Friday, November 15, 2013

Justice Or Justification

The Bible talks about justice and justification. As we seek to follow Christ what should we choose?

Justification is the doctrine which explains how people are made righteous in the sight of God. In Ephesians 2:8  we are told, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." We experience salvation or justification when we place our faith in Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the cross. 2 Corinthians 5:21  "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

The Hebrew word for justice is "Mishpat." According to Tim Keller: "mishpat means more than just the punishment of wrongdoing. It also means giving people their rights. Mishpat, then, is giving people what they are due, whether punishment or protection or care. This is why, if you look at every place the word is used in the Old Testament, several classes of persons continually come up. Over and over again, mishpat describes taking up the care and cause of widows, orphans, immigrants and the poor—those who have been called “the quartet of the vulnerable.”

Paul Louis Metzger says, "Biblical justice involves making individuals, communities, and the cosmos whole, by upholding both goodness and impartiality." 

Churches throughout the US seem to champion either justice or justification.  One group says that what is really important is the salvation of souls and focuses on evangelism. The other side points to the hands on ministry of Jesus as he healed the sick and fed the hungry. This group proclaims that following Jesus is about pursuing justice for the marginalized.

The problem is that neither of these polemic positions are centered in the Christ of the Bible or the gospel.  Jesus didn't choose between justice or justification.  When we do, the gospel we promote is like this pool in the video.  It looks good on the surface but falls far short of its intended purpose. 

And is better! The first place we see the word "gospel" in the New Testament is in Matthew 4:23-25. "Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.”  Jesus came declaring that the reign of God has come into our world.  Sin had marred our relationship with God, one another, ourselves and all of the created order. Jesus came to defeat all that sin had affected. The second half of 1John 3:8 declares, "The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil."  Justice or justification? And is better.  What if Jesus just healed people of the physical diseases and hunger but did nothing about forgiveness of sin?  What if He forgave sin but didn't reconcile all things? And truly is better.  
When Jesus sent His disciples out  He said to them, "And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:7-8)  Later He would tell them to "Go and make disciples (someone who is like their teacher) of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  (Matthew 28:19-20) Jesus didn't have a false dichotomy, neither should we. And is better.

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