Recently, I’ve been starting to think about Justice. Ahead of the Vineyard UK Theological Symposium in June, I’ve been batting around a variety of ideas for a paper, echoing my more diverse reading in 2017, as well as my wider theological work. Justice is a theme that vexes many followers of Jesus and people who do not recognise or worship God. Justice is a word that inhabits many other words, a hint of a world breaking into ours, and a glimpse of things to come even as it is a yardstick by which we measure our present pain. Justice, it seems, is both inescapable and utterly ignorable.
Justice, without Jesus, is ultimately empty, as Andy Crouch explores:
“Justice is an abstract noun. It cannot look, feel, think, move—or love. And like all abstractions it is susceptible to idolatry, becoming an absolute good rather than a good dependent on the One who is Good.“
Yet Justice is seen in our lives today. And here, as a follower of Jesus who is attempting to pursue Justice, I have found the words of Nicholas Sagovsky helpful:
“It is clear throughout the Hebrew Scriptures that the prime location of Justice is in personal relationships. These relationships may be mediated by a right use of the land or a right participation in the religious festivals, including the sabbath, or a right sharing of the produce of the land, but the key to justice is a right relation between God and human beings, and among human beings, something which is founded entirely on God’s initiative. However, in taking the initiative, God looks for a right human response, the response of a people which is faithful to the covenant relationship with him and does not adulterate this in relationship with other Gods. Israel is to be a holy people…”
There are many ways that these words challenge me. How followers of Jesus – the new Israel, I believe – should engage in usage of land, in participation in religious festivals, and the various kinds of activity that make up the times we find ourselves in.
The beginning of Justice, though, is in God’s good initiative in reaching out to humankind in restorative relationship. This restoring relationship, this radicial initiative by a God who is Good, offers us a pattern for the pursuit of Justice in our little lives.
What if the pursuit of Justice began with our personal relationships? Rooted in a relationship with God, echoing God’s Good activity and pursuit of humanity as documented in the Hebrew Scriptures (and indeed the New Testament!) Justice is something that spills out of the cup of God’s Grace, a sign and hint of the Kingdom of God that is coming. Just as Jesus’ ministry was characterised by radical and world-shaking personal relationships, so perhaps should his followers be challenged and inspired to engage in transformative and Good relationships with other humans, echoing the love that God first showed us.
What would this ‘beginning of Justice’ look like in your life?
What could it look like?
Other posts and book reviews on Justice that you might find interesting:
- Doug Erickson’s Guest Post: Bent Towards Justice
- Tim Keller’s Generous Justice
- Elaine Storkey’s brilliant Scars Across Humanity
- Nicholas Sagovsky’s Christian Tradition and the Practice of Justice
- Justice and Worship – a brief reflection on Amos 5
- John Stott’s final book, The Radical Disciple
- On a contemporary crisis of Justice – Welcoming Refugees into the Kingdom of God