This blog post is part two in a four-part series this month that delves further into the matter of justice and its role in our work at the Clinic.
“The LORD is a mighty rock, and he never does wrong. God can always be trusted to bring justice.” Deuteronomy 32:4
You can tell a lot about a person by how they behave. For example, I may act like I’m not mad at my wife Christy by saying everything’s fine when she asks, but my skunky attitude and sulky face will prove that untrue fairly quickly.
Behavior demonstrates what a person is like. And for God, that behavior is one that continuously seeks to do justice on behalf of the most marginalized. From his fearsome judgment at the flood, where he destroyed the planet because of the vicious violence that people perpetrated against each other (Genesis 6:11); to the judgment on Egypt at the banks of the Nile, where Pharaoh’s horses and riders were flung into the depths because of the centuries-long oppression they levied against the people of Israel (Exodus 15:21)—God executes justice.
This is a key attribute that theologians call God’s simplicity. God is what he does, and he does what he is. For us mortals, this is tough—we do things that don’t corroborate who we are all the time. We are divided, desiring to do the good that God has put in front of us, but choosing the bad because, well, you know, things and reasons.
But God is undivided. This is partly what is meant by that great and concise hymn in Deuteronomy—the Shema—which says, “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” The Israelites would recite this several times a day to remind them of God’s undivided heart, to propel them forward to taking on more of that character.
But we long to see that indivisible nature in human form, right? That’s why Jesus, God-in-flesh, is such a powerful force in history and, for the Christian, our perfect example and constant companion after his resurrection. Jesus displayed God’s justice in such astounding and perplexing clarity. He blessed the poor; he touched the outcast; he went to those who had been forgotten, those who had been shrouded in the darkness of injustice, and he walked with them. Jesus was just—Jesus did justice.
And this is what the world is looking for today. For those who are Christians, we talk often of being justified, of being saved by what Christ has done for us—and that is the most beautiful verse of the most beautiful song we can sing. But there are other verses, verses that call us to live out that justified life in a just manner. People who are justified will be just—eventually. When I came to know Jesus, I didn’t care about justice, was oblivious to the world outside of my door, the pristine picture of self-involvement.
To a certain extent, I still am those things (just ask my wife…or rather, don’t). But walking with Christ is causing my inner being to match up with my outer; my inner character (saved by grace) is starting to be matched more and more with my outer behavior. For that is what God is and does. God is just; God does justice. And he makes us the same as He is.
Until justice and peace embrace,