Miroslav Volf briefly shared some thoughts from the book of Job before he launched into his prepared lecture, and in them he spoke to this question.
Job was a just and an upright man. Not merely living a life of personal moral purity, but practically and justly taking care of the poor and helpless. However, Job’s pursuit of justice did not protect him from raging tragedy and devastation. Where is the justice in a world where the just receive tragedy along with the unjust? Yet Job did not despair or turn from his life’s devotion. His own justness could not help him when his life was being destroyed.
Volf said, “the life of justice can only be meaningful if there is something beyond it.” If we have no God through whom we know justice and for whose sake we do justice, the pursuit of justice will not satisfy us and cannot save us.
16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. 20 Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. 21 He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. 22 Your ancestors who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.
God shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.
Why does he call the children of Israel to do the same? God calls them to love the alien because they were aliens.
Why should we be just? Because God is just.
If we do not love aliens, is it because we do not believe that we were really aliens once? Have we forgotten what it was like to be slaves to sin and death? Have we forgotten the state we were in when Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8)? If we would be just because God is just, we must disadvantage ourselves for those who are in need. I don’t pretend to know exactly what that looks like in every situation we face in this world, but when we do, we image the kind of love that God has for us. We were beyond hope until Jesus became incarnate. Unrivaled humility and selflessness is the example that was set for us if we would pursue Jesus as our master and example in justice.
In a few weeks, the Justice Conference will be held in Portland. I had originally planned to attend as part of a class, but ended up not registering for the class. I did, however, register for the conference and am eager to explore the idea of justice. There are a number of excellent speakers scheduled and I will be hard pressed to decide which sessions to attend.
In preparation for the conference, I will be reading and reflecting on a few biblical passages which speak to the idea of justice. It may be rather disorganized, but as I do, I will likely post some of my thoughts here.
Anyone else attending or have any thoughts on who not to miss?