As we discussed in our previous artcile (Prayer Is Protest), as people of faith in Christ, we are required and called on of the Lord:
“He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
However, we must ask: what is real justice in the eyes of God?
As people of faith we can pursue justice alone, but before long, we run into a predicament. All one has to do is a Biblical study on the word “justice” and we quickly find that in both the Hebrew and in the Greek, it is synonymous with the word “righteousness”. The words “Righteous” and “Just”, also “Righteousness” and “Justice”, in the English Bible represent the same Hebrew and Greek words in the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, the terms primarily translate forms of the tsedeq word group, and the New Testament members of the dikaios word group.
Righteousness is Justice. Justice is Righteousness. So the question becomes, how can I pursue justice if I do not understand righteousness? The answer: we cannot.
Here is one theologian’s look at the problem Luther underwent when trying to compare Latin to English:
From the Galatians I have selected one problem that baffled me almost daily as I was translating and that seems to me fundamental enough to warrant our close scrutiny here, that is, the distinction and the analogy between justice and righteousness. For behind both these words in English is one word in Luther’s Latin, justitia, as there is one word for both in Greek and in Hebrew. –Jaroslav Pelikan, A Study of Luther’s Galatians
What is this big word righteousness? Simply put, God’s righteousness means that God always acts in accordance with what is right and is himself the final standard of what is right (Grudem).
In regards to Grudem’s definition of righteousness given above, we might be asking ourselves, what is right? “In other words, what ought to happen and what ought to be” that is right? (Grudem It is here that Grudem responds “whatever conforms to God’s moral character is right”.
“But why is whatever conforms to God’s moral character right? It is right because it conforms to His moral character! If indeed God is the final standard of righteousness, then there can be no standard outside of God by which we measure righteousness or justice. He Himself is the final standard.” (Grudem)
God Himself holds the keys what is right in our world. Psalm 89:14 states, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.” So if He holds the key to what is right, then He holds the keys to ending poverty, finding a cure for AIDS, caring for the world’s orphans and widows, dissolving the human trafficking organizations around the world, solving the water crisis and everything else deemed unjust. In His righteousness, He holds the keys to ushering in true, everlasting justice on the earth.
Of course I want to see God’s justice and righteousness on the earth, so what’s the point? The point is: intimacy.
It can only be through intimacy with God Himself that true justice reign on the earth. This is what the Gospel of the Kingdom is all about anyway—His will over ours! We all can have a lot of amazing ideas to “do justice” all around us, but unless we invite God into those ideas, they will always have a stopping point. They will always fail because they were our will, not His.
I leave us with this scripture from Psalms: “And I—in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.” – Psalm 17:15
This is not just semantics. As pointed out in Psalm 17:15, righteousness is about engaging the Father and seeing the face of God. In other words, intimacy. In our next segment we look at Strategies of Justice Through Intimacy.
It is important to add… This righteousness is what the Kingdom sits on (Psalm 89:14). Without it, everything would crumble. If God were of perfect righteousness without the omnipotent power to carry out that righteousness, He would not be worthy of worship and we would have no guarantee that justice will ultimately prevail in the universe. But if He were of unlimited power without righteousness in His character, how unfathomable it would it be to have unrighteousness at the center of our existence and nothing we could do to change it. Our entire existence would be meaningless and we would all be living in chaos. Praise God that “all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is He” (Deut. 32:4)!
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Sources: Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Pages 203-204. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity P, Zondervan Pub. House, 1994.