- Evangelical Lutheran Church, (2019). The 95 Theses, Assessed 25/11/19 ONLINE: http://www.zionlutheran-ssm.org/95.pdf
- Zacharias, R. (2019). The Logic of God: 52 Christian Essentials for the Heart and Mind. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
Wednesday, 11 December 2019
The challenge of justice
"I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” Amos 5:21-24 NIV.
We all desire justice and want to see it done. Anytime we witness evil around where we are, what everybody will be looking to see is justice. We look to see justice done at the gates (Amos 5:15) by man towards his fellow man or by God towards the man He created. This happens because we are moral agents. God is the Source of Moral Law and man being in His image is not only expected to do justice, he himself wants to also see that justice is done. Ultimate questions of justice are directed at God because we live with the inexplicable consciousness that the Judge of all the earth must do what is right. (Gen.18:25). The scepter of His kingdom is a scepter of justice. (Ps.45:6).
As God’s people, those around us expect us to do what is right and just. God Himself commands us to do justice. Justice has to do with fairness, impartiality, and not being even-handed toward others in our dealings with them. Aristotle said that “justice in this sense then is not part of virtue but virtue entire nor is the contrary injustice a part of vice but vice entire.”2 In support of Aristotle’s argument is Dr. Ravi Zacharias who in the context of love said that “justice is an intrinsic part of virtue. You can judge without loving, but you cannot love without also being just”3. This is true since God is love and he that does not love his neighbor is a murderer (1 Jn.3:15), a noise maker (1 Cor.13:1) and knows not God (1 Jn.4:8). Love then is ultimate virtue. We cannot claim that we love when we do not dispense justice. In other words, we cannot claim that we are Christians when we do not do justice.
No wonder when the nation of Israel neglected this important virtue, God lost interest in all other activities, ceremonies and rituals of their worship life. From the passage in Amos above, it seems God is saying, “your assemblies, your feasts, your tithes and offerings, your songs and music are nothing to me when you do not do what is right and just towards others. Inasmuch as the activities are important, but their value is rated based on how you are letting justice roll on like a mighty flood and righteousness like a never-failing stream!”.
Societies are not transformed just because people talk much about justice. Societies change because people see and feel justice. The impact of the church then is not going to be much in our society just because we make the most noise and speak about justice. Our influence and impact will be strong when our members and the outside world see and feel that we do what is right. Ethical living is not an option for the church and church members, it is a requirement for us all. It is good to declare prosperity upon the people but it is not going to transform the society. Our societies will be transformed when we do what is right and treat both ourselves and others around us fairy and reasonably as the gospel which we preach demands. I have argued severally in the church circles against the structure whereby the system favors and makes a few persons at the apex free and very rich in the midst of and at the expense of a struggling membership. God, in rebuking the leaders of Israel of injustice, accused them of feeding on the choice and fat sheep while the weak, the sick and the poor were neglected. (Ezek.34). In Dr. Martin Luther’s days, the indulgence-preachers were so mean that Dr. Luther argued in his 50th thesis “Christians should be taught that, if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence-preachers, he would rather the church of St. Peter were reduced to ashes than be built with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.”1 Permit me to say that it’s like we are back to this scenario once again where Cathedrals and Church Investments are “built with the skin, flesh and bones of the sheep”, as it were, and the welfare of the members are not prioritized.
As goes the church, so goes the society. The political leaders cannot do otherwise from what they see the prophets and pastors do. At anytime there is a stark difference between what the political leaders do and what the prophets and pastors do, the later always rebuke the former in God’s name. But when they are doing the same thing, the later will not have a moral justification to rebuke the former. The result is that the society will be so filled with injustice both in the church and the outside that God’s judgment becomes inevitable.
Note also that within our context, justice is not just how the law is applied but also how we conform to truth and God’s righteousness in all our dealings. As individuals, justice should be seen in the way we relate with our spouses, neighbors, work colleagues, and all our relationships in general, as a matter of fact. In our business dealings and how we handle people of high and low estate, we must do to others what we will like them do to us assuming we are the ones in their estate. Welfare and social actions are supposed to be part and parcel of the Church concerns. When we are privileged to be in the position to defend the defenseless, speak for the voiceless, protect the weak and dispense equity and judgment to the vulnerable, what do we do? Without doing justice, our profession is vain and our preaching will be noise.
We preach the cross because that is the place where love and justice intersected. It is the centerpiece of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God has demonstrated that He is not only a God of justice in His Essence but also that He does justice in practical ways. Sin was judged at the cross; the requirements of justice were met at the cross; and love was shown at the cross whereby we are set free. The one that accepts this sacrifice on the cross receives a transformed heart. It is with this transformed heart that we can do justice and bring about transformation in our society. As God’s saved people, we have to be committed to doing justice and righteousness and not just speaking about it. Justice is not done because it is held as a belief or doctrine or spoken of by men, it is considered done because the people who look for it see and feel that it is done.
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Mic 6:8 ESV.
“…But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” Amen