What Does Just Living Look Like? Part 1: Setting the Stage

April 8, 2016

What does just living look like? 

Is it only personal?  Must it be accomplished in community?  Is it just about our money or does it involve something more?  In this upcoming blog series I will look at these questions and more ideas that surround what it means to live in a way that reflects the just heart of God.

I guess that’s what must come first for those of us who want to commit to a just life.  The understanding that we serve a just God. Not only an understanding, because that seems too intellectual, too distant even.  I think what has to come before being truly committed to a just lifestyle is a faithful belief in the reality of the just nature of the God we serve.  How else can we commit our lives to the cause of justice?

Think about it.  Christians universally acknowledge God to be loving and so, though we often fail at the execution, we recognize that we must work to be loving people.  The same could be said of our common belief in God’s gracious nature.  So we strive to be forgiving.  Also, true of his goodness.  For better or worse as Christ followers we work to follow a moral code. But there seems to be some question, or at least a failure to translate, the just nature of God.

Is this because the scriptures are less clear as to God’s character being inextricably linked to the concept of justice?

Let’s look at the evidence.

Deuteronomy tells us that He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing (10:18).  And later God is described this way – He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.(32:4)

Job tells us that It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice. (34:12)

The Psalms are filled with descriptions of God as a God of justice.

You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals
will never again strike terror.

The Lord loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love.

For the Lord loves the just
and will not forsake his faithful ones.

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. (68:5)

The King is mighty, he loves justice
you have established equity
in Jacob you have done
what is just and right
. (99:4)

I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor
and upholds the cause of the needy.

He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

The author of Proverbs tells us The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him. (11:1).  Isaiah describes the Lord as a God of justice. (30:18) and later declares as the voice of Lord:

Listen to me, my people;
hear me, my nation:
Instruction will go out from me;
my justice will become a light to the nations.
My righteousness draws near speedily,
my salvation is on the way,
and my arm will bring justice to the nations.

The islands will look to me
and wait in hope for my arm.

God again speaks through Isaiah saying For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them. (61:8)

So if our God continually declares himself to be just, a defender of the marginalized and protector of the weak do we take him at his word?

Does that persuade us that as his redeemed followers we must be committed to reflecting his full nature love, grace goodness and justice?

Because there’s more.  Do you think that there is a clear call in scripture for us to act according to these principles of justice we see articulated?  You’re thinking – she’s going to say yes or she would’nt be asking.  You’d be right!

There are many things reasonable, faithful Christians can disagree on . . but our call from the Lord to pursue justice and actively seek to mitigate injustice is not one of them.

Let’s look at a few – starting at almost the very beginning:

Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. (Exodus 23:6)

Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. (Leviticus 19:15)

Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. (Psalm 82:3)

Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right (Psalm 106:3)

Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:9)

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)

This is what the Lord says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed. (Isaiah 56:1)

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (Isaiah 58:6-7)

This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. (Jeremiah 22:3)

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. (Zechariah 7:9)

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:17-18)

I don’t think I have answered my original question at all.  What does just living look like?  I think, I hope, what I’ve done is convince those of us who try our hardest to follow Jesus that it is a question we must try to answer day in and day out.  In the next post I’ll take a look at some of the hows, because while I think the imperative is as clear as clear can be the how of this is a bit more difficult in a world as complicated as ours.  But we can try and work that out together.

I’ve got some ideas . . .


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