Starting New Things – Justice Bringing
The command of God to those bearing God’s image, is two-fold, fruitfulness and dominion, (Genesis 1:26-1:28). Creator God has ordered the world out of disorder and placed humans to govern it, in partnership with their creator. The Hebrew words translated by the NIV as ‘rule over’ and ‘subdue’ have many nuanced meanings. They can mean violent coercion, but that is not inherent in their usage. In the context of Genesis 1, ‘organising to enable flourishing’ might be a good understanding, and tracking forward this concept might be called justice.
Humans are set apart by God to bear God’s image to rule the world by God’s definition of good and evil. This idea that all humans bear God’s image is the foundation of the notion of justice in the Bible which is that all humans be treated with dignity and fairness. Of course, it also implies fairness towards all creation, not just humans, (Rom 8:22). Unfortunately, we tend to redefine good and evil to benefit ourselves. The bible addresses this with the word Justice, (Heb. Mishpat), which is most often used in the sense of restorative justice, for example…
In Proverbs 31:8-9, it says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
In Jeremiah 22:3, it says, “This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”
In Psalm 146:7-9, it says, “He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.”
Unfairness and injustice is rife in the Bible, both outside Israel, among the nations, and inside Israel itself. The people who should know best, God’s people don’t act justly. The prophets are sent to call back Israel to justice, (and away from idolatry – the opposite of Image Bearing), but to no avail.
So, God comes in the person of Jesus. He declares his manifesto in Luke 4 and he teaches the beatitudes, Matt 5 and performs miracles, many of which are restorative. Again rejected, Jesus dies for the sin of the world, its idolatry and injustice.
Now His disciples, with the leading and empowering of the Holy Spirit, should be those who live like him Image Bearing Justice Bringers.
To think about: How high on your church community agenda is Justice? How broadly do you understand or define the concept? How closely do you link it with Image Bearing?
For encouragement: Starting New Things to help make disciples who make disciples is a step towards more widespread justice in the world.
Theres a great link here to the Bible Project video about Justice that shares these themes. https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/justice/
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