God moved Isaiah to declare: Justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no-one, he was appalled that there was no-one to intervene.
What does the word justice mean to you? If you ask the world at large, I suspect the answers you received would revolve around courts and prisons, around judgement and punishment, around the criminal justice system.
But these things are NOT justice. You hear in the media about justice being done when a criminal is given a harsh sentence, and conversely victims’ relatives complaining about a lack of justice when the guilty receive a sentence that is too light in their eyes. This is not the justice of the bible – this is vengeance – this is retribution. So what is justice?
Righteousness and Justice go hand in hand.
An act which fulfils the demands of a relationship, whether with God or with fellow humans, is called righteous.
In other words righteousness builds up our relationship with God and with our neighbour. An act or attitude that tears down or destroys relationships cannot be said to be righteous. A person who is judgemental out of a sense of their own “rightness” destroys relationships and therefore is not righteous.
Abraham had faith and it was credited to him as righteousness, because it was the very foundation of his relationship with God. A life that is an outworking of faith cannot help but be righteous, and faith is what joins Christians together (and indeed those of other faiths).
So ... is the church the embodiment of righteousness as it is meant to be? I look at the church at large and, if I am to believe the newspapers, I see judgement and division, I see intolerance and segregation, I see suspicion and accusation – this is not righteousness.
But then I look again, past the newspaper headlines, past the rhetoric and the posturing, and I see individual acts of forgiveness, moments of grace, of unthinking sacrifice, of unconditional generosity, of love – that is where righteousness shines like the sun and the glory of God is revealed.
Have a wonderful Sunday