Written by Susan Disston
Friday, 01 March 2013 00:00
Professor Mike Kelly assigns a profound book to his students every year in his course, "Reading the Old Testament Missionally." It’s only 63 pages long, or 67 pages if you include the appendix. It’s in the appendix that you’ll find the 19 points on biblical justice.
This book is aptly titled, The Little Book of Biblical Justice: A Fresh Approach to the Bible’s Teachings on Justice by Chris Marshall (Good Books, 1989). But under its cover is more than a little insight on biblical justice. The author tackles topics such as the justice paradox, justice in the biblical worldview, elements of biblical justice in action, and Jesus and justice.
According to Marshall (who is a theological educator in New Zealand), the justice paradox is this:
We all know that justice is important, we all feel obligated towards the demands of justice, we all sense the primordial pull of justice. But we cannot say exactly what justice is, or how best to define it, or why standards of justice vary so much through the centuries and across different cultures. (p. 6)
The rest of the book is Marshall’s concise and cogent attempt to resolve the paradox for his readers. He presents nineteen points about biblical justice for the reader to consider, including these three from the appendix: (pp. 65-67)
Jesus defined his own historical mission in terms of bringing justice to the poor and oppressed. His message represented a threat to the existing powers, which is why they opposed him.
True knowledge of God entails understanding God’s own devotion to justice and striving to emulate God’s justice in one’s own manner of living in the world.
Biblical justice involves showing a definite partiality for the welfare of those groups in society who are most vulnerable to exploitation. God sides with the poor and weak in order to secure greater equity in society.
And one more point:
Without the commitment to seek justice, all other means of worshipping God are bankrupt. A lifestyle of justice is the essential mark of holiness.
To get the other fifteen points, you’ll have to find them for yourself in Marshall’s book (it’s little and it has a little price, too. My copy was $4 at The Friendly Bookstore—firstname.lastname@example.org).
This is an important book for Christians. I commend this book to readers of this blog, especially if the justice paradox is a reality in your life. This book will stimulate your thinking, give you sound insights, and maybe even change your life.
Susan Disston is the assistant dean of curriculum and assessment at Biblical Seminary http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/adjunct-faculty-theology