Righteousness and Justice

God made us in his image. That’s clear from the Bible. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Now because of that special creation, it is understood that we are to live in a way that “images” God himself; we are not God, but we are to represent him as unique image bearers. As one writer put it, “We are more like God than the rest of creation.”

But this special connection with God leads to special temptations as well. In Genesis, Satan tempts Eve with a startling premise and promise: she can become like God (3:4). He essentially says, “God is holding out on you. There is more to be had. He has all the wisdom, and you can be like him too. You can operate without him and his standard.”

The ancient lie still works. The first recorded temptation has been playing on repeat ever since.

Humans sinned and the order of God was disrupted. Justice, as defined generally, can be said to be God’s intended order for creation. He has a perfect order, and sin runs contrary to his order. With this in mind, we can say that all sin is injustice. We want to narrow the definition of justice to a human interpretation in selective instances, but only God’s plan stands as truly just. The biblical idea of justice is tied to the idea of righteousness, God’s perfect standard for relationship with him. They are connected inextricably; the intended order for creation is only reached by the right standing before God. Our vertical relationship must be right before we see our horizontal relationships change for the better.

So then, why do we continue to struggle and rage against God and each other? The answer lies in the intent of sin: it seeks to dethrone God and dehumanize people. Sin will always seek to make humans less than God intended us to be. From racism to abortion, from one end of sin’s spectrum to the other, each deviation from God’s order says, “The image of God in me is more important than the image of God in you.” Or, “I can choose whatever image I want.” At the worst, sin says, “There is no God, so human life is a clump of cells or the result of evolutionary processes; there is no higher being I represent. I am the measure of all things, and I must get ahead in any way I can.”

God said, “Let us make man in our image.” We say, “Let us make God in ours.” How do you know if you have made God in your image? God agrees with you on all things. He dislikes the same people you dislike. He shares all your ideals and goals. He changes his viewpoint based on cultural standards. He responds the same way as you do. His view of injustice is limited only to how you see injustice. And he only emphasizes the parts of the Bible you highlight, tweet or hold dear. He exists as a God who caters to your expectations, preferences and opinions, and you know that he would never challenge, correct or disagree with your notion of how the universe should run. After all, you pick and choose his words to back your own shaky arguments. We want to live in God’s universe, enjoy God’s blessings, experience God’s goodness, but reject God’s holiness.

When you dethrone the One True God from your heart, that seat will not stay vacant. You’ll climb up into that chair yourself — with a lopsided crown many times too large and feet that will never touch the floor — and you’ll exercise your version of a kingdom where you will try to command your personal lightning. Opposition to your ideas, not God’s perfect standard, becomes the definition of sin, the emotion of the moment becomes the law of the land, and you yourself are the only source of true, but fickle, forgiveness. Then things fall apart, and because we fail to understand that we are operating outside of God’s order, what do we do? We blame others for operating outside our order. Our landscape is littered with miniature kings and queens with fading glory and twisted rule who, in attempts to make themselves more than they are, make themselves into less than God intended. We not only dethrone God, and then dehumanize others, but we dehumanize ourselves as well.

So what is the answer? Bowing to the true King. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you” (Psalm 89:14). Justice, God’s intended order for creation, is reached only by righteousness, the right standing before God through Christ that then changes the way we relate to him and the way we live with each other. And when we cry for true justice to come, we must understand that we are asking for God to restore his intended order for creation, but there is no justice without Jesus; in his absence, injustice will only grow. No one will live in the joy of knowing and growing in justice unless God is enthroned upon the heart. We need Jesus more than anything else and before anything else (Matthew 6:33).

Our individual rule from our personal thrones will never accomplish the restoration of God’s order. The crown fits Christ alone.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6

The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around. His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory. All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; worship him, all you gods! Zion hears and is glad, and the daughters of Judah rejoice, because of your judgments, O LORD. For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. O you who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!Psalm 97

Pray that…

We will remember that there is only one King. – God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne (Psalm 47:8).

We will boldly proclaim that God is just in all his judgments. – Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.” (Psalm 96:10).

We will bow our knee to Jesus alone by faith, knowing that all will ultimately either bow in faith or in fear. – Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

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