If you’re concerned about justice …
One of the most intriguing presidential elections in a century is finally behind us. Sort of. The Never Trump contingent has morphed into Not My President. College students are holding “cry ins” and scrambling for “safe spaces” to mourn Trump’s victory (or hide from his detractors) while their administrators try to stay one step ahead to provide them. Even that constitutional Gibraltar, the electoral college, is wobbling.
The governance of nations, like all of life, operates under the Lordship of Jesus Christ who claims sovereignty over all things. Christian citizens should be informed and involved by their vote, at least. But political realities are a reflection of a prior, deeper set of creation principles. Notwithstanding the nonstop media coverage of all things political, the nation would benefit from more news about cultural realities because it is the cultural that drives the political. Culture, the concern of Genesis 1:28, lies upstream from politics.
Many of those who rejected Donald Trump and embraced Hillary Clinton were looking for a social justice champion. They wanted someone who would shred income inequality, destroy gender discrimination, protect marriage “rights” for all, and ensure no encroachment on the right to abort a child right up to the moment of delivery. That Hillary would be the first woman president was icing on the cake; these voters envisioned her as their social justice warrior who would lead the charge against all oppression of the marginalized.
They lost. They are unlikely ever to have the opportunity to put HRC in the White House. Their anguish is captured in the immortal lines of the old Scottish ballad, “The Water is Wide,”
I leaned my back up against an oak, I thought it was a trusty tree.
But first it swayed, and then it broke, and so my false love did unto me.
They wanted what the political could not give. At a level deeper than politics, they are operating from a worldview informed by the lie of materialism. They wanted a better life (as they envision it). But that life is not available apart from an essential ingredient which materialism cannot even recognize, much less muster. Human growth and flourishing cannot happen without righteousness.
Justice without righteousness is an illusion
Luke’s gospel includes this intriguing four-fold measure of human flourishing as God intended it: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man,” Luke 2:52 ESV. This little verse is a verbal “Reepicheep,” small but highly potent, like the warrior mouse in Narnia. Here we see the essential dimensions apart from which there can be no social justice. It begins with wisdom, the application of knowledge and understanding to the questions of life. The physical dimension of human growth is captured by “Jesus increased … in stature.” Then we come to the spiritual in the phrase, “favor with God” and the social, “favor with man.”
Dr. Jun Vencer is chairman of the board of trustees of the Alliance Graduate School, Philippines, and senior pastor of Alliance International Church, Pearland, TX. One of the world’s leading thinkers on wholistic development, he sees in Luke 2:52 the concept of flourishing on a national level.
- Individual and national righteousness
- Economic sufficiency for all
- Lasting social peace
- Lasting public justice, even for the poorest of the poor
Can there be lasting social peace and public justice? Yes! Both are gifts of God Himself. Consider this brief survey of scripture to that point.
Jesus Christ said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you,” Joh 14:27 ESV. And Matthew wrote of him, quoting from Isaiah 49,
Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory, Matt. 12:18-20 ESV.
Note the multiple measures of national health captured in the first seven verses of Psalm 72.
1 Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son!
2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice!
3 Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness!
4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!
5 May they fear you while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth!
7 In his days may the righteous flourish, and peace abound, till the moon be no more!
To be human is to have longings; we were made for a better world. But the fulfillment of those longings—whether the social justice envisioned by HRC voters or the national security President-elect Trump’s supporters want—will never coalesce apart from God’s righteousness. If we would see “justice roll down like waters,” we must seek “righteousness like an ever-flowing stream,” Amos 5:24 ESV.
- Gary Brumbelow