– – Recently, I saw someone post on facebook that they didn’t believe the Church should be a platform for social justice. I can agree with this on one point as was discussed in the previous post: the Christian must avoid using God’s power to fight battles that are not God’s Kingdom battles. On another point, I disagree. The church should be the example of real justice under the One True Judge of all humanity. This idea of justice being the next stage beyond Spirit-empowered Service, has much that needs to be said about it:
- The Biblical concept of Justice
- The Activeness of Injustice
- Jesus’ example
- The Church’s Pattern
It is rather unfortunate in many modern congregations at which I have attended, in popular musicals, and even popular music on the Radio, that Justice is derogated while Mercy is praised. It seems that Justice has come to mean, “rigid adherence to rules at the expense of people’s true benefit.” I am appalled at the misunderstanding, and find it rooted in a misapprehension of the Biblical meaning of Justice.
In the Bible Justice, as the Bible Project explains in their video on Justice, is “Retributive and Restorative.” That means that the purpose of Justice is to restore people’s dignity and right standing before God and man. This idea of Justice continues into the New Testament as a people of God are constantly identifying with the poor, weak, and oppressed and treating them as people made in God’s image. This idea has been lost in many Christian circles, but as anyone who has been wronged will tell you, it is vital to the Church’s mission.
Because of what happened in the Garden, we now have two forms of Justice: God’s Justice, and Man’s Justice. These two are split because of sin, and that split is the cause of all the conflicts we see in the world today. To stand for Justice means to stand for the Kingdom of God systemically and diametrically and fundamentally contrary to the system of sinful man’s justice. It is calling humanity to submit to God’s justice and do that justice to their fellow man.
It was this Justice which Israel was neglecting when they got away from the Torah after David and Solomon’s reign. They entered into greater, and greater injustice though the prophet cried out to them, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Preserve justice and do righteousness, For My salvation is about to come And My righteousness to be revealed.” Isaiah 56:1
THE ACTIVENESS OF INJUSTICE
And Man’s justice is riddled with injustice in the world today. This isn’t simply because of a lack of good, but it is due to evil people using their power for themselves, to build their own kingdoms on the back of those who lose much in the process. This is a justice taken out of God’s hands and placed into the hands of sinful men.
The reason why this stage comes later than Service, is because Service is an advance of God’s kingdom in smaller ways, which accomplishes a pillaging of the Kingdom of Darkness. A domination of the Kingdom of Darkness will require a more thorough dealing with the roots of the problems and binding the strong men that caused people to be spiritually and physically bound in the first place.
This justice can only be achieved by taking a stand directly against the ones who are causing the injustice. God’s justice vs. man’s justice.
Jesus faced the ones who had usurped their power and authority to leave people physically and spiritually impoverished: The religious leaders. Just read the woes against them in Matthew 23.
- They keep people out of God’s Kingdom.
- They have gotten people’s eyes on things of man rather than things of God.
- They neglected the weightier provisions of the Law, Justice, Mercy, and Faithfulness.
- They outwardly looked good while inwardly were greedy and wicked.
- They claim allegiance to God, but put his servants to death.
They have changed God’s justice for a system of man’s justice. And when Jesus spoke these things, the Pharisees tried their own subtle tactics of power-bending. “Let us try to catch him in something he might say.” We see this episode unfold in Matthew 22.
Just as Jesus was in the wilderness and tested in three ways, so now, once again he is tested in three different areas. Indeed it was the three tests he had already faced and conquered that prepared him for this one.
- Political. Should we pay taxes to Ceasar or not? Here Jesus is given the question of whether or not he will submit to the rule of a fallen man, and council others to do the same. Jesus masterfully handled this by reminding the people and the Pharisees that they were to recognize the high authority of Ceasar, and the HIGHEST Authority of God who had stamped his image and name on his people. God’s Justice supreme to man’s justice.
