nature to live in love, shalom, freedom, dignity and abundance. The task of the preacher is to remind the congregation that true justice is about loving God and responding to God’s love for us. So says the prophet who declared what the Lord requires of us, which is to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
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Lilly Endowment Inc. launches new Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative
Through this national competitive initiative, Lilly Endowment is inviting charitable organizations to apply for grants of up to $1.25 million to create new and/or enhance existing programs that help parents and caregivers share their faith more confidently with their children. The Endowment anticipates awarding approximately 60 grants to charitable organizations that submit the most promising and compelling proposals.
An online Interest Form with Letter of Interest must be submitted by December 5, 2022.
Before you go…
What can make Christian social justice difficult is the challenge of defining what we, as Christians, mean by “justice.” That word has become a political rallying cry that unites some people and polarizes others. What I believe is that God’s justice is rooted in God’s steadfast love. Let’s remember this when we preach justice to our people. Let’s tell them about how much God loves our neighbors, and then tell them how they can do the same. One more thing: justice work is difficult work, so be sure to take care of yourself on the journey.
You can reach me and the Alban Weekly team at email@example.com. Until next week, keep leading and doing justice.
Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity