Cursed Is Anyone Who Withholds Justice
“Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.”Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”
God was so serious about the issue of justice that He preemptively cursed those who withhold justice from others. This is a stern warning that Israel will ignore too often, which causes them to experience God’s justice.
Biblical Bases For Restorative Justice
Dutch law professor Herman Bianchi has a sharp critique of criminal justice practices in Western nations . He suggests that part of the problem has to do with a negative impact Christian theology has with its images of an angry and vengeful God. He suggests, though, that rather than rejecting the Bible wholesale, we should look more carefully at it. He uses the image of homeopathic medicine, suggesting that a careful does of what has helped make us ill might actually help us find healing.
I like this image of the need for a homeopathic cure for the Western worlds catastrophic embrace of retributive justicean embrace all too closely linked with Christian theology. I recently read another strong, more up-to-date critique of the American criminal justice practices that lays out in devastating detail many of the problems by an up-and-coming Mennonite theologianJames Logan, who teaches at Earlham College the book is: Good Punishment? Christian Moral Practice and U.S. Imprisonment .
Now, I am not totally pleased with Logans own constructive theological response. I do think he has written a fine book and I highly recommend it. However, I dont think he delves deeply enough into the positive resources we might find in the biblical materials, rather focusing more on theological generalities. In what follows here I will zero in on what I see some to be concrete and positive biblical resources that might apply to our philosophy of criminal justice.
Jesus emphasis on justice
It Goes Well With Those Who Convict The Guilty
Whoever says to the guilty, “You are innocent,” will be cursed by peoples and denounced by nations.But it will go well with those who convict the guilty, and rich blessing will come on them.
Over and over again, the Bible portrays God as unbiased:
- “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” .
- “Now let the fear of the Lord be on you. Judge carefully, for with the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery” .
- “For God does not show favoritism” .
- “Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism” .
Because there is no favoritism with God, He does not want to see it in His people.
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Examples Of Justice In The Bible
52. Habakkuk 1:4 The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.
53. Isaiah 59:8-9 The way of peace they do not know there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads no one who walks along them will know peace. 9 So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.
54. 1 Chronicles 18:14 So David reigned over all Israel, and he administered justice and equity to all his people.
55. Job 36:15-17 But by means of their suffering, he rescues those who suffer. For he gets their attention through adversity. 16 God is leading you away from danger, Job, to a place free from distress. He is setting your table with the best food. 17 But you are obsessed with whether the godless will be judged. Dont worry, judgment and justice will be upheld.
56. 2 Chronicles 9:8 Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on his throne as king to rule for the LORD your God. Because of the love of your God for Israel and his desire to uphold them forever, he has made you king over them, to maintain justice and righteousness.
57. Nehemiah 9:33 Every time you punished us you were being just. We have sinned greatly, and you gave us only what we deserved.
Psalm 7:11 God is an honest judge. He is angry with the wicked every day.
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They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lias story, youll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!
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Do What Is Just And Right
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.
Jeremiah’s words echo Jesus’s lesson in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. We demonstrate our love for others based on what we do for them. The prophet tells Israel to rescue others from oppressors. It’s not enough to simply not oppress others God calls us to reveal our love by helping those who are oppressed.
According To The Prophets The Litmus Test For A Just Society Is Whether The Vulnerable And Disadvantaged Are Worried About Their Safety Or Wellbeing
If this is the case, then we as the people of God must recognize and lament that our society is unjust, and these injustices affect some populations more than others. The philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff writes, Lower classes are not only disproportionately vulnerable to injustice but are disproportionately actual victims of injustice. In human history, injustice is not equally distributed.
Many of us are finally seeing that injustice in America has not been equally distributed. The black community in the United States is worried about their safety and wellbeing, and this is by no means a new condition of life. It is a lack of justice that results in black parents feeling the need to teach their children how to not get shot by law enforcement. It is a lack of justice that results in black joggers avoiding certain neighborhoods out of fear for how the residents might respond to the color of their skin. It is a lack of justice that a black teenager felt the need to create and carry a sign to a faith-based rally in Atlanta that read, I am not your enemy.
The litmus test for a just society is whether the vulnerable and disadvantaged are worried about their safety or wellbeing, which means that our society is unjust. It is high time we acknowledge that, own up to our complicity, and work to address it.
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Christians Are Called To Submit To Governing Authorities
The book of Romans covers many important topics. It is no surprise that civil disobedience is covered in great depth. Romans 13:1-3 says, Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
The passage continues, Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval.
And later in Romans 13:6-7, For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
Christians are called to submit to governing authorities, understanding that God has placed them in their unique positions of leadership. This can be a challenging calling when we do not agree with the laws or policies that governing authorities are putting into place. However, when we are challenged by the rulings of our leadership, we must remember that by submitting to their leadership, we are honoring God.
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Understand You May Face Persecution For Civil Disobedience
As evidenced in many countries, there may be a time where we face persecution for our religious beliefs. We may be called upon to act in civil disobedience. If this happens, we must prepare ourselves to boldly face the persecution that may follow. We know that our true allegiance and citizenship is in heaven. Because of this, we are able to face these situations with confidence.
It’s Not Good To Be Partial To The Wicked
It is not good to be partial to the wicked and so deprive the innocent of justice.
The Bible frequently tells us that it’s wrong to show favoritism toward the wicked. The problem is that no one thinks that’s what they’re doing. There are a lot of ways that people justify their biases. Maybe they tell themselves that the “innocent” wouldn’t be in trouble if they weren’t guilty. Perhaps they live in a culture where wickedness is normalized.
If we want to be impartial judges, we need to reflect on our natural preferences. That’s where we discover whether were genuinely fair.
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In Faithfulness He Will Bring Forth Justice
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.In faithfulness he will bring forth justice he will not falter or be discouragedtill he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”
God’s coming Messiah would not be like rulers that the Israelites had become accustomed to. He wouldn’t crush the weak. He wouldn’t snuff out smoldering wicks or bypass justice. Jesus would care for the less fortunate and demonstrate true righteousness and justice.
Loose The Chains Of Injustice
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelterwhen you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.Then you will call, and the Lord will answer you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”
Isaiah addresses false piety, an issue that Jesus also touches on in the Sermon on the Mount. God is not fooled by people who take part in religious practices but don’t genuinely care about the things close to His heart.
God’s people become a light in the world when they demonstrate His love for others by caring for their well-being.
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Questions In This Episode
1. Should Christians evangelize even if they dont fully understand the gospel or important doctrines or should they wait until they are taught first?
2. Why did the apostles say, Jesus is Lord and not Jesus is God?
3. Psalm 101 begins, I will sing of steadfast love and justice to you, O LORD, I will make music. It strikes me how often the Bible celebrates justice and yet when I think about justice it reminds me of prisons, judges and lawyers. What is the Bibles view of justice? And how is it different or similar to ideas of justice in our cultural context?
4. I know that in the Bible God promises to have wonderful plans for our lives, but I dont feel like Im walking in Gods blessing. Maybe its because I have weak faith or that God is dealing with sin in my life. Can you help?
5. Does the office of deacon serve the church or the outside world or both?
Seek Justice By Seeking The Lord
Though we live in a world rife with injustice, we can look to God with hope. He is just, and He sees every act of oppression. Jesus has promised to return and bring justice once and for all. Until then, God commands His people to pursue justice by treating others fairly, caring for the needy, and standing up against oppression.
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Episode What Does The Bible Say About Justice
Justice. What comes to mind when you see or hear that word? We’ve heard a lot about justice recently, and have so many thoughts, ideas, images, assumptions, and expectations of what justice is and how it works. Understandably, that influences what we think when we read the word justice in the Scriptures. So, this week, the Discover the Word group would like to pause and act as if we’ve never seen the word before and see how we would define justice if we only had the Bible to shape our definition. Join the group as they explore together What Does the Bible Say About Justice?
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Hebrew Midwives Disobey Pharoahs Command To Kill
Exodus 1 outlines the story of Pharoahs oppression of Israel. Exodus 1:15-17 reads as follows, Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live. But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.
In this example, Pharoah, the governing authority at the time, commanded for the killing of all newborn males. However, the Hebrew midwives knew that this was not in accordance with Gods Will. They acted in civil disobedience by saving the lives of the baby boys born during that time.
Later on, in Exodus 1:20-21, we read, So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. God blessed the Hebrew midwives for their act of civil disobedience. They were bold enough to stand up for their religious beliefs, regardless of the possible punishment they would face for doing so.
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The Lord Loves Justice
The Lord loves righteousness and justice the earth is full of his unfailing love.
We tend to think of “justice” as punishment for wrongdoing. But throughout the Bible, justice is about more than punishment. It’s about seeing that people receive their due. The Hebrew word for justice is mishpat.
The law talks about how the tabernacle priests were to be supported by a share of Israel’s wealth. In Deuteronomy 18:3, this is called “the priest’s due .” So we can think of justice as receiving what one is dueboth good and bad.
The psalmist tells us that God loves righteousness, but He also loves when people receive what they’re due.
Justice Is Our Calling
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. – Jeremiah 22:3
We are not simply called to stop injustice when it occurs, but to actively strive and work toward justice and flourishing. As followers of God, we are called to pursue justice in our personal relationships, to care for the people he has placed around us, and to advocate for those without a voice.
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