- Theological. Misunderstandings about God cause debates. The debate in Luke 20 was about Resurrection and Marriage, and Jesus corrected their thinking in both instances by going back to the character of the One, and how he made what he made. Who is the God and what is His Character? You must submit all theology to the One who truly is God, and include Him in the conversation.
- Scriptural. Then the Lawyer asked him what the greatest commandment was, and quite interestingly, he combines the love for God and the love for neighbor, which is the fulfillment of the whole Torah. This is the Justice of God: to Love your neighbor. A far cry from man’s justice. This is the Kingdom of God coming in relationship with each other.
Jesus counselled the people listening to him in this way in Luke 20,
46 “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. 47 Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be severely punished.”
THE CHURCH’S PATTERN
And so, we have people who submit to God’s rule and God’s Justice–the Church, and we have those who operate according to Man’s Rule and man’s justice. The church does not deny that there is a rule of humanity under God. It’s that the rule is under God that is so important. In stage 7, a believer must operate according to the rule of God, and oppose, and speak against the rule of man which hinder’s God’s justice from being done.
This will mean not just pillaging the villages of the conquest of man’s injustice by healing, preaching, casting out demons, and serving, but also going to the Capital City of the Authorities who are not submitted to the rule of God. As Jesus opposed the religious leaders’ rebellion against God politically, theologically, and judicially, so Paul the Apostle went the whole way to the highest authority in the land, the Emperor. Paul is an example of one who went all the way to stage 7, by seeking to right the Kingdom of Darkness back under the rule of the King of Light.
The Church also must operate under this same directive, but not without the Spirit’s power. The pitfall to avoid in this stage is Appeasement. This means submitting to the Kingdom of Man in a way that prevents a supernatural spread of the Spirit’s work in the world.
One example of this in the secular arena can be seen in Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger, when Jack Ryan goes all the way to the President of the United States and shows the president how crooked he is. How does the ruler respond? With submission to what is truly right and just? No, but with flattery, threats, and attempts at appeasement. First he says, “You’re not going to tell on me. You’ve got a chip in the big game now, You’re gonna tuck that away for a day when your a– is on the line, and I’m going to cash it in for you.” This tactic does not succeed, and in the second attack he basically says, “You can’t do this to America. America can’t afford another scandal right now. They’ll more readily blame you than they will blame me.” And Jack does not bite. Third, “And the rest of the blame will fall on [your honored friend] Greer.” Personal, Self-interest, National interest . . . it is the way of the powers of the world to threaten, manipulate, obligate, and enslave: all to keep the system of man’s rule in tact, without submitting to God’s rule, justice, and authority. As the President in the story called it, “The Potomac Two-Step.” But the Christian who would seek to grow up to full maturity, and the church who would fully live out their calling, must say, just as the protagonist Jack Ryan said, “Sorry, Mr. President. I don’t dance.”
- Disentangle oneself. If the Christian is to be effective for the Kingdom, he must be humble, taught, filled, proved, commissioned, accomplished, and finally disentangled from the boundaries of the Justice of Man, which even find pigeon-holes for “church.” While many churches enjoy the small territory the government of man gives them, the government continues to perpetuate problems of injustice in society. If, however, God’s people, empowered by the Holy Spirit can function without the support of protection of the government, the government will have no control over it.
- Submit to the governing authorities. This may seem contradictory to the first application, but it is necessary to maintain the order God ordains. (Romans 13:1-7) The rulers of man, may be disobedient to their master, but we must obey them, so long as we can through obeying them obey our master in Heaven. Justice is not about doing away with man’s rule, but rather re-establishing man’s rule in submission to God’s rule.
- As rulers and authorities come against the Christian, they must avoid the pitfall of appeasement by not heeding their threats. Here indeed, Jesus’ words to his disciples whom he sends out are key. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” This is the Christian’s call to Stand for Justice.
- Call forth the leaders of the rulers of men to submit to God’s rule, but do so in this way. Jesus continued in Matthew 10:18-20.
“You will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles[Nations]. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
Thus shall the people of God do, who earnestly pray that God’s rule come as it is in Heaven so also upon the earth.