Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. – Isa 1:16-17 RSV
Some will read what God’s prophets of old had to say to His ancient people, their leaders, and the evil rulers of their day and dismiss it as irrelevant to them. But wait. Didn’t Jesus seek justice and correct oppression? Did He not defend the fatherless and plead for the widow? What about the Apostles and early Church leaders? Can you not recall how they made provisions for the widows, and condemned discrimination against non-Jewish Christians?
Some of the lack of understanding comes from the way the Greek word dikaiosune and its derivatives, “righteousness” (and “righteous,” “unrighteous,” “wicked,” and “wickedness”) are translated in the New Testament instead of as “justice” (and “just,” and “unjust,” and “injustice”). When Jesus instructed us to “…seek first the kingdom and His righteousness…” (Matt. 6:33), He was telling us to seek His justice. His justice.
His justice included correcting the oppressive Pharisees who were upset that He fed hungry people on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-8). When he insisted on just and generous wages for workers (Matt. 20:1-16). When He proclaimed the it will be the righteous (or just) people that minister to the hungry and thirsty, the strangers and the prisoners who will be the ones ushered into life eternal (Matt. 25:37-46).
Throughout the Old and New Testaments we see examples of God’s justice and mercy. It is unmistakably clear that the Lord requires us to practice Biblical justice as we boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ for the salvation of the lost.
He has shown you, O man, what is good;Micah 6:8 NKJV
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
For more on this topic as it applies to a response to racial injustice, please watch my Sunday, August 9, 2020 message at Christ Episcopal Church in Springfield.