here are my ten top overlapping reasons for being passionate about a
gospel where justice is close to the centre. I reckon I could double
the list without trying.
- The Bible’s full of it.
If we were to take to a Bible with scissors and cut out the
thousands of verses about justice and the poor, we’d have a
mangled mess of holes. In the Bible, our relationship to God is
always tied to our relationships to each other.
- We’re all equal before God.
From Genesis 1 to Galations 3, the story is the same. Humans are
made in God’s image and stand equally before God in our great
variety. This Biblical truth is one of the pillars of the human
rights movement. Staying with asylum seekers for the moment, to
those who are “nobodies” because they are stateless and
homeless, this is Good News.
- It’s part of shalom.
When Jeremiah urged the Israelites in exile to seek the welfare
of the city they found themselves in, he was using the term
“shalom”. The Hebrew vision of shalom in relationship with
God includes peace, well-being and justice, and is the same
peace that Jesus promises us (John 14:27). Christian mission is
living for shalom.
- God is a God of justice.
In the Hebrew Bible, God is always acting in history to set
relationships right, defend the poor, the weak and the
oppressed. In fact, God is the very manifestation of justice and
- It’s part of God’s Commonwealth.
Jesus’ favourite topic was the Commonwealth of God (or the
kingdom of God), the new, upside-down order in which human
relationships are upturned by God’s radically inclusive
values. The social reversals that happen in his parables are
amazing. A kingdom-centred mission will always point at the
socio-political implications of conversion.
- It’s part of the Good News.
Jesus’ manifesto in Luke 4 suggests that the Good News is
especially for the poor, the blind and the captive. His life and
teaching backs this up repeatedly. It seems that what is good
news to the poor seems like bad news to the rich, unless they
see it is really good news for all.
- Righteousness flows into justice.
A missionary to a Spanish-speaking country discovered to his
amazement that the Bible is full of talk about justicia. The
English word “justice” doesn’t occur in the King James
Version of the New Testament; the Greek word for justice and
righteousness is always translated as “righteousness”. I
guess the translators knew they were being paid by a king!
Better to talk about being righteous than seeking justice. But
the two can’t be separated.
- Evangelism flows into social action.
Billy Graham was asked once why he preached only personal
salvation and not peace and justice. He said that as people
become converted, they would be peacemakers and justice-seekers.
He was pressed further. How come he’d been converted, and
wasn’t more upfront about these things, then? From that day,
to his credit, Graham included more of the dimensions of the
Good News in his preaching.
Following Jesus, we’re called to make visible the Good News,
and that means both putting it into words and showing by our
lives what it means in terms of justice and love.
- Justice is structural love.
Justice is fairness embedded in the structures of society.
Biblical justice goes further than strict justice, and is imbued
with grace, mercy and forgiveness. It is structural love.
- No peace without justice.
The Good News is all about reconciliation, the setting right of
all relationships. But there is no peace without justice, as is
clear in international relations.
the cloth of the gospel, God’s justice and forgiveness are
seamlessly interwoven. It’s a wonder then, that Australian
churches are not far more prophetic.
True, we have spoken up often, but for many churches, the order of
priority seems to be: inward-and-upward-looking worship, education
and groups for members, some care for others, and then, just
occasionally, a tentative foray into the world of policies, rights,
war and government directions.
reckon there’s so much happening in Australia and the world to
arouse our passion for justice that we ought to be standing up and
shouting. But it will only happen if our vision of the gospel
contains justice at the heart.