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When Justice Meets Righteousness

5 months ago written by
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You know who they are. They’re the people who are always late for everything. They’re the people who smack their gum at the office. They are the people who test all of their ringtones on a packed flight. They are the people who leave the gas tank empty. The people who voted for “him.” They are the people who annoy you. Changing the way other people behave may be immensely desirable, but it is notoriously difficult. I, among many others, desire for justice to prevail in our society and surrounding cultures but I ask, “What if what I see as just is not righteous?”

The narrative of the Bible is the journey of humanity [creation] and their creator [humanizer]. The Creator created humanity in the Imago Dei, the image of God, to be like the Creator.

I resonate with the story (Matthew 19:16–30, Mark 10:17–31, Luke 18:18–30) of a day when the Son of God, Jesus, was walking. A man came before Him, threw himself on his knees and said, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds with something simple, “You know what to do — follow God’s commands.” Jesus is met with the man’s response, “I have and I do.” Jesus went on to explain that to be with God for eternity, you must first behave like God in the present. The words used were inherently different, but the meaning is the same.

To be “like God” means to care for creation. To “be like God” means to bring right-standing to what is wrong. To “be like God” means to be like Jesus, the Son of God, who follows the Father. The man went away discouraged. The one thing he was not willing to do was to allow what is “just” to lose to what is “righteous.” We have little context for his situation, but if I deductively speculate, he was rich and felt it necessary to preserve his hard-worked earnings.

The fourth of the Beatitudes of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 5, reads, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” According to the “New Dictionary of Theology,” the basic meaning of “righteousness” and its contextual cognates derive from the Hebrew “sedeq,” which was usually translated as “dikaiosynē.” This describes not so much the abstract idea of justice or virtue, as right standing and consequent right behavior, within a community. English translates this lingual logic with two different roots, “right,” “righteous,” and “righteousness” and “just,” “justice,” “justify” and “justification.” In Hebrew and Greek, these semantics all belong together linguistically and theologically. Jesus was proclaiming those who seek to make what is “wrong” into what is “right” before God will be filled, or satisfied, and further compares the point to the satisfaction we receive from our humanly hunger being fulfilled.

This morning I sat in a doctor’s office waiting room patiently anticipating the removal of my daughter’s braces. The process to “right a wrong” has been more than eight months of painful, diligent refining. For months we expanded her jaw, making room for new teeth to come down. For months, we cleaned thoroughly each bracket, avoided hard candy and foods that might affect her reparative development. She was so ready to remove the horrendous metal, which poked her mouth and caused sores. The day finally arrived and when it was all done, I noticed she wasn’t all that excited. I asked her, “What is wrong? You seem discontent.” Ariana said, “Dad, I don’t like the feeling. I want them back on. My mouth feels funny [wrong]. It feels empty.” In a peculiar way, the process of bringing right standing [righteousness] to what is wrong [unjust] sometimes leaves a gap to be filled. The biblical text promises the gap will be filled and we will be made fully right(eous).

We continue our focus on the #LLMBeatitudes series with #LLMRighteousness. We are proud to be a part of a denomination that was founded on upholding righteousness among a culture and society in which many injustices were being exercised. I challenge you to read the following pages with an open mind and heart. Perhaps you will be convicted of your own riches to give up in order to enter the kingdom of God.

This issue of Light + Life Magazine will focus on some everyday occurrences of the righteousness of God being fulfilled by practitioners and leaders in our culture. If you notice the magazine feels a little different, you are right! We have improved the quality of the publication and begun the process of expanding into mainstream magazine markets. This improvement will advance our reach to home and corporate subscriptions. Our entry into publishing occurred in 1860 when principal founder B.T. Roberts published with a goal of “uncompromising advocacy of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” The Free Methodist (later renamed Light + Life) debuted in 1868. The mission, to develop earnest Christians, remains true today.

Jay Cordova is an ordained elder who serves as the publisher of Light + Life and the director of communications for the Free Methodist Church – USA. He previously worked as a startup business entrepreneur and coached small businesses.

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[Openers] · L + L May 2018 · Magazine