Does Seeking Justice Take Us Away from Seeking Jesus?

For many years now I have been coming to terms with God’s call to seek justice: how he calls us, through the power of Jesus Christ living in us, to set things right in his world.

Jesus has given his church the mandate not only to proclaim who he is, but to embody his character and Kingdom on earth.

He calls us to do whatever we can in to see that life, our relationships, our communities, our workplaces, and the systems that support it all reflect something of what God would want our world to be.

It’s huge, right?

It’s also really hard for many Christians to grasp how seeking justice connects with the core of the Christian faith.

I remember some years ago when I was pastoring in Western Australia, I was hoping one of the leaders in the church would become the point person to see our church take a lead in becoming a more just church in our community. I had given my friend a copy of Jim Martin’s excellent book, The Just Church. Martin’s book gives a helpful overview of some of the powerful justice themes in Scripture, and provides a helpful template for churches to implement justice ministries in their own neighbourhood. So, yes, I’d given this person a copy and was keen to hear what they thought of it.

Their repsonse? “Hey, I like the idea of the church being more just, but I just don’t see how seeking justice connects with the Gospel.”

Their comment left me wondering whether my friend actually understood what biblical justice was (had they even read the book?), and also whether there was a clear understandning of what the Gospel actually was. I don’t want to be harsh, but when I see the mission and ministry of Jesus in Scripture, it’s obvious that Jesus knew justice was central to his mission. More to come on that…

But for now, I’m thankful that Timothy Keller’s excellent book “Generous Justice” reveals show how closely Jesus’ ministry was interwoven with justice.

And just so we know: the justice I am referring to is the making right of things that are wrong, the repair and restoration of what is broken, and not just the forensic sense of the justice of God enacted in Christ’s death. You cannot separate the mission and ministry of Jesus with the pursuit of justice. Keller observes:

“At first glance, no two things can seem more opposed than grace and justice. Grace is giving benefits that are not deserved, while justice is giving people exactly what they do deserve. In Christ we receive grace, unmerited favour. Nevertheless, in the mind of the Old Testament prophets as well as the teaching of Jesus, an encounter with grace inevitably leads to a life of justice.”

Timothy Keller, Generous Justice, p.49

Did you catch that?

“An encounter with grace inevitably leads to a life of justice.”

That word “inevitably” should give us pause.

In a coming post I’ll look at what “seeking justice” is. But for now I just want to say that seeking biblical justice does not take us away from Jesus, it leads us deeper into him. Seeking biblical justice does not take us away from the Gospel, it gives us a deeper understanding of what the Gospel is.

seeking biblical justice does not take us away from Jesus, it leads us deeper into him

Here’s the question: if seeking justice is core to seeking Jesus, how come seeking justice does not appear to be a core part of the mission and ministry of many churches today?

Maybe, for many churches, biblical justice has somehow ended up in their blind spot. They’re just not aware of how rich and how powerfully the Scriptures teach about this. They seem to have missed how central biblical justice is to Jesus, his death and resurrection, and the mission he has given to his church.

What do you think?

…feel free to leave a comment

Step into Lent and work toward Slavery’s End

Why would anyone knowingly commit to a lengthy period of abstinence? Well, in a culture that hardly wants for anything, purposefully engaging in self-denial can be sobering. We only have to have the wifi drop out for 30 minutes and it’s like the end of the world. Our affluent existence has fast food, express lanes, rapid transit, priority post, and apps to jump the coffee queue. Not waiting has become such a phenomenon in our connected age that Michael Harris has written The End of Absence, exploring the social impact of never having to wait for anything.

Generations past observed Lent as guided preparation for the celebration of the astounding redemptive victory of Jesus Christ. The 40 days of Lent drove people to hunger for the relief Jesus had brought in his death and resurrection. Their waiting was a living prayer that they were longing for a better world: the new heavens and the new earth.

And us? Maybe we can use the season of Lent to remind us – who have just about everything – that “a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of their possessions” (Luke 12:15). In our age, that alone would be a lesson worth learning.

But we can go a step further. We can use a time of “self-denial” to prompt our prayers for the people who go without just about everything, every day. We can pray for those who have no freedom, whose lives are bound by violence, whose daily existence is blood, sweat and tears. Who cry out to God for justice, and who long for relief.

I have a friend who has decided to cut out food between their morning and evening meals for Lent. From Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday they will skip midday food and snacks. Sure, they’ll get hungry, and when they do, they’ll be prompted to pray for the millions trapped in modern day slavery, who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness. My friend’s tummy rumbles will be a gut-level reminder that their world is not right – that our world is not right. That a large percentage of the world “goes without” every single day.

And you might be amazed how self-denial lets you step into solidarity with those in slavery

Why not join my friend? You could fast from food, from social media, from coffee, from alcohol – lots of things, really. And you might be amazed how this intentional, focused self-denial allows you step into solidarity with those trapped in the violence of slavery and forced labour.

You could use the physical reminders to

petition God, that he might bring freedom to those who are trapped in slavery
pray for the protection and provision of IJM workers in the field, that they might continue to bring freedom to the captives
ask God to open your heart to how you can support IJM’s work, and so share the burdens of the world’s most vulnerable people

All the while, you can also take comfort in the fact that the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus is God’s ultimate statement that he will end all slavery. Until he does, the Victory won by Jesus is his guarantee that he will continue to do his work through us.

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8, NIV)

(This post was originally published at )