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Justice the responsiblity of all Christians

Justice the responsiblity of all Christians

Justice the responsiblity of all Christians

14 June 2017

God's "shalom" does not refer to an absence of conflict but to wholeness - a flourishing of all creation.

By Amanda Merrett

A common misconception about justice is that it is an optional extra of the Christian faith – something reserved for the “activist” types in the church.

Yet, the Bible demonstrates time and time again that in order for the Kingdom of God to reign on earth as is it in heaven, God’s followers are called to pursue and live out justice.

Justice plays an integral role in the restoration of the Kingdom of God here on earth. More specifically, justice is the realisation of peace on earth. Often we think of peace as an absence of war, or conflict.

Yet, the biblical concept of peace takes on a different meaning. Shalom – the Hebrew word for peace – represents wholeness, a flourishing of all creation. It is used in relation to three aspects in the Bible – the physical and material, the relational and the social, and the moral.

Author and theologian John Stackhouse describes flourishing as something that extends to each of these individual elements. Shalom encompasses the flourishing of the individual, but extends to communities. It includes creation – trees, animals, forests. Shalom also includes the flourishing of structures, social relations, and governments.

Shalom means that relationships flourish – relationship with self, with God and with communities. Shalom describes how things ought to be; a picture of God’s reign where all is right with the world. God desires that our world and everyone in it is given the opportunity to flourish.

To go further, God’s character requires that the world and everything in it flourishes. If God desires shalom, then how do we respond to situations where flourishing is limited? We work for justice.

Justice is a means to realise shalom and flourishing. Justice, a restorative justice that seeks shalom, is God’s response to human suffering and the degradation of creation. The basis of social justice is a correct and compassionate use of power in our relationships with others and creation; a use that reflects God’s purposes for humanity.

The Bible shows that when power is imbalanced, God sides with the poor and the weak – the pursuit of justice is God’s way of correcting, restoring and distributing resources. It is God’s way of ensuring shalom is realised here on earth. We are invited to participate in God’s work here on earth to realise shalom.

God’s desire for shalom demonstrates to us that God cares holistically about people’s lives, in the here and now. Working for justice means that we participate with God to reveal God’s Kingdom here on earth.

Justice requires us to take a stand against unjust economic, legal, political and social systems – systems where people are marginalised and disadvantaged. Justice requires that we stand against poverty, racism and sexism as these structures inhibit human flourishing.

Justice requires that we include those who have been ignored by society because people flourish in community. Justice is embedded in both the Old and New testaments, and justice is a defining characteristic of God.

We work for justice, not because it is a tradition of The Salvation Army, but because when we work for justice, the Kingdom of God thrives.

Amanda Merrett is Assistant to the Social Justice Secretary in The Salvation Army Australia Southern Territory.


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