|Eternity Daily Bible Study No. 262
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The Scriptures and Justice - 2
JUSTICE AS AN ATTRIBUTE OF CHRISTIANS
6 With what shall I come before the Lord,
And bow myself before the High God?
Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings,
With calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
Ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:6-8 NKJV)
23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! (Matthew 23:23,24 NKJV)
Justice, mercy and faith are what Jesus lists as the “weightier matters of the law” while Micah list the cardinal virtues of the one who pleases God as ‘doing justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with your God”. If we see “walking humbly with your God” as equivalent to “faith” then the lists are identical and in both OT and NT the “three big issues” are justice, mercy – and faith.
Now mercy and faith are widely acknowledged in evangelical circles as being important – but justice is sometimes seen as belonging to “liberals”. In which case we would have to make Jesus and the prophets into liberals! So lets take justice seriously and claim some of that ground for bible-=believing Christians.
A side effect of downplaying justice, social responsibility and ethical concern is a whole crop of dishonest, irresponsible and selfish Christians. It is shameful that the bulk of religious financial malpractice and con-artistry is found in conservative circles. If we had challenged our congregations to take honesty and ethics and justice and such issues with utter seriousness maybe much could have been prevented. Too often we give a gospel that is about as meaty and challenging as a can of pop soda. We have fed them spiritual junk food and reaped spiritual obesity and ethical atrophy.
We live in a messy, complex and difficult age that faces enormous problems, which need godly solutions. Christians need to think carefully and biblically about social issues. We need to enter into the government, the military, the universities and the major corporate boardrooms with ideas that come from God’s heart.
How can corporate ethics change if even bible-believing Christians do not think about the issues? How can we have just government, a wise military, an educational system that builds a godly society, a redeemed media, or corporations that no longer trample the poor unless we speak? Who else will speak for God? Who else knows God?
And we don’t have to just speak for God – we have to live it as well. Justice is not just a matter for white papers and academic discussion. We have to live justly, we have to be merciful, and we have to walk humbly from sunrise to sunset.
The renewed Christian mind is a just and wise and caring mind that loves one’s neighbor and fears God. The renewed Christian mind does not just know the Bible – it also thinks about how to put it into action. The renewed Christian mind is concerned about the implementation of Scripture in the life of the Christian. When Scripture is applied, and God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven, then His Kingdom is made manifest – in a certain place at a certain time.
The teachings of Jesus and the prophets taken seriously have enormous power to change society. Gandhi based his movement on them, as did Martin Luther King and as did William Wilberforce who stopped slavery. From St. Francis to Mother Teresa people who take Jesus seriously have made a difference.
If we want to stop the rot in society we will have to back to the Bible and apply it to the problems of our age in deep and thoughtful ways – and also live it ourselves. Justice comes from the Hebrew word mishphat and it means the systematic application of the law to every nook and cranny of life and every national and international issue.
If we want to do justice we need to ask questions like:
What does loving our neighbor mean when we are faced with global poverty?
Would Jesus tell someone they would “just have to die” because they could not afford health insurance?
If all men and women are made in the image of God - what does that say about how we should organize work conditions?
We cannot solve all the world’s justice problems – and God does not expect us to. But God does expect us to act justly in the areas where we make decisions or where we exercise some power or example. In the Philippines I vividly remember of hearing about a friend who completely ran out of money so she had to stop her brother’s dialysis treatment – and he died. He died simply because he was poor and his family was poor. That is both unjust and preventable. We need to exercise our minds and hearts about such issues. We need to grow up – and take on the big issues. After all there is a lot more to Christianity than deciding which gospel CD to buy! Music is good, but worship and burnt offerings are lesser things. According to Jesus - justice, mercy and faith are what matter.
John Edmiston email@example.com
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