Kitchen Table Conversation: Eternal Justice

What is Justice and how does it tie to God? This question can take many paths, but I hope to present part of my view here. The approach I take is to first understand how God presents justice. How we see Father and his justice is how we tend to enact it in the world. If we think of God as a vengeful consuming fire, we may lean more towards vengeance. If we see God as a merciful consuming fire, we may lean more towards mercy.

First, I would like to address possibly the most obvious issue—Are punishment and justice correlated? At this point, I would like to say yes to that question, but further explanation will come through the remainder of this post. I may refer to punishment going forward as, often, when justice is sought, it is for reasons of punishment. Therefore, I think it crucial to understand Father’s punishments to understand his justice. We look forward to a day when God will put things right—when justice will be served—but what type of justice are we looking for?

Old Testament Justice
In the Old Testament, we see very long lists of rules, and penalties for breaking them. It is important to mention, however, that all of these penalties were temporal – not punishments relating to the spiritual realm, but to the physical.

Note here that, once the penalty was paid, including if it cost someone their life, there was no more punishment—justice was served in that cultural context. It’s also important to consider here that God came to Israel where they were and was leading that culture forward, one step at a time, and that culture was to lead the entire world forward—to be the salt and light. In effect, the punishments under the Old Covenant were warnings of what that society would bring upon themselves, in the temporal, if the laws were applied in the wrong context (Deut 28).

Punishment and Jesus
It could be helpful to understand how Jesus saw the correlation of justice and punishment (emphasis mine):

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.—Matthew 23:23

Notice here that Jesus ties faith, mercy, and justice together—in other words compassionate justice that would prove faith. This sounds like an oxymoron if just punishment is for vengeance. Not only this, but Jesus states that these were part of the law. By not showing faithful, compassion filled justice, the Pharisees were actually breaking the law as God intended it.


For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.—Matthew 7:2

Here Jesus seems to state that whatever measure used to judge, and thus seek justice, will be used against us. For example, and most likely what Jesus was speaking to, if justice is enacted on others by the standards of the law we’ve defined, eventually it could come back around to bite us in the rear. Much like with Jerusalem in 70 AD, we end up bringing destruction on ourselves if we pursue self-righteous, vengeful “justice” in the name of God and the Law.


Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.—Matthew 10:15

Here is where things get a little more interesting during the inception of the New Covenant; the primary question being—How will this future day of judgment be “more” bearable? At this point, Sodom and Gomorrah had been destroyed long ago. However, there would be a future spiritual judgment as Jesus now begins alluding to. The interesting thing here is, Jesus states that their judgment would be “more bearable.” How is our common concept of eternal torment any more or less bearable? Will some be burning at 1000 degrees while others at 12oo? This doesn’t seem to make much sense—unless this justice/punishment/mercy conundrum has a different meaning altogether.

Eternal Punishment
Perhaps it would be helpful to look at what punishment is to better understand justice.

Probably one of the most (in)famous passages of eternal “justice” comes from Matthew 25:46. I won’t make this particular post about the societal context of that statement other than to say that I believe Jesus was speaking to Israel specifically here. This doesn’t mean it cannot apply to us at all, but unpacking that here goes a bit beyond the scope of this post.

So, more to the point, I would like to investigate what these words meant: eternal punishment.

Eternal – The Greek word here is aionios, meaning “age of” or “age like.” This is an adjective that modifies something else—in this case, punishment. It is important to note that this word doesn’t translate very well into English as “eternal.” Note also that the same word, aionios, is used by Paul referencing “of the ages” past (Romans 16:25). If the ages were eternal, then how did any of them pass? How did any of them ever make way for another age?

Punishment – So we can see that aionios would be more of an age of punishment, but the question still remains—what does punishment mean? There are two Greek words for punishment in the New Testament.

Kolasis is a corrective “chastisement” for the benefit of the one being corrected.

Timoria is a punishment not for correction, but for the benefit or appeasement of the one doing the punishing—what we might refer to today as vengeance.

It is interesting to note that the former (Kolasis) is used in the eternal punishment passage.

Of all the punishment passages, Timoria is only used once, when the author of Hebrews 10:29 is referencing the coming temporal destruction on “God’s people” (v30, Israel) under the Old Covenant system—those that wouldn’t accept the New Covenant grace Jesus was offering but instead clung to the Old, and the punishments that resulted from their inability to uphold those ways.

So simply stated, the view of final justice under the New Covenant is: Aionios Kolasis—an age of corrective punishment meant for the benefit of the person receiving it. The big questions now are—if hell is suffering that never ends, how does the person receiving it ever benefit? Additionally, if hell is just complete annihilation, how does the person receiving it ever benefit since they’re being annihilated? Likewise, if hell is permanent separation from God, how does the person separated ever benefit?

So why do I go to such great lengths to explain the original Greek here? Our “eternity” doctrines are probably the ones most critical to examine in the light of our God of Love and the purpose for his justice. Like with 1st Century Israel, the Messianic justice we expect may be completely different than God’s plan for all of creation.

