Tag Archives: justice

Don’t Be Spiritually Shallow

Jesus criticized the religious leaders of Israel publicly and harshly. He denounced them for nit-picking away at minor issues and forgetting the “weightier matters” of the law. What are those weightier matters? Justice, mercy, and faith.

God has a special concern with justice. He is Judge of all the cosmos. He is personally holy and he loves righteousness.

After years of being a spectator to politics, I have noticed something about people’s notions of justice. In broad terms, people tend to see justice in a way that reflects their political viewpoint.

I freely admit to being politically conservative. We like to think of justice as something that operates mainly on the level of the individual. In other words, we believe strongly in personal responsibility.

People are responsible to make wise choices, to live according to the law. If they insist on living outside the law, they are sinning, and they deserve their punishment. Hopefully they will learn their lesson, ‘straighten up’ and ‘fly right.’

On the other hand, I have noticed that my liberal or progressive friends see justice from another perspective. They like to add the word “social” in front of justice. Social justice has a more collective focus.

The institutions and governments in our culture have a responsibility to treat people fairly, justly. When the powerful elites use these systems to oppress certain groups, it is sinful.

When the power structures of a society are unjust, then people have a responsibility to stand up and demand change. Unjust systems can and must be reformed to reflect God’s goodness.

Admittedly, these issues can be far more complex than the simple summary above. What about the separation of church and state? To what degree should God’s justice be reflected in a society’s laws?

Setting aside the related questions, my point is simple. In the Bible God clearly shows concern for both personal and social responsibility. As followers of Jesus, we must not ignore either half of God’s concern for justice.

Working to promote both individual and social justice would be enough to keep us busy, but Jesus adds in mercy. Mercy is a cousin to grace. Mercy and grace demand that people not get the justice they deserve, but instead receive the blessing they have not and cannot earn.

This is more than an empty academic philosophical dialogue. It is real life. For instance, how does a church decide who should get a baby shower?

If a young lady is pregnant out of wedlock shouldn’t we demonstrate grace, reach out to her, build a bridge into her life and the life of her child for the gospel?

But what message will that send to the young ladies who made better choices and waited until they were married to have children? Are we condoning sin and encouraging disobedience?

This is just the beginning. What about parents who learn that their children are gay or lesbian? What about the man who forced his girlfriend to have an abortion years ago? You get the idea.

These are not ‘lite’ concerns. These are the weighty matters that God has called us to address as his representatives in this age. How do we navigate the seemingly opposite poles of justice and mercy?

The third item in Jesus’ list is faith, faith in Christ Jesus. Christ is our one sure model of how to live according to God’s justice and mercy. By trusting in him as the Lord of our lives, we find insight, inspiration, and empowering to speak the truth in love.

Jesus held out one hand and grabbed hold of God’s justice and holiness. Then he held out the other hand and took hold of God grace and mercy. There at the cross on Calvary justice and mercy came together not in a formula or ideology but in a man, the Son of Man, the Son of God, in Christ Jesus.

Only as we follow the Crucified One, can we live successfully at the crossroads between God’s justice and his mercy. That’s why Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him. With his power and presence we can indeed succeed at the weighty things.

May we always act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God,

Brother Richard Foster

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion

Equality Is Not Justice

Justice and equality are not the same. Equality implies that everyone, no matter who they are, no matter what they’ve done, should be treated exactly the same. Justice means everyone, no matter who they are, gets treated fairly. Everyone plays by the same set of rules.

If we are all to be equal, then jails and prisons are unacceptable. Criminals must be released and allowed to go free, otherwise, they are not equal. If we are to be just, however, then some people will forfeit their freedom by disobeying fair and just laws.

If we are to be equal, then competition is a curse. Every worker, no matter how many hours they work or what job they do, must receive the same annual salary. Every team in the NFL must get Super Bowl rings at the end of each season.

If we are to be just, then workers will receive fair wages based on their willingness to work and their abilities. If we are to be just, then competitive endeavors will have both winners and losers.

If we are all to be equal, then siblings should be allowed to marry each other. And men to marry men, women to marry women, marriages of three, or four, or whatever. If we are to be just, however, then we will place healthy and holy limits on who can and cannot marry.

If we are all to be equal, then children should be allowed to do all the same things as adults. I hope anyone will agree that this is a foolish statement, which demonstrates that absolute equality is a ludicrous notion. Justice and wisdom require proper limits.

Justice means that people require different treatment based on the facts. To treat a criminal like a law-abiding citizen would be foolish. To promote incest would be unwise. To treat children like adults would be dangerous. In fact, parents who treat their kids like adults may find themselves in legal trouble.

Equality is not automatically a virtue. To treat the weak exactly the same as the strong can be heartless. We build both stairways and ramps because we believe that people should be treated differently based on facts and circumstances. It is wrong to make some people use the stairs.

“Equal” has become an emotionally-charged term that is unfurled like a banner to rally public support for normalizing immoral and sinful behaviors. Sin is recast as a civil right and civil rights are redefined as equality. But true civil rights do not guarantee everyone equal treatment, they promise fair and just treatment.

The Bible calls for justice, but never insists on absolute equality. In fact, Scripture tells us that some people deserve special considerations. Widows, orphans, and aliens require extra help. God insists upon it.

The Bible says that some people have the right to take freedoms from others. The Bible says that some people have no right to marry. The Bible says that nobody has the right to pervert justice.

Using equality as a cover for immorality undermines justice. Any sinful behavior can be added to an endless list of supposed civil rights. Absolute equality as a guiding principle leads us further away from justice, not closer.

Not only does the Bible elevate justice above equality, God’s word also elevates mercy above judgment. More than simply judging sin and immorality, God’s desire is to demonstrate mercy and grace to the sinner. But without justice there is no mercy, no grace.

Only when we truly understand the justice and holiness of God can we appreciate his mercy and grace. If we try to replace God’s justice with mistaken notions about equality, then we obscure and even erase God’s standards. Rejection of God’s standards leaves us ignorant of our need for God’s grace.

Without a healthy understanding of God’s grace, we find Jesus dying on the cross not as our Savior but as a fool. Who would die for a world that has no need for a Savior?

Despite all the attempts to replace justice with equality, the sinfulness of humanity is still blatantly evident. And great sin requires a great salvation. Praise God we have a great salvation through our great Savior Jesus Christ!

Let us not demand human equality. Instead, let us cry out for God’s grace.

May God’s Spirit give us wisdom and compassion,

Brother Richard Foster

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion