Loving Justice

We often discuss far more life as an internal richness rooted in a right understanding of God and His interactions with us. But far more life is not limited to us; God wants our richness to overflow and touch others. This post examines the impact far more life has on our pursuit of justice.

You should set your hearts on the highest spiritual gifts, but I will show you what is the highest way of all…love (I Corinthians 12:31-13:1, PHILLIPS)

The best motive for seeking justice is love. Love for: those who were wronged; those who acted wrongly; others who have been or may later be hurt by this offender; and love for God. God’s love working through us allows us to love multiple parties involved while seeking justice.

Love protects us from acting maliciously against those who hurt others or oppressing the oppressors. Love allows us to experience and model far more life so we do not respond unjustly.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (I Corinthians 1:3, NIV)

Humans can accomplish amazing things: make life-changing speeches that motivate people; understand complex issues that make the impossible possible; and offer costly sacrifices to benefit others. But, unless our motivation is love, our efforts are worthless and accomplish nothing of lasting value.

So what does love that pursues justice look like? I Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV) offers these insights:

Love is patient. Other translations use “never gives up” or “suffers long”. Justice does not happen immediately. Sometimes it takes a lifetime. Loving justice is engaged for the long haul, step by step.

Love is kind. Injustice can tempt us to be unkind. But love prompts us to be useful and practical, meeting the needs we observe. A loving pursuit of justice demonstrates far more life by acting in ways that are constructive and helpful.

Love does not envy. We may be jealous of others’ situations that get a faster or more satisfying result. This can distract us and hinder our love. Loving justice rejoices for the justice others have received. Loving justice is motivated by a desire for right outcomes because they are right, not because others received them.

Love does not boast. It is not proud. It is not self-seeking. Parents of preschoolers often hear “look at me!” Over and over. Young children are exuberant about the things they are learning and want their achievements to be recognized. But justice-seeking love does not pursue personal praise or recognition. It pursues praise for God, the creator of justice, and the fulfillment of His will on earth. God-glorifying justice motivated by love is a noble pursuit.

Love does not dishonor others. Loving justice does not tear down others to make the one who was wronged look better. The actions of the oppressor speak for themselves as dishonorable, wrong, and evil. Love prompted by far more life is not afraid to speak the truth, but is focused on a righteous outcome rather than character assassination.

Love is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs. Far more life helps us let a lot of things go. It is not easily offended and does not hold grudges. It knows God sees every sin and will deliver complete justice, so we are freed from keeping track. Loving justice helps us distinguish when to speak up against wrongs and when to entrust them to God. Both are rooted in love and a desire for righteousness.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. I think of the familiar saying, “Two wrongs do not make a right.” Loving justice does not seek to get even or inflict pain on the offender; it mourns all forms of evil. It does not exaggerate or spin the story. It seeks for everyone to experience righteousness, whether through blessing or just punishment from just authorities. It celebrates true remorse and genuinely changed lives. It values each person as being made in God’s image and having the opportunity to humble themselves and ask forgiveness.

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. This verse speaks to the heart of far more life. Loving justice hopes in God’s righteousness and trusts His perfect justice. It perseveres because it knows He will ultimately overcome evil and set everything right. It always protects, wanting everyone to experience the blessing of a relationship with God; but this is not a blind protection that hides evil. Rather it keeps love at the forefront in deciding what, when, and how to share. This is lived out when family members of those who have been oppressed beg others to not take the law into their own hands. They seek to protect some from doing evil and others from being hurt by evil. They trust that authorities (human and/or God) will deliver just punishment. Their hope is in God, and they persevere in seeking righteousness as they patiently await justice.

Love never fails. Far more life knows that God never fails and following His instructions will never fail us. Love is the highest way, the best and purest motive in pursuing justice.

Sisters,
What makes love the best motive for seeking justice?
Which characteristics of love have you experienced from others when you acted wrongly?
Which have you shown those who wronged you?
How are you tempted to pursue unloving “justice”?
What barriers keep you from trusting that God’s justice will ultimately prevail?
Thank God for the richness of far more life that empowers you to love justly!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Far More Justice

I have been reading through I Corinthians lately which, along with recent events, has me thinking a lot about justice. I find it a challenging topic, in part because justice is multi-faceted. There is: justice God offers people through Jesus; justice between people and their government or laws; and justice between individual people or groups.

We desire justice on all three fronts, but two depend on imperfect people, which creates great opportunity for injustice to prevail. For example, we often hear of court cases where the guilty are declared innocent. Or people who are taken advantage of by others. I often feel helpless and hopeless to make a difference in situations like these. So I turn to God’s word for perspective and instruction. I am still growing in understanding my role in helping others find justice, but here are some of my recent discoveries from God’s Word and how they are spurring me toward far more life.

And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for he is a God of justice. (Psalm 50:6, NIV)

I will sing of your love and justice; to you, Lord, I will sing praise. (Psalm 101:1, NIV)

The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. (Psalm 103:6, NIV)

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. (Psalm 89:14, NIV)

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. (Revelation 19:11, NIV)

Justice is rooted in the nature and character of God. He is just and His thoughts and actions define justice. The more we understand Him, the more we understand justice.

What exactly is justice? Part of the Merriam-Webster definition is, “acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good”. This agrees with the previous Bible verses. But another part of the definition, “assignment of merited rewards or punishments,” paints a different picture. These verses expound on that idea:

When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers. (Proverbs 21:15, NIV)

So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours? (I Kings 3:9, NIV)

I appreciate King Solomon’s heart in the verse above. He recognized that just laws and just court rulings reflect God’s moral standards rather than human reasoning. God alone can see the full picture, including hearts and motives, and make a flawless judgment. The starting point of understanding all forms of justice is understanding God’s perspective and standards.

Many seek an audience with a ruler, but it is from the Lord that one gets justice. (Proverbs 29:26, NIV)

When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice. (I Kings 3:28, NIV)

God’s justice is not immediate; He allows injustice on earth, often for much longer than we would like. Similarly, justice between people often takes much longer than we would prefer.

…I shout for help, but there is no justice. (Job 19:7, NASB)

Furthermore, I have seen under the sun that in the place of justice there is wickedness and in the place of righteousness there is wickedness. (Ecclesiastes 3:16, NASB)

They cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer… (Revelation 6:10-11, NASB)

We will not see perfect justice on earth until Jesus returns to rule over it. God has promised that one day He will exact justice for sins committed against Him and against other people. On that day, all will be made right.

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (I Corinthians 4:5, NIV)

But we are not helpless and hopeless as we wait for Christ’s return. God’s Word gives us instruction on how we can pursue justice now:

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1, NASB)

The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. (Proverbs 29:7, NIV)

He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. (Deuteronomy 10:18, NASB)

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

Evil men do not understand justice, But those who seek the Lord understand all things. (Proverbs 28:5, NASB)

The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, And his tongue speaks justice. (Psalm 37:30, NASB)

God wants us to live justly. We are all invited to find peace with God through Jesus. Then we can imitate His righteous response to everyone we encounter. We can grow in understanding God and sharing His perspectives with others. We can meet the needs of those around us without regard for their station in life, simply seeing them as a person that God created in His own image. Some of us, like King Solomon, are in places of broad influence while most of us hold less influence. But every person plays a part in revealing and promoting God’s justice to the world. Far more life is found not in having more influence, but in our obedience to His calling to live justly.

Sisters,
Which aspect of justice is most important to you?

Think about your definition of justice. Does it line up with God’s character as described in the Bible?
How are you tempted to pursue justice that is defined by human reasoning?
When are you impatient for justice? What helps you wait on God’s delivery of justice?
What actions can you take to live justly in your current life position?
Thank God that one day we will see His perfect justice set everything right!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso