“Beauty is but the sensible image of the Infinite. Like truth and justice it lives within us; like virtue and the moral law it is a companion of the soul.” – Charles W. H. Bancroft
Concepts of justice and mission are indeed very complex, especially in the biblical context. Thus it is important that we first clarify their meaning, before we take any further steps in their possible application.
While Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines justice primarily as “the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments” Bible offers many other interpretations to this word. In fact the word “justice” occurs only in the OT hundred and fifteen times in various shapes and forms. The traditional understanding connected to just and honest behavior can be found e.g. in Deuteronomy 25:15, where people of Israel are commanded to use accurate weights and measures when selling goods out on markets. Yet according to The New Bible Dictionary there are other eight conceivable explications of different forms of this word found in the Bible. Unfortunately their deeper study goes beyond the scope of this paper. Nonetheless there are three outstanding stages of justice that were revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.
- Ethical stage that was shown in his blameless and sinless life (Heb. 4:15) opposing the false righteousness of scribes and Pharisees (Mt. 5:20)
- Redemptive stage in the non-judicial justice that was established through Jesus Christ (1.Jn.1:9, Rom. 3.26)
- Imputed stage represents individual people leaving their unclean righteousness behind (Isaiah 64:6) and putting on Gods deliverance and righteousness from faith (Isaiah 45:25, Phil. 3:9)
These various shapes of justice were all united in one through Christ, which is today creating the very core of the good news called the Gospel.
Probably the closest meaning for justice or “seeking justice” in regard to social action is linked to helping widows, orphans, marginalized, poor and needy. Basis for this interpretation can be found in Isaiah 1:17 (NIV):
“ Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”
Or Jeremiah 22:16 (NIV):
“ He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me? declares the LORD.”
Such a perception has only a little to do with the classic “eye for eye… (Ex. 21:24)” Mosaic understanding of justice, but rather speaks about a common goodness and a loving thoughtfulness that is repeatedly exalted in Scriptures (Daniel 4:27, Ps. 112:9, Mt. 6:1).
The difference between the two lies very much in its finality. While righteousness in its social aspect is good and encouraged, it is only temporary and does not have the quality of reaching the absolute fullness of justice. That is where the ultimate solution in unified justice of Jesus Christ emerges in whom we can be justified, sanctified and redeemed for eternity (1. Cor. 1:30).
Following: “Mission” is not in the Bible!