God works to overcome injustice
If we realized that “doing justice” was directly tied to our individual salvation, would it make a difference in the way we live our lives?
Doing justice is not just a good thing for a Christian to do. The King has given us an assignment. Jesus has commissioned us. God’s people are the ones who do justice; the ones who don’t do justice are not his people.
What else could these words of Jesus possibly mean?
“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his demons! For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me anything to drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me no clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ And he will answer, ‘I assure you, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”
If you are not personally involved in doing these things, what makes you think you are going to inherit the Kingdom?
Believers are eternally secure because Jesus made the perfect sacrifice, because God is able to save and can be trusted to keep his promises. Yet Jesus says the ones who will enter eternal life are the “righteous.”
When our English translations of the Bible use the word ‘righteous,’ we tend to think of people who don’t do bad things like smoking, drinking, and cussing (at least, not in front of other Christians). We certainly don’t think “being righteous” depends on a person “doing justice.”
In the Bible’s original languages, however, ‘justice’ and ‘righteousness’ are essentially the same thing. The older Hebrew words and the newer Greek word are translated one way or the other, depending on the context. (A person might wonder whether contemporary translators pick ‘righteousness’ instead of ‘justice’ because Western Christianity has closed its ears to the cries of the poor and oppressed and doesn’t want to be reminded about suffering and injustice.)
The idea of justice is founded in who God is, how he created the world to be, and how he relates to it. The King defines justice and maintains what is right. We know what is just among humans because of what we know about God and his creation.
Because we are created in God’s image, human justice is about our relationships with others and our duty before God to actively maintain what is right. We can no more be indifferent to good and evil than God can. The Bible commands: “Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Wicked people are those who have no fear of God and no regard for neighbors suffering injustice.
God’s justice rescues the poor and oppressed; it actively works to overcome injustice. God’s people must “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the orphan. Fight for the rights of widows.”
The Just King has every right to expect that we will wholeheartedly pursue justice for others, since he has done justice for us.
This article on justice is helpful.
Think about it
What problems are created if a church’s teaching does not connect “being righteous” with “doing justice”?
If today you faced Jesus’ judgment based on your personal involvement in helping “the least of these,” would you inherit the Kingdom?
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Next chapter: Jesus did justice for you