Justice, Biblically defined, is so much more than people “getting what they deserve.” Oh goodness no. It’s God’s intent for creation; it has to do with right relationships (which is why “righteousness” is a great synonym) between self, God, neighbor, enemy, and the world. Justice, Righteousness, Peace and (in the NT) The Kingdom of God area all connected. It’d be fair to say that Biblical Justice is tied to and connected with the concept of The Common Good.
In Romans 1:17 Paul says that the Justice of God is revealed by nothing other than the gospel of Jesus Christ! It’s that beautiful, cosmic, and exceptional in nature.
This cosmic picture is what Paul had in mind when in Romans 6 he twice calls us “slaves of Justice.” He says we’ve been freed from sin so that we can commit our whole selves to this vision of Justice (6:18,19). Of course Paul’s no rogue on this one. He’s doing nothing but connecting his own thoughts to Jesus, who decades before invites all followers to “seek first the Kingdom of God and God’s Justice (Matthew 6:33).”
Paul does the same. He tells us numerous times (6:13,19) to “present our members” to the cause of Justice. Members, likely meaning gifts, skills, tools, resources: all that we are and have.
He not only call us slaves of this Vision of God’s Common Good Justice, he tells us that when we were sinners, this vision of Justice is precisely what we WEREN’T pursuing. “When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to Justice.” This too is chip off the old block, following Jesus who even more starkly calls us on our inward-gazing ways when he says, “Unless your justice exceeds the Scribes and the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20).”
Of course, as we know, the Pharisees were doing anything but being concerned about the Common Good. In particular, they were concerned about personal piety, worship, tithing, and looking religious. They had neglected the weightier matters of “justice and mercy and faith (Matthew 23:23).”
The church of the west has not tied itself to Justice but to Individualism. We’re not concerned about what’s best for all, we’re concerned about what’s best for me. Shame on me!
Paul’s statement means something else though as well, no one’s going to do this if Christ’s followers don’t. God’s Preferred Common God will never materialize without the followers of Christ becoming slaves of Justice. Never.
Which of course begs the question, Why aren’t we doing this? Why aren’t Christians known for pursuing the Common Good instead of the bottom line? Why don’t most churches, including most Mennonite Churches, expend their best energies loving their neighbors and actively working for justice, peace, and righteousness? Why are so many churches in the Houston area hitching their wagon to the Religious Right’s agenda of personal piety and national defense to the exclusion of issues of Justice such as poverty, racism, wealth, education, American imperialism in Central American and the Middle East, human rights, and unrestrained militarism?
And why are we so locked in to individual responses to social problems? Seems clear that the Bible’s individual response to brokenness is charity. But it’s overwhelming and foundational response to the greatest needs in our world is Justice: A Social solution to our social problems.
My next post will explore these questions more. I’ll tell a great story that has unfolded over the last 40 years to help frame what it might mean to become “slaves of Justice.”
But in the meantime, give yourself again to Jesus and his beautiful new vision of the World as it can be: Justice.
This is how I do devotions.