What do you think of when you think of justice? Do you think of justice? Are you just? What does that even mean? How does your faith in God relate to what you believe about justice?
In my mind, justice was relegated to thoughts of criminal convictions for about the first 25 years of my life. I would celebrate, mildly as it was, events in which I thought justice has been achieved. “Justice” was even a cheer that I would yell when one of the players on my high school basketball team would make a free throw after being fouled. Needless to say, I didn’t think too deeply about the full profundity of this word and its ramifications at that time. In college I had several friends that were interested in justice issues. I thought they were weird, but only because I didn’t understand their passion or motivation. I respected them greatly, and even thought some of the females quite cute. But I digress …
Over the last many years justice has become more important to me. I cannot remember what it was that opened my eyes, but the topic gained a brand new importance when I began to understand that the God I claimed to follow found it to be ever so important. If I could continue to claim that I followed Jesus, I would have to make justice a part of my life. And it’s bold, but I believe it: if you claim to follow Jesus, and do not find justice important, you have seriously misunderstood him and do not understand his message. And it’s worth taking another look into both.
There’s a new book out that prompts this little reflection. I’ve only read the free excerpt so far, but its content and premise give me much hope. It’s called Justice in the Burbs: Being the Hands of Jesus Wherever You Live by Will and Lisa Samson. There’s a pdf excerpt available from the publisher. It gives me hope for a few reasons. First, it reminds me that I’m not alone in wrestling with this dangerous message that God is a god of justice that calls all to be agents of his justice in the world. Second, it provides another opportunity to wrestle with being an agent of justice, both as I read the book to challenge myself, and as I take its challenges into conversation with others. I long to desire justice more, and to desire more justice as life-giving acts of obedience and worship to God. And I hope that this book will help me with these desires.
I hope that you will join me in this conversation, whether you read this book on justice, another book on justice, the Bible (yet another book on justice), or a drink coaster. Challenge yourself by pondering why you value justice when you see it, why you do or do not seek it out, and what it means to live justice.
Here are a few quotes from the excerpt that resonated with me:
Somehow, as we became adults, we did not see the story of justice as a part of the story of God. How did that happen? And why? (p. 12)
But something does drive each of us, doesn’t it? That something can be personal preservation. It can be economic gain. It can be love. It can be hate. It can be fear. But what lies behind those values? We believe that beneath those surface values, every person holds a particular view of God and how he would have them act in the world. (p. 14)
… they were seemingly destined to live lives of busy insignificance. (p. 23)
But perhaps we have forgotten, or perhaps we never knew, what a life lived justly might look like. (p. 25)
The English language is beautiful, but we have a peculiar problem in English. In Spanish, French, Italian, and most other human languages, the New Testament word dikaios is always translated “justice,” a sturdy and social word that evokes fairness, integrity, right treatment, and equity in human relationships. But in English, translators often choose to translate dikaios as the word “righteousness.” This is unfortunate, even tragic, because many people hear the word “righteousness” and think only of personal and private “piety” or “religiosity” or “personal morality.” As important as these things are, they are not dikaios. (p. 30-31)
How would your interpretation and application of Scripture like Matthew 6:33 change if translated in English, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things will be added to you.” Would it?