Nearly everyday, I go for a walk. I do it for me, and I do it for my doggie because exercise is good for us. It is time well spent. I also do it for my neighbors and the cars that drive through the neighborhood because every time I walk, I pick up nails, glass and construction debris that would cause great mischief to tires or shoes. One little nail in the tire can cost between $5 and $500 to repair or replace a tire(s). One little nail in the shoe might cause a more expensive trip to the ER. That is money most of us don’t plan to expend for transportation or medical care.
Today I picked up 5 nails/screws that had fallen off of construction trucks and lay waiting in the street to ruin somebody’s day. Usually I pick up 2 or 3. Add it all up, multiply it, divide by 2, and I think over the last 3 years I have picked up 1,000 nails, screws and sharp things. That is a lot of tires I have saved. That is a lot of money I have kept in the pockets of the families of Northpointe. That is a job well done by a boy on a walk with his dog. Since I have “paid it forward” for nearly 3 years, surely God will make sure I never get a nail in my tire or my foot. That just wouldn’t be right. That would not be just – not fair – at all.
Except that my wife just called, and we have 2 tires that need to be replaced because of nails, screws and sharp things. The cost will be $475 for two tires replaced and balanced. That is just my luck! Where is the justice? How could God let this happen to me? This isn’t fair at all!
When we think that by doing something good we are preventing something bad from happening, we are not pursuing a path of justice. That is a path of karma. Karma and justice often get mixed together when we are considering or commenting on things happening in life. Most often we think that if something happens to someone bad, that justice was served. In ministry we will think that by serving God we are due for reward (or at least for protection from harm or hurtful happenings). That might be thought of as justice by many people, but it is more like karma and karma is a false philosophy. So don’t buy into it.
Most of the time we have our definition of justice all wrong. Justice is not about being fair or making things fair in life. Justice is not a new fangled political action or platform on which to build your identity. Justice is not a about keeping or upholding the legal letter of the law, and finally Justice is not (merely) a clothing store for tween girls.
Justice – God’s justice – is a whole other cool thing. And just to be clear, the pursuit of justice is not something new that was birthed in this millennium by hipster Christians. Justice – God’s brand of justice – is as old as Israel and as modern as the new heaven and the new earth on the horizon. This kind of justice is rooted in God, but branched out through Christian action and witness. We don’t own or control God’s justice. Instead, we act on behalf of just causes that matter to our just God. Causes like water, earth, orphans, world peace, sanctity of life and the homeless are near the heart of God and therefore are to be near the heart and hands of Christ followers. Justice is not an “add on” to the Christian life. It comes standard in how we join ourselves together with other believers in mission and ministry.
Acting justly in our world is not about creating a climate where everything is fair, or whereby doing good we prevent harm from coming our way. Justice is about working to make things right that have been wrong. The work of justice in a religious sense is about acting rightly in a situation where wrong has been done. Acting justly is acting righteously with purpose, conviction and cause. It is setting to right what has been turned or twisted in life. When we do work in a just way, we are setting aside our own claims to privilege or profit for the purpose of guaranteeing that others receive equity when they can not claim it for themselves.
The focus of our work is to make the world a better place by announcing that God’s righteous kingdom has come. We are to be both a righteous witness and a righteous warrior for others who are caught in the weight of the world so they may encounter our just God in ways they never before thought possible. Likewise, we are to band together in Christian unity and say enough to the powers that be in our world who make victims of so many people, places and things. To be clear though, it is not our justice or American justice or any other brand of organized justice that we are working to provide. It is the justice of God who desires to fix broken things, help broken people, restore broken families, redeem broken governments. He is not just a “fix it” God. He is a righteous Father who by His very nature restores order, reclaims the lost, and recreates beauty in our lives. No matter what sentence life has pronounced over us or over those we serve, God’s justice speaks love and mercy into us and into them, causing us/them to turn away from what is wrong in life and turn into God to receive Him fully.
Turn away from evil and do good;
so shall you dwell forever.
For the Lord loves justice;
he will not forsake his saints.
They are preserved forever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
The righteous shall inherit the land
and dwell upon it forever.
The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks justice.
The law of his God is in his heart;
his steps do not slip.
The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
The Lord will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.
Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off.
Justice is precisely what God is doing to bring His kingdom into the world’s view because justice is who He is. When we see or hear justice planted into dysfunction we are witnesses to one of God’s mighty acts. The grace of our Lord poured out for us preaches justice in the desperation of all people. Even those who don’t know they are desperate benefit from the justice of God announced in the ministry of Jesus and carried forward in the work of the church through the ages. When we care for the orphan (and the widow), we are joining God in his justice mission by helping kids and strengthening the family. When we protect the unborn we are joining God is his life giving work to the world of a new gifted generation. When we oppose slavery, speak up to protect/preserve marriage and appropriate family structures, pick up those in poverty, shelter those who are homeless, give water to the thirsty, preserve both the beautiful and the ugly places of the world for another generation, we are agents of justice in an unjust world bent on turning in on itself. Speaking up for and doing justice work for the kingdom of God and that is a calling worthy of our full pursuit and investment.
Is God fair? Maybe. Are some lucky to be born into faith? Probably, but those are the wrong questions to be asking about God. Those questions are more about us than they are about Him. Is God righteous and just? Absolutely! And the more you grow to know Him, the more you will trust in Him to bring righteousness and justice – His righteous, life giving justice – into your world.
Thanks be to God for calling us to such a place in such a time as this. There are so many causes and conflicts waiting for a bold witness to speak faith, hope and love into chaos and confusion. May the righteousness of Christ flow through us in a just way so we may work for justice for those hoping to see a sign from God in their life. Let this be a week/month/year where we see clearly what our calling is so that we are certain in what we our being poured out for.