What is Justice

There has been a lot of talk about justice and social justice in the midst of racial protests that have swept our country. I think the one thing we can all agree on is that we don’t agree on the meaning of justice. For some, justice is simply equal treatment under the law. Each person receives the same sentence for the same crime. For others, justice is about equality of outcomes. But what does the Bible have to say about justice?

Well, it turns out, quite a lot. God’s concept of justice is rooted in the powerful idea that every person is made in the image of God. From there the Bible builds its concepts of righteousness and justice, which culminates in Jesus’ teaching to love your neighbor as yourself. 

This video from the Bible Project does a beautiful job of explaining Biblical Justice.

Take the time to watch this six-minute video: https://youtu.be/A14THPoc4-4

How does this video confirm and challenge your views of justice?

How does this Biblical justice apply to issues such as racism and poverty in our time?

Post your responses and let’s start a conversation.

6 thoughts on “What is Justice

  1. Mike Doherty

    Thanks Nate. There certainly is an awful lot packed into six minutes. I want to process this overnight and I will post a comment Tomorrow.

  2. This was a lot of information, but the biggest take I got out of this is that justice is a way of leveling the playing field, so to speak, for everyone. What I mean by that is that we are to live our lives as a church and as individuals as to lift up the poor and the downtrodden as Christ has commanded us and to give when we see a need. We are to help the helpless and to take care of the widows and orphans.

    It means we are to also, in regards to race relations, level the playing field. There should not be a situation where it is only the white male or female who succeeds. We live in a culture where that is the case. White privilege is a thing and I’m embarrassed to say that. Why in the year 2020 is that the case? It is not just here in America, but around the whole world. I do not think that Christ is happy about this.

    He has taught man the Gospel. The Gospel is good news. It is the good news of reconciliation of man to God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. As a church and individuals we are to not only to teach this but to live it out in out daily lives. It has to start in the individual’s heart when we heed the words of Jesus impressed upon us by the Holy Spirit.To that end I have been convicted and I repent that I, too, have not always lived a life that has been about justice in this way. May God forgive me and empower me to be an agent of change in this world. I pray this prayer, in Jesus’ name, for all of those who might be in a similar situation. To God be the glory.

    1. What struck me is how I used to think that justice was the “angry” side of God and “love” was this other side. But what this video helped me see is that God’s justice is deeply rooted in the idea that he is love. God is not simply interested in punishing the oppressor, but his justice is also concerned about healing and restoring the oppressed. I think Martin Luther King said that justice is what love looks like in public. I think he is right.

      1. “I think Martin Luther King said that justice is what love looks like in public. I think he is right.”

        I think you are definitely onto something here. God’s love, as far as I understand it, is more than saving mankind from sin, it’s about restoring mankind back to his original state as we see in the creation story. We live in a broken society. I think God’s plan in our midst is to redeem and restore mankind so as to be agents of restoration, not just to enjoy the benefits of salvation in the afterlife. It is to be actively pursuing justice for all, here in the present, so that our joy may be made complete in Christ Jesus. One question I have been looking for an answer to is, “Why do we, as Christians, want to live in a society that values selfish gain over justice and love.” I don’t think I want to stir up the pot, but if we are not about “leveling the playing field,” so to speak, what are we here for? We know the scriptures well enough to know that we cannot take our treasure with us to eternity. So why do we try? Why do we support those who live like that? What is it that we as a people of God need to repent of? What do each of us personally need to repent of?

  3. The more I study justice and what it looks like in the Biblical sense, the more I see how God uses restoration as the means to bring about justice. True justice requires restoration on multiple levels – there is no quick fix. Isaiah 61 has always been one of my favorite passages of Scripture. I think one of the reasons I love it is because it beautifully illustrates how God works in every facet to bring about true justice and restoration. He binds up the brokenhearted, proclaims freedom for captives, comforts those who mourn, and replaces a spirit of despair with a spirit of freedom and praise. (vs. 1-3) He begins with restoring our hearts, minds, and spirits. How can we know true freedom for others if we are bound in our own hearts?

    Then in verse 4 the lens broadens to those around us. Isaiah writes, “They will build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” Here He moves from restoring our hearts to restoring our communities, by taking stock of the ancient ruins and systems that have oppressed people for generations. Restoration and justice are closely linked, and God is the author of both. “For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.” (vs. 8)

    When we think about justice through restoration, I think it’s important to understand what restoration really means. We are working on restoring our house right now. To bring it to its full usefulness and beauty we need to tear down the parts that are broken. Our current project is the front porch. We had to tear out A LOT of rotten wood, broken concrete, and other junk before we began re-framing, laying the new porch floor, painting, etc. In the same way, if we truly want to be a part of restorative justice in any sense, be it racial, economic, gender, etc., we need to take a good hard look at the rotten structures that allow injustice to flourish. It hurts, especially when those structures benefit us without us consciously realizing it. However, just because we’ve always done things one way doesn’t mean it’s the RIGHT way. I think Mike brings up the key first step in this process, which is recognizing and repenting. We all have blind spots or unconscious biases, which is why it’s so important for us to listen to POC right now in a spirit of humility. My prayer is that we are open to recognizing the attitudes in our hearts which have contributed to racial injustice, and that we have the humility to respond with repentance as we seek ways to do justly, love mercy, walk humbly as we seek restorative justice for our brothers and sisters of color.

    1. Sarah, thanks for your insight in looking at justice through the lens of restoration. Punishment was never the full picture of God’s justice, but the restoration of right relationships between humanity and the restoration of all Christ. I was watching a video the other day on the life of John M. Perkins because he makes the claim that God’s “love and justice are one and the same.” He says this because justice is the basis for our salvation. I thought this was a strange statement, but it makes sense with you see Biblical justice through a restoration lens as you described. It also occurred to me that Paul connects God’s justice to salvation and restoration as well.

      Romans 3:25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice …

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