Pen Points 12
Let Justice Roll
“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)
We typically think of justice being connected to our legal system, and this is important. However, justice, biblically, must also be practiced personally. It isn’t just about what we do legally; it’s about how we as individuals treat other people.
We “do justice” (Micah 6:8) by treating others with respect and dignity for one basic reason: people are made in God’s image. Think about one specific application given by James. After making the point about taming the tongue, he writes, “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God” (Jas 3:9). Cursing people, all of whom are made in God’s image, is committing an injustice against them.
While committing crimes against others should be legally punished, let’s remember the personal side of this. Mistreating others is unjust. Cursing people is unjust. Gossip, unloving behavior, slander, and other sins against others are all committing injustices against them.
Make it personal. If you care about justice, you will care about how you treat other people. Therefore, “love your neighbor,” which does no harm (Rom 13:9-10), and “whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matt 7:12). If we do this, justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” (Gal 5:13-15)
Service looks like sacrifice. It looks to take focus off of self. And it looks to unite, not divide.
The elder is as much a servant as is the sister who writes cards and sits with the sick. The preacher is as much as a servant as is the one who quietly prepares the Lord’s Supper or makes a point to be an encourager to those who are struggling. The one who quietly visits others is as important as the one who stands in front of an audience to teach. The woman who perseveres in raising godly children is as important, if not more so, than the man who can pray in public or give a talk before the Lord’s Supper. We need to quit elevating what people do publicly to be more important than what people do quietly and privately before the Lord. We need not to think that those whose names appear in leadership roles are more important than the ones who will never stand before an audience or have their names mentioned in any public service.
All of these roles are needed, and all stand before God in the very same place as servants fulfilling their stewardships. None is greater than the other; none is more important than the other. It’s only when we elevate certain roles as being more significant and privileged that we set ourselves up for the bickering, jealousies, and divisions that will inevitably follow (see 1 Cor. 12:4ff; Rom. 12:4-5).
Universal Desire for Happiness
There is a universal desire for happiness, but since happiness is so elusive, people have instead embraced anger and have given in to the hopelessness and bitterness that come with it.
This is expressed through the violence and vitriol so prevalent in the world. Social media is filled with incivility as people snipe, snarl and take potshots meant to shame and intimidate. Rational discussion is replaced with irrational venting. These are signs of a disillusioned world that can no longer see the good, so they strive to manufacture meaning out of the meaningless, and greater frustration sets in (see Ecclesiastes).
People aren’t happy and they won’t allow others to be happy. It is an angry, malevolent existence and refuses to look in the very place that will change everything. It’s as if people are seeking happiness by being angry and bitter, and this just makes it worse. Lashing out is like an evangelistic fervor, but instead of pointing people to Christ, people point back to their own tyrannical resentment and force others to bow to their irrationalism, and all they do is create more enemies. No one is happy. Everyone knows this, yet the cycle keeps spiraling downward.
This is why the gospel is so relevant in our age. The universal desire for happiness points us to a greater reality that this world cannot satisfy. Anger has no stopping point without forgiveness, yet forgiveness has no place in a world that also has no room for grace and mercy. The gospel shows us that grace, mercy, hope, love, forgiveness, justice, and purpose are ideals that are offered through Jesus Christ. We need not remain disillusioned if we can open our eyes to the light of the Lord.
We wish to see Jesus.