I take some of the following passages deeply to heart:
- "But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!" Amos 5:24
- "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8
- "Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other." Psalm 85:10
WHAT IS JUSTICE? WHY IS IT IMPORTANT? HOW CAN WE LEARN MORE ABOUT IT? --- these are the types of questions I ask as I read my Bible, searching for the truth it contains.
How do we discern ideas about justice from the Bible?
Just a few nights ago, I taught a high school class at my church which was designed to teach young people how to discern the truth in the Bible. This is not always easy. The Bible has certain rules, and then there are also overlying principles. Sometimes the rules may seem to clash with the principles. The particular passage we read, Mark Chapter 7 verses 1-8, was intended to illustrate this:
The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were "unclean," that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.) So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, "Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with 'unclean' hands?" He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: " 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.' You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men."In other words, the Pharisees were focused on the rules, but were ignoring the heart of the principles. Our high school lesson then went on to spend an hour in ways to help the youth learn how to discern principles and follow rules. Well, where justice is concerned, what are the principles and what are the rules?!
Some key principles in the Bible are forgiveness and reconciliation, as well as mercy upon and kindness to those who are less fortunate, the weak and the powerless. Though widely denounced in the USA as contrary to Capitalism (which I suppose is the actual national religion of the USA), Liberation Theology clearly ties justice to economic responsibility and restoring equality in the balance of power among peoples. While some may bristle at this thought, the fact is that Capitalism, to the extent it is a value system, is not a value system that has any basis in morality. Efficiency: yes. Morality: no. If there is a starving widow who cannot pay for food, and a rich glutton who can pay a higher price, capitalism says we should give the food to the glutton. As Jesus points out in Luke 16:13, "You cannot serve both God and Money."
Glenn Beck doesn't understand this fundamental principle in the Bible.
He has urged listeners of his TV show to leave churches that preach social justice and report those churches to the "church authorities". (For link to article and audio, click HERE.) At one point in the show, Beck held up cards with a hammer and sickle on one and a swastika on the other. He said communism and Nazis both have the same philosophy. In America, he proclaimed, “social justice” is the code word for both. Wow. Did he just throw down the gauntlet to people who are concerned with justice, in the Biblical sense? (Is McCarthy smiling from his grave somewhere?)
The organization Sojourners, whose mission includes, "to articulate the biblical call to social justice," has called on Christians to stand up for social justice. Sojourners is mobilizing a campaign entitled "Tell Glenn Beck I'm a Social Justice Christian". I think if you've read my previous blog posts about Restorative Justice, or if you've read any of the three posts I've written so far about principles of Christian reconciliation, you will know where I stand. I've already signed my letter to Mr. Beck. If you'd like to participate in this campaign with me, click HERE for the link.
To learn more about social justice, check out the following book:
The Little Book of Biblical Justice: A Fresh Approach to the Bible's Teaching on Justice (The Little Books of Justice and Peacebuilding Series)
Additionally, Wallis has written: Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street