“He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, NASB95)
There are a lot of competing theories in our world about how to “do justice.” The debate is part of the reason our nation is so fragmented at the moment.
If we, as Christians don’t “do justice” then we’re being disobedient. If we decide we want to do justice, but don’t know how, we’re likely to involve ourselves in secular, and often ungodly ways of doing justice. We need to know what God says.
As westerners, we typically define justice as the vindication of right by assigning reward, or punishment for doing wrong. That is certainly a part of the Old Testament Hebrew culture as well. The Law in the Bible is full of prescriptions of punishment for crime and wrongdoing: “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” But there’s more to it.
Imagine an iceberg – 90% of it is underwater – the 10% you see is the most obvious. The law code in the OT is like the visible part of the iceberg: the Dos and Don’ts and reward or punishment. These laws are absolutely necessary for a just and orderly society. But underwater, there’s a lot more to justice in the OT.
The verse from Micah above is a great example. He uses two very important words in this passage: mercy (kindness, hesed – often used to describe God’s unconditional grace and compassion) and justice (mishpat). What Micah wants us to see by putting them together is that justice is the action, mercy is the motivation behind it. With God, mishpat and hesed always go together. We are to carry out justice from of a heart of merciful love.
That loving, kind, compassionate motivation reveals God’s heart when describing justice. It explains why the Bible teaches that justice is caring for the vulnerable, justice is about right relationships, and why justice is always generous.
If you want to find out more, I hope you’ll join us Sunday as we unpack some of these wonderful concepts in my sermon, “What is ‘Doing Justice?””