Justice - Seeking Righteousness
Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness. 1 Kings 10:9
The Queen of Sheba had visited King Solomon to determine whether he was a wise and wealthy as his reputation suggested. After seeing his palace and royal trappings, after asking hi a list of “hard questions” which she had brought with her, and after watching him dispense justice from his throne, she responded with praise to God who had demonstrated His love for Israel by giving it a king who maintained justice and righteousness.
Righteousness is indeed a gift to those who are around it. As the Queen of Sheba exclaimed, “How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!” I Kings 10:8). And Proverbs tell us that the very presence of the righteous is good for their communities:
When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy. Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed. (Proverbs 11:10-11)
The absence of righteous people in a culture leads to its decline. Reinhold Neibuhr had this to say about Germany in the 1920s:
Every one of our cities has a crime problem, not so much because the police are not vigilant as because the great masses of men in an urban community are undisciplined and chaotic souls. There is something very pathetic about the efforts of almost every one of our lost cities to restore by police coercion what has been lost by the decay of moral and cultural traditions. The church cannot recoup its failure by giving advice to the Police Department.
Crime is related to values. Values are reinforced or undermined by the institutions in a community, particularly by the family and the church. Both are in danger of becoming impotent. When salt loses its flavor, there is no remedy.
The Father has an enemy who will do everything he can to compromise our righteousness. Jesus described the lengths to which he will go in his parable of the wheat and tares, where we are told that humanity is divided into two camps, but that it is not easy to divide the two. In the field where we expected only wheat, we find weeds as well. This is the work of the Father’s enemy.
The Father’s strategy is to allow both to grow together for now, but at harvest time to separate them. At that time, “everything that causes sin and all who do evil” will be destroyed. It is then that the righteous will shine. Evil is not just external. It also exists within us. Alexandr Solzhenitsyn wrote that the line between good and evil does not fall between nations, cultures or even individuals — it is drawn through the human heart. The Father cannot uproot the evil now because that would destroy our very personalities.
One point of the parable is that good and evil are so subtly intertwined that right now they cannot be separated without destroying the good. We must be patient and wait for the day when good is unadulterated and the righteous do indeed shine like the sun.
But there is a second point. Although we should not be surprised that there is sin in ourselves and in those around us, neither should we be indifferent. We can seek righteousness and cultivate it. We can choose to nurture it, not the sin that entangles us. We nurture by devoting time, energy, discipline and attention; by making choices.
The choice to open ourselves to the Father’s saving love.
The choice to accept his authority over us.
The choice to apply the commands of scripture to our situation today.
The choice to be conformed to the image of his Son.
Dan Van Ness
Suggested readings: Read Psalm 119:121-144, and consider how the Psalmist went out determining what was right. How can Scripture guide you in the choices you make?
D. Van Ness, Week 12: Justice – Seeking Righteousness, in WHAT DOES THE LORD REQUIRE OF YOU? 32-33 (L. Buzzard ed.1997).
Used with permission of the publisher, Advocates International.