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Everyday Justice | Right Relationships

I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.

Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.’

Exodus 6:5–7

 

For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unploughed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.

Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.

Exodus 23:10–12

You don’t publicly confront Billy Graham lightly. Yet that’s exactly what John Stott did in the mid-1970s. What was important enough to risk a rift between two global figures in the evangelical church? 

The church’s call to social justice. 

Our modern world is full of cries for justice. Everyone wants to see ‘justice done’, even if we all have a slightly different idea of what that would look like. But what does godly justice involve, and how might we live it out in our everyday situations? 

Biblically, justice is firstly a characteristic of God himself, and closely tied to the idea of righteousness. Much like God, it’s intrinsically relational. Though we often reduce justice down to individualistic terms – getting what I deserve – it instead looks like broken relationships being restored. 

Let’s start with the Exodus. God hears the cries of his people as they’re enslaved, and he delivers them. Into this context, he gives them the law: they know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of injustice, and they’re to live in a different way – a holy people following a holy God. And this new way of living revolves around right relationships: loving God (Deuteronomy 6:5), loving their neighbour as themselves (Leviticus 19:18), and also loving the rest of creation. 

For instance, even the animals are given a day off to rest. Even the land is given a sabbath year off to lie unploughed. God’s people aren’t to dominate creation, but to care for it. Their righteousness is lived out through their relationships: with God, other people, themselves, and with the natural world. 

In the light of this biblical picture of righteousness, how might we live more justly? What sort of practices might lead to right relationships? There are plenty of options, but I suggest we focus on simplicity. 

If everyone in the world lived like we do in the UK, we’d need 2.7 earths to sustain us. Instead, simple living restrains our desire to consume, and applies the same idea as the sabbath year. Rather than ruthlessly exploiting our world, we choose to be content with less, allowing creation, and our poorest neighbours – worst hit by ecological disasters – to flourish. 

How might we live more simply on our frontlines? How might this affect our travel, our diet, or our habits? As everyday changes multiply into a wider effect, may all our relationships look more just as a result. 

 

Matt Jolley 
Editor, Word for the Week 

What changes could you make to live righteously? Join the conversation in the comments below.

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Everyday Justice | Life-Changing Advocacy

Comments

  1. I’ve been thinking lately about current famine situations in Tigray and southern Madagasgar, and how little attention western media give such ‘hidden’ far off situations. I wonder if one day we’ll look back on our relative indifference to such, in the same way we now regard our former acceptance of slavery, and racism in our own lands.
    I do what I can by talking about it, writing short creative poetry & audio on it, and giving.

    By Bruce Gulland  -  5 Jul 2021
  2. I want to underscore the importance of education, the field that I chose to serve as well. We need to teach and model justice to our children, how we treat every learner uniquely and differently because of God’s special work. We need to teach history and current events and equip our youth with fair, unbiased reports of people’s stories. I agree that as an individual act, I can live righteously by choosing simplicity, being responsible for the environment, and eating wisely.

    By Beth Q. Manrique  -  5 Jul 2021
  3. There is a lot to be said for living simply, without extravagance and waste. I believe it is a proper Christian witness. But to say that “If everyone in the world lived like we do in the UK, we’d need 2.7 earths to sustain us.” is nonsense. God has provided very abundantly for all the world’s inhabitants both in actual resources and in human ability to use and deploy them. Minerals, energy, technology, land use are the themes to explore as I have done in a book. We have a lot to do, and God’s provision is not the problem!

    By Ian Hore-Lacy  -  5 Jul 2021
  4. Reply to Ian Hore-Lacy:
    What I understand Jolly is calling for is responsible stewardship of God’s ample supply.
    On another subject: what did Graham and Stott discuss?

    By Hal Webb  -  5 Jul 2021
    • Hi Ian and Hal,
      Indeed, I’m advocating for a caring approach to the creation that God made and loves, which recognises his abundant provision but also realises that the earth’s resources are finite, and that the high-consumption lifestyles of a minority are making life unsustainable for everyone.

      With relation to Graham and Stott – this is in the context of the Lausanne Covenant of the mid-1970s, where Graham wanted an approach solely based around evangelism, but Stott believed that something on social responsibility and action was required too, as the gospel has implications both for both evangelism and justice. It led to a pretty public showdown, and Stott threatening to resign! You can read more about it here.

      Matt Jolley
      By Matt Jolley Culture & Discipleship – Research & Development, LICC
      • Thanks for enlightening me. From my limited perspective, chalk another one up for Stott.

        By Harold Webb  -  6 Jul 2021
  5. I welcome this article and the comments it has prompted. The Lord provides and protects and has given Christians a mandate to care for and celebrate in creation and to steward the earth’s resources wisely (sustainably and responsibly) so that everyone throughout the world today and future generations can have a good quality of life. It is very evident that we are failing to honour and deliver this mandate and that the extravagance and opulence of many people in High Income Countries is causing much poverty, pain, suffering and injustice in Middle and Low Income Countries. Excess consumption leads to excess production and exacerbates unsustainable use of the earth’s resources. We need to trust in The Lord and, through the power of His Spirit, turn from our evil ways and push for our governments, businesses, communities and ourselves to live more sustainably and help deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals by or before the target date of 2030. See work of Eco-Congregation, and TED talks on “The Mindset for a new prosperity” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oK8g6gNrbOE and “A health economy should be designed to thrive, not grow” https://www.ted.com/talks/kate_raworth_a_healthy_economy_should_be_designed_to_thrive_not_grow

    By Christopher John Redshaw  -  8 Jul 2021
  6. I’m so glad to be reminded that justice is fundamentally about mending broken relationships. It has made me think about the ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods and their change in voting patterns. I pray that the governments “build back better” will lead to restored relationships and people having a stake in the prosperity of their own place.

    By Gill Lacey  -  14 Jul 2021
  7. An apology goes a very long way. May we lead our society in apologising for our mistakes and thereby recognising the other person’s pain and distress. I pray that school leaders will apologise when Children’s needs aren’t met. I pray government leaders apologise to society for their mistakes. In a society that seems unable to apologise, may we Christians be clear and authentic in our own apologising thereby shining the light of Christ into the darkness.

    By Denise  -  19 Jul 2021
    • Hi Denise, thanks for this. You’re right, we often seem to be unable to apologise as a society, or admit wrongdoing. We are wrote about this towards the end of last year, in a piece you can find here, should you want to read further.

      Matt Jolley
      By Matt Jolley Culture & Discipleship – Research & Development, LICC

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