The Cross
Ultimate justice for any crime we can consider was found in Jesus on the cross. In that Jesus was willing to lay down his life for us, we are called to lay down our lives for others. Not just our physical life though, but laying aside everything we hold so vehemently in order to reflect Jesus’ love in us. It’s easy to stake our life on our beliefs because that requires no real change, but it’s hard to live following Jesus in every moment, allowing him to transform us. This is something we learn by following the Holy Spirit within, day by day.

In other words—the depth of our relationship with God reflects in the love we are able to show others—even those we consider the most heinous aggressors—even if it costs us our comfortable way of life.

Conclusion
In the Old Testament, justice for those laws being broken was always related to the temporal. Often those so entangled in injustice were harmed or died when they met justice face to face. In the New, spiritual justice is specified as beneficial to the one receiving it—an age of corrective punishment, meant to change a person eternally.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. With respect to length, I will stop here with one final question: How would our enacting of justice change if pursued from the viewpoint of God’s eternal love—even for our most vehement enemies?

Kitchen Table Conversation: Justice – Fairness

Wow, writing about justice is complex. So this is my take on justice.  I always told my kids that life isn’t fair.  It rains on the righteous and the unrighteous.   So I am supposed to write to you about justice.   Well justice is a moving goal post with human eyes, but God’s eyes it is totally a different concept. 

Justice is often used interchangeably with the word “fairness.” In any situation, be it in a courtroom, at the workplace or in line at the local bar, we want to be treated fairly. We shouldn’t be judged more harshly because of our skin color, we shouldn’t be paid any less because of our sex, and we shouldn’t have to wait longer for a drink because of what we’re wearing. We feel we deserve equal and impartial treatment.

You see, we see justice as fairness… and if everyone doesn’t get a prize that isn’t fair.  Yet when someone works really hard and wins – we don’t think they deserve a bigger prize!!  Well God’s ideas aren’t so different.  If you come to Jesus at the beginning of life and live your whole life for him and if you choose God at the final moment you receive the same prize.  Hmmm…..  Seems unfair to most people that if I live my whole life serving God I should get a bigger prize but then God doesn’t see it that way. 

God’s justice is about saving lives no matter when they get onboard.  Because God loves everyone and wants no one to perish.   We haven’t even began to talk about God’s judgment. 

I once was on a jury and we were told to look at the evidence and the law.  Young man on trial was guilty of being high on drugs and under the influence, but after reading the law, he was not possessing marijuana, yet everyone but me saw that he was guilty of possession because he was high.  I was the lone person who said by the law he is not guilty of possession because he only had a tiny amount in his pocket and the law said it needed to be a higher quantity.  I could not convince the other jurors, so in the end I changed my vote.  He was definitely guilty of all other charges, but was justice served?   I guess I’ll never know.

I am glad that in the end, God is the judge and not us.   I don’t think we really want to be in that position. Just like the trial – we can be persuaded by other factors.     

The good news is that in Christ we are washed by his Blood and are free from judgment.    When that day comes, we will be told well done good and faithful servant, whether we have served Him for a lifetime or a short time.  What a precious gift he gives.  Freely and without payment – at least human payment.  Jesus paid the price for all of us once and for always.  Anytime we judge others we are crucifying him over and over again. 

So to me, freedom in Christ means freedom of judging too. I know some people will say “that isn’t fair.”  I say that is justice – God’s style, just as Jesus spoke to us in Matthew and many other Gospel accounts.  For God’s justice is based on his love for humanity.

 

 

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Kitchen Table Conversation: Just What? (Justice)

The topic this day in Kitchen Table Conversation is Justice. I was excited when I first found this out about a month ago. I just happen to despise injustice.

So I began to think deeply about justice.  And I thought and I thought and I looked it up and I thought and I thought some more.

Good grief.  Justice is quite the topic.  I mean, it’s so vast yet so single.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I am no great Bible scholar.  I find it much easier to speak from my heart.  So here goes.

Having worked for Law Enforcement and having the opportunity to listen and type out interviews between detectives and suspects, well, justice had slipped into my thoughts often. I would allow thoughts about these people, who weren’t yet convicted, to swirl through my head.  I had to stop that before they entered my heart. I found a way, through prayer, to delete these thoughts so I wouldn’t bring these people home with me.

I realized that I was  just the paper filer, the records keeper and distributer of such documents. That was my place at the PD. I was not a Judge or even a Jury. The Officers were not those roles either.  I felt for the victims. Big Time! I often prayed for Justice.

So, how do I feel about Justice? Eye for an eye? Throw them away for life or even death…….before they even have a trial? These are thoughts I struggle with every time I listen to the News. But who am I to pass sentence on people?

Recently I was unjustly accused of something that I did not do. I’ll tell you that story. It was small and menial compared to breaking the law and committing an unthinkable crime. But I felt so betrayed. You see, someone I thought was a close friend decided that some things our family faced recently was all due to the fact that I read a series of literature books that, apparently, they did not approve of. Therefore, our family went through a difficult week with “life stuff”. Say what?

This may sound silly compared to the serious subject of Justice, but bear with me. You see, with my relationship with God, I know I had the liberty to ready this particular series. I even ran it by my husband just to see what he thought. I knew he would agree with me. My mistake was not knowing the depth of my friendship with these people. It was shallow and I thought it was deep. Not only did I feel betrayed and judged by them, but they didn’t even tell me, they told my husband. That was probably a good idea though, my husband is much kinder and merciful. He turned it around and they didn’t even see that. I, on the other hand, would have possibly gotten all “Jersey” on them and cried. 😀

I really hate the feeling of being misunderstood and accused of something I didn’t do. I have spent the last week looking into my heart and what I came up with was the fact that I trusted them as friends. That is where it failed. After I got over all the things I felt about them (not pretty) I realized that I should have seen it coming. The hints they dropped about themselves were there. I chose to dive in anyway. Bottom-line, I want to show them love and mercy. They wouldn’t look at me at church, I tried to make eye contact. Our friendship has dropped to another level on the friendship meter. It is sad, but we will try and work it out and most likely agree to disagree – at least I will.

You see, I decided, after I threw the book at them and unjustly attacked them before God, and threw away the proverbial key, that I would let their Father and Friend, Jesus and Holy Spirit speak to their hearts. Their choice to listen to Him or not. My choice? My choice is Mercy. I want to show Mercy every time a misunderstanding comes up. And as humans, we know how often that happens. I would rather err on the side of Mercy than Judgement any day, and let God be our Judge. And in the place of the Law on this earth, the powers that be.

There. I now need a cup of coffee and a piece of pie and a good book to read 😉

Cate B

 

Kitchen Table Conversation: Justice Here and Now

And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

Justice is one of God’s key attributes; as such, there are so many aspects of it, so many different direction we can go in discussion it, and I suppose that’s why it is a great topic for our Kitchen Table Conversation.

For me, the more pressing aspects of Justice are those that concern the here and now, those aspects of Justice that the prophet Micah wrote about so very long ago in 6:8. For each of us to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God is, for me, the priority in this life.

Jesus took this to a higher level when He travelled around Galilee proclaiming the Kingdom of heaven, for when He did so, there was healing, wholeness, sight and… Justice.

Justice isn’t usually in this list, is it? Yet Jesus demonstrated what Micah was talking about as He preached and healed, for He took His message of the Kingdom of heaven to both Jew and Gentile. He healed both Jew and Gentile. He gave sight to Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, saint and sinner, breaking all of the cultural boundaries that had kept God from the masses of humanity for far too long. He respected the disrespected, He valued the humble, and He loved the unlovable, and that is Justice in the here and now.

There are times in this life when acting as Jesus acted isn’t the easiest thing to do; I sometimes fall short in my efforts and for this reason, I have little time to worry about the eschatological implications of Justice. I say this because I earnestly desire to serve Him as He called me to serve, and I desire to do so because I love God and I love humanity You see, I am a work in progress and I have not yet attained the goal that is set before me in Christ Jesus.

So I content myself with doing my best in Christ to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly before God, for it seems to me that if I do so, then if nothing else I can walk along with Jesus, secure in the knowledge that I have followed God’s ways, and done harm to no one along the way.

 

Kitchen Table Conversation: Justice … (whose justice?) … !!

JUSTICE!!

“For a word that’s used so often, its precise definition is still a topic of debate for philosophers, theologians and legislators. Justice is often used interchangeably with the word “fairness.” In any situation, be it in a courtroom, at the workplace or in line at the local bar, we want to be treated fairly. We shouldn’t be judged more harshly because of our skin color, we shouldn’t be paid any less because of our gender, and we shouldn’t have to wait longer for a drink because of what we’re wearing. We feel we deserve equal and impartial treatment … For a victim, justice may be seeing a criminal put behind bars, or it may be monetary — the goal is to make the victim feel equal again.”   http://people.howstuffworks.com/what-is-justice.htm

JUSTICE!!

Justice statue, Old Bailey

Justice!!

forensic-sciences-and-miscarriages-of-justice-copia-2-728

Justice … !

“WE come now to justice. A specific habit differs from a specific faculty or science, as each of the latter covers opposites, e.g. the science of health is also the science of sickness; whereas the habit of justice does not cover but is opposed to the habit of injustice. Justice itself is a term used in various senses; and the senses in which injustice is used vary correspondingly. “

Aristotle, 350 BCE.

Justice …

(For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’

Mark 7:3-5

Whose Justice?

“So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”

Mark 1:39-41

I have a question:

Where do I find

Unconditional  Justice ?   

Social Justice? Judicial Justice? Secular Justice?  Religious Justice?  Universal Justice? Static Justice … or … Dynamic Justice? Justice for all … or … Justice for the downtrodden? At what age does Justice apply … to which demographics … to which cultures over another … how do we define Justice  … how do we define whose Justice? 

I am very simple and

this is all very complicated.

Let me show you

not just “justice” …

Let me show you 

– : – Love Unconditional – : –

and then let’s talk about

Justice

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