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Justice and Social Holiness 

What is justice in society today?  The word itself evokes different images for different peopleódifferent connotations for different contexts. Justice in the western context of a nation state might immediately bring to mind a justice system, which is to provide law and order, to right wrongs, and to maintain peace.  Justice in a dictatorship might evoke fear and corruption.  Justice in a society torn apart by genocide might evoke no image at all.  ...

The texts of Luke 4:18-19 and Isaiah 61:1-2 provide a unity between the Old and New Testaments inviting us to see the under flowing current of justice that becomes the very heartbeat of the story of God, as well as the task of the Church as the people of God. God in Jesus Christ ushered in the justice of the kingdom promising a new historical reality. ...

This justice restructures life in such a way that human relationships and interaction promote sustainable and holistic living, rather than lives drained by consumption and fragmentation. This identity, purpose, and task in Christ form both an everyday and cosmological mission, as well as a personal and social responsibility. This new historical reality is about the restorative justice of God that re-claims a true freedom that has been lost in western contemporary society. This holistic and restorative justice is what the people of God are to be about. ...

            These themes of which Jesus speaks in chapter four are not alone in the Gospel of Luke. The gospel writer threads this theme of Godís purposes to bring salvation to the world through Jesus throughout the entire gospel. It is a prophetic message that recapitulated language and symbols of which a Jewish audience would have been accustomed.  ...

            In verse 18 we find that Jesus has been anointed to preach good news to the poor. The notion of being poor in first century Palestine is not limited to the kind of economic destitution that it connotes today. 4  Rather, poor was understood in a holistic sense of which various social factors contributed.  The poor are those literally marginalized in society based on their class, race, gender, family heritage, religious purity, social standing, and economics.  ...

Jesus mission was not to extend a wise teaching or to make people think about justice, but to change their lives.  In embodying this changeóthis repentance (metanoia)ófollowers of Christ are to reflect Godís reordered reality on earth.  Disciples are instructed to pray for the kingdom come (Luke 11:2).  Living the ethics of this kingdom is no easy task, but requires radical transformation. ...

Here one finds Godís kingdom characterized by a transformational and restorative justice that is characterized in preaching good news to the poor; releasing those enslaved and oppressed in their poverty, rejection, and disability; healing the blind; and ushering in the year of the Lordís favor. The people of God are guided not by their own initiative, but by the initiative of the Lord. ...

            In the present context, the Church must allow itself to be converted to this restorative justice. This requires a restructuring of mentality from freedom of individualized choice to release for the other.  The Church is not divorced from the world, but must be a prophetic voice that speaks to and embodies the true reality of God. ...

Excerpts from paper"Reclaiming the Restorative Justice and True Freedom" by Nell Becker Sweeden, the first. recipient of the Tom Nees Social. Justice Award. She is now Asst to the Director of Nazarene Compasionate Minstries

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