Walking in love with justice and faithfulness for the next generation
George Methodist Church
Isaiah 61: 8,9
8am and 10am
27th October 2019
1. I, the Lord, love justice:
The Bible makes social justice a mandate of faith and a deep expression of Christian discipleship. Social justice has its biblical roots in a triune God, who, time and time again shows his love and compassion for the weak, the vulnerable, the marginalized, the disenfranchised, the disinherited — you get my point. “For Christians, the pursuit of social justice for the poor and oppressed is the decisive mark of being people who submit to the will and way of God,” writes Tim Dearborn in Reflections on Advocacy and Justice.
Biblical references to the word “justice” mean “to make right.” Justice is, first and foremost, a relational term — people living in right relationship with God, one another, and the natural creation. From a scriptural point of view, justice means loving our neighbor as we love ourselves and is rooted in the character and nature of God. As God is just and loving, so we are called to justice and live in love.
Not what, but who.
Social justice becomes less about what and more about who we are called to prioritize as followers of Christ. So often we get ensnared in disagreements around the “what” in relation to social justice, because it deals with often contentious issues like budgets, taxation, labor laws, social protections, safety nets, and others.
Instead, we should start a space of common ground around who God calls us to be concerned about. In other words, “what” is predicated by “who”. Starting with “what” often enables our ideologies to trump our theology and spirituality. As Christians, the building blocks of social justice lie in human dignity, human flourishing, and the sacredness of life. The source of social justice is God’s perfect righteousness, justice, and radical love.
Social justice is about creating kingdom space in the here and now, giving witness to the ultimate just society yet to come. So every time we use our voice and influence to get in the way of injustice — whether it’s human trafficking, economic exploitation, human rights abuses, or infants dying needlessly from disease and malnutrition — we provide a foretaste of God’s kingdom to come.
- I hate robbery and wrongdoing
Jesus, by His incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection, truly and fully identifies with both perpetrator and victim. On the cross, Jesus bears our responsibility as perpetrator as well as our trauma as victim. On the cross, Jesus saves both perpetrator and victim.
With this in mind, we will focus in this lesson on justice and love for those who have done wrong. How do God’s justice and love “meet and agree” for perpetrators of wrong-doing, crime, and harm? How is it that Jesus bears our responsibility as sinner and saves us? How do we, as those who have injured others, participate in Jesus’ redemptive efforts?
On the cross, Jesus bore the judgment we deserved. The New Testament refers to what Jesus did on our behalf in rich and various ways: an offering for sin as the Lamb of God; the substitute for us in our punishment; the perfectly obedient Son of God; the liberator rescuing us from the realm of darkness; the conqueror and captor of sin and death; the self-emptying servant; the lover of our souls; and more. All point to the mysterious but deep truth that Jesus, fully in keeping with God’s nature and purposes, took upon himself our sin and its consequences in order to reverse them completely and finally.
This means that there is full acknowledgment of sin and its consequences. No wrong-doer, no perpetrator of sin and crime, can evade or minimize what he or she has done.
We have many devices whereby we seek to avoid responsibility both within ourselves and before others. We blame our circumstances. We blame other people. We focus only on our own needs and desires. We harden our hearts to the feelings of others. In these and other ways we deny the reality of our wrongdoing, or we try to justify it. We excuse ourselves from blame.
The cross of Jesus does not permit us to rest in these devices. The cross condemns who we are and what we do when we rebel against God and his good order for others and for ourselves. At the same time, the cross rescues us from despair and hopelessness. No wrongdoer is beyond God’s forgiveness and love.
How do we, as those who commit wrong and thus injure others and ourselves, live in both the justice and the love of the cross? We do it through confession, repentance, amends and transformation.
A wrongdoer participates in God’s saving justice in Jesus by acknowledging his or her acts through confession. By renouncing in repentance similar behaviour in the future and taking steps to make it less likely that the wrongdoing will be repeated. Then the person engages in specific, concrete acts to take responsibility and to make amends with respect to the victim (e.g., through restitution or similar means).
Transformation requires that the wrongdoer participate in Jesus’ saving transaction by spiritually “dying and rising.” This occurs by accepting or receiving the sacrificial love of God in Jesus. The old self passes away; the new self begins to emerge. Transformation shows itself when the wrongdoer gains empathy for the victim of the offense. When the wrongdoer seeks to repair the damage to the victim. When they determine to live in new ways.
Colossians 2:13, 14
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”
- In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.
When we get these two areas right, then the Lord does bring reward and He makes an everlasting covenant with us. Persistent failure to live according to God’s covenant requirements led to inevitable disaster for both the nation and its monarchy, culminating in judgment: the destroyed temple and Babylonian exile. This might have spelled the end had God’s plans for Israel not been crucial for fulfilling His covenant promises. The exile of the nation and the demise of the monarchy had to be overcome for God’s creation plan to be realized. Covenant history thus continued through the prospect of a “new covenant”—one that would be both continuous and discontinuous with those of the past.
Though referred to explicitly as a “new covenant” only once in the OT (Jer 31:31), several passages, both in Jeremiah and elsewhere, allude to it. In Isaiah this everlasting covenant of peace is closely associated with the servant figure (Isa 42:6; 49:8; 54:10; 55:3; 61:8). It is inclusive in that it incorporates even foreigners and eunuchs (Isa 56:3) but also exclusive in that it is confined to those who “hold fast to” its obligations (Isa 56:5–6; cf. 56:1–2).
- Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All will see them and acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed.
The last part of this scripture has struck me in so many ways for us to remain faithful and practice justice not just for the sake of ourselves but also for the sake of the next generation. I would hope and trust that our sons have received a good enough deposit enabling them to be acknowledged as ones who are blessed. ‘Add value wherever you are’ is our family moto, as well as ‘Choose Life!!!’
We will see a generation who will live in humility and authentic relationship with Christ. They will show the love of Christ wherever they are because of their attitude to life. They will be Disciples of Christ and not just church members. The Lord will dignify them by making them a blessing wherever they go. They will be instruments of His Glory and will share remarkable tokens of His Glory. They will be respected not only by those who know Christ but also by those who are outside the church.
- What does biblical justice mean to you?
- In what ways do we rob God and engage in wrongdoing?
- What does faithfulness look like?
- How do you understand covenant?
- How are we shaping the next generation and what needs to shift if we are to ensure that they are not lost?