September 28, 2023
Dear Hyde Park Family,
But let justice roll down like water, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:24)
Years ago, I had a seminary instructor say that no prospective minister should graduate from seminary without being able to fully explain the biblical concept of justice. It is, in his opinion, the single most important theological idea in the Christian faith.
What do you think of when you think of justice? Maybe the first image that pops into your mind is the Lone Ranger or Dirty Harry. Perhaps it’s something like vigilante justice: an eye for an eye, dishing out to people what they deserve.
When the Bible speaks about justice, it’s not like that. It’s not about retribution or revenge. Jesus said, “You say an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say, pray for your enemies, and bless those who persecute you.”
In the Bible, the opposite of justice is not injustice, or even mere criminality. It is brokenness. A world that lacks justice is fractured and tarnished, from its most basic units to the widest scale:
- It is a family where members are no longer willing to speak to each other.
- It is a community where opportunities for people to thrive are diminished, and there is a growing gap between the flourishing and the suffering.
- It is a religious environment in which churches are part of the problem, rather than the solution.
- It is a planet where the environment is hemorrhaging from misuse and abuse.
And the only thing that can bring a remedy to this brokenness is not revenge or retribution. God’s remedy for a broken world is a more wholistic vision of justice.
Biblical justice is closely related to the Hebrew word shalom. We most commonly translate that word as peace, but there is much more to it than that. It is more than just the absence of conflict; it means bringing healing and restoration.
- Justice is what happens when a perpetrator confesses, a victim forgives, and a relationship is restored.
- Justice is what happens a cycle of revenge is broken with a surprising act of grace.
- Justice is what happens when people see themselves as connected to each other and the earth rather than exercising domination.
- Justice is what happens when warring parties see the image of God in each other, and therefore see one another as equals.
We’ll explore this theme further as part of our worship series “Good and Faithful,” and discover how justice is a central part of Christian character. And, as with every Sunday in this series, we’ll bring in a story, illustration, and song from live theater. Additional resources for each of these themes can be found here.
Grace, Peace, and Justice,
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist