John 8:48-59; 2 Chronicles 5:2-14; Malachi 2:10-4:7
Justice and righteousness are the foundations of a godly society. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew that truth and quoted Amos when he said. “No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’” We celebrated that speech this week as the anniversary Dr. King’s masterpiece came and passed. In calling for a greater society, Dr. King knew that the key was basing it on justice and righteousness.
Needless to say, the idea of building a society on justice and righteousness was not new and even the Israelites had the same problems. The prophet Malachi, dealing with the unrighteousness and injustice of his time said, “You have wearied the LORD with your words. ‘How have we wearied him?’ you ask. By saying, ‘All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them’ or ‘Where is the God of justice?’” The people of Israel had set their own standards for righteousness and they were not close to God’s standards. They denigrated marriage. They lived as if God had no impact on their life and as if God had no right to have an impact on their life. They celebrated those who did evil and looked down upon those who sought to follow God. Parents and children were at odds and children, instead of being a blessing were seen as an inconvenience. A society built on righteousness and justice cannot continue without those two foundations. Righteousness applies to the individuals: people must be righteous or live in a right relationship with God. If the people stray from God, the society falls apart. Justice is how we deal with others. Are people treated fairly or is favor given to the ruling class, or the rich, or some other group based on social status. In Israel, people had abandoned their call to righteousness and exalted those who were evil in God’s eyes. Then, they wondered why there was no justice in the land. I would think it was obvious.
As I wrote that list of what Israel had done, so much of it seemed to match with society today. Some of that list may have been an interpretation of the words of Malachi based on how we live now, but for the most part I just re-worded what Malachi said. In our world today we need a renewed call to righteousness and justice. For me to be righteous, I first need to experience God’s mercy because I can’t be righteous in my own deeds. Once I have God’s mercy, I am called to live by God’s word and with a righteousness that only comes from God. In that righteousness, I need to treat others with justice. God’s justice is tempered with mercy, no doubt, and so should my sense of justice. Do I treat others better or worse because of their social status? If so, that is not justice. The American belief of justice is that justice is blind. People should not be treated differently because of their social status, economic status, ethnic status or any other kind of status. If justice is to begin with me, I need to remember that and treat all people impartially. You may have seen the “No Justice, No Peace shirts” with “no” including the letters to make it spell “Know” in different colors. We should add before that “No Righteousness” because without righteousness there would be no justice. Truly today let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. Let it begin in your own life.