Clarifying My Definition of Justice

Do you learn about yourself as you talk with other people?  It happens to me all the time.  My thoughts are fuzzy and then I talk it out with friends and all of a sudden everything is clear.  The Thingy (the missional community I’m a part of) is studying justice (the study is the product of one of our member’s – Becky’s – two year struggle with the concept).  Tonight many of my thoughts were clarified through conversation with them.

Why is this important and relevant?

Because on Friday I wrote a response to a missional question Ed Stetzer posed about the roll of practicing justice in salvation; and I’m really unhappy with my answer.  It was fuzzy and unclear and way to long.  I got all tangled up in my thoughts.  I tried to bite off more than I could chew in one post. 

I would like to now clarify my definition of justice.

So lets throw down…

The world defines justice as fairness.  In the world, justice is people getting what they deserve.  When bad people get punished, justice has been done.

But Jesus, who was God, was never fair.  He never gave anyone what they deserved.  He asked the sinning tax collector to follow Him, but told the hard working religious Pharisee to get his crap together.  He was full of grace, quick to forgive, and accepted people before they repented.  He was defined by mercy.  He was love…illogical, unfair love.  

The incarnation = God, who is love, wrapping Himself in flesh to save a world that deserves to be punished  and rejected by Him.  Our damnation is fair.  Our salvation is unfair.    

So is God unjust or is our definition of justice messed up?

Justice is not the practice fairness.  It is not punishing wrong doers.

Tonight in the Thingy we looked at Genesis 2-4 and asked, “How did stuff change after the fall?”  Specifically, “How did people’s relationships change after the fall?”  It was clear that pre-fall people were created to be partners with one another, using their influence and power to help each other.

This is what it means to practice justice – using our power and influence to seek the best for others. 

Justice is partnering with others to bring about what is good for them.

This sounds a lot like Jesus. 

What did He say following Him was all about? 

Loving God and loving others.

And how did He explain loving others?  

He told the story of a Samaritan who used His power and influence to seek the best for a broken and wounded man.   

Suddenly Matthew 25, a major justice passage, groves smoothly with the totality of Jesus’ message.

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? 

The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Justice = to love my neighbor as myself.

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Clarifying My Definition of Justice

3 thoughts on “Clarifying My Definition of Justice

  1. Jeff,
    Fantastic answer.
    Jeff,
    Fantastic definition. Did you ever notice that justice, righteousness, and justification all come from the same word in the Greek New Testament? I’ve been studying through the Gospels and through Galatians and 1 John in Greek and I am profoundly convicted that to be Justified, is the same as to be Just in deed, and to be just in life, and to be Righteous, and to be obedient to Christ. Anyway… if I wrote a blog I would put that in it.
    Keep up the good work bro.

  2. Please help me with this. Is justice sometimes allowing consequences for our actions? I mean, if we are continually allowed to get out of our ‘fixes’ would we ever learn? I’m doing my best to address to children the need for confession. Does using a scale send children the wrong message? I would never mislead a child!

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