Spiritual Growth Objective

Grow in using our gifts to do justice that glorifies God and promotes the flourishing of our neighbors. 

Introduction to Justice

Justice is a major theme in the Bible. God’s justice includes all that he does to bring right relationships and right order to his creation. Therefore, spiritual formation in Christ necessarily aims at transforming us to think and act with justice as we join in God’s mission to establish righteousness in the world. Why is justice so important for spiritual growth?

God’s righteous character is the source and standard of justice for humanity. God is just, and all of his works in creation and salvation express his justice in the right ordering of relationships (Deut. 32:4). God loves righteousness and justice (Ps. 99:4; Jer. 9:23-24; Isa. 5:16). Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne (Ps. 89:14; 97:2; 33:4-5), i.e., the foundation of his rule over all things, and so God always does justice (Deut. 10:17-78; Ps. 103:6; 146:7-9). God’s justice is both corrective and constructive. Because he is just, he corrects injustice with judgment, often to defend victims of injustice as well as to restrain the evil of those who do wrong (Ps. 7:8-17; 9:3-8; Ezek. 34:17-22). But God also expresses his justice in positive, constructive work to establish right relationships so that people flourishing in peace and harmony with God, with each other, and with the rest of creation (Isa. 42:1-4; Ezek. 34:15-16). Therefore, God requires human beings made in his image to do justice in the same ways in order to reflect and embody his righteous character in all that we do (Gen. 18:19; Deut. 16:18-20; Jer. 22:3; Amos 5:24; Micah 6:8; Matt. 23:23).

Sin produces injustice in all human relationships and groups. Sin corrupts all of humanity’s relationships and introduces injustice into every realm of human life (Isa. 59:1-8, 14-15), both individual and corporate/social. Injustice not only occurs when we violate God’s commands and reject a right relationship with our Creator but also when we violate the dignity of other people and reject right relationships with fellow human beings. God is especially concerned when people act unjustly by using their power within institutions and social systems to harm people who are weak and vulnerable to exploitation and abuse (Isa. 1:21-31; Jer. 5:28; Prov. 17:23; Eccl. 3:16; 5:8; Amos 5:1-17).

Spiritual growth renews our soul and reorders our relationships according to the justice of God’s kingdom. One major goal of Jesus’ saving mission is transforming people in order to establish justice and righteousness in all human relationships and work in the world (Ps. 72; Isa. 42:1-9; 61:1-9; Jer. 23:1-6; Luke 4:16-20). When God redeems sinful people, he gives us the gift of righteousness so that we are both justified (declared not guilty) and also gradually transformed to act with justice and righteousness (Romans 3-6). And this transformation not only renews individuals but also every dimension of human social life. The people of God provide a truly counter-cultural witness of God’s justice when the powerful use their power to judge fairly and to protect and support the flourishing of the weak and vulnerable (Deut. 10:18-19; 24:17-19; Prov. 31:8-9; Isa. 1:17, 27; Amos 5:24; Micah 6:8; Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37; 6:1-7).

Resources for Study

Bible study guides Bob and Carol Hunter, Loving Justice (IVP, 2004). This 12-lesson study covers important biblical texts about God’s values for human relationships and about the practice of loving our neighbors and caring for the poor and vulnerable with justice and mercy. Abraham George and Nikki Toyama-Szeto, God of Justice (IVP, 2015). This twelve-session study from the IJM Global Justice Institute covers the biblical narrative of justice throughout the whole of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation with short commentary, discussion questions, and exercises for application. Articles & videos Justice (6 min.)
This short video illustrates powerfully and creatively how God intended humanity to live according to his righteousness and justice in right relationships, how sin produces injustice in all human relationships, and how God's work in Jesus Christ restores justice in our relationships with God and others. Thabiti Anyabwile, "What Do We Mean When We Talk about 'Justice'?" Thabiti Anyabwile, "Justice in All Its Parts" (part 1) Thabiti Anyabwile, "Justice in All Its Parts" (part 2) Thabiti Anyabwile, "Wisdom to Live Justly" (wisdom literature) Thabiti Anyabwile, "Justice as Worship in the Prophets" Thabiti Anyabwile, "The Gospel Combines All Aspects of Justice" This collection of short articles outlines distinguish different dimensions of the biblical teaching about justice and show their roots in both Old and New Testaments. Timothy Keller, “Justice in the Bible" A good introduction to some key features of a biblical view of justice (including generosity, equality, advocacy, responsibility) and guidelines for the church’s practice of justice in the modern world. The Pursuit of Biblical Justice This collection of short articles and videos from The Gospel Coalition explains the biblical and theological foundations of a Christian view of justice and offers principles and examples for guiding the Christian practice of justice in the modern world. Mike Farley, “Justice in the Old Testament" Mike Farley, “Justice in the New Testament" Mike Farley, “Justice: Theological Foundations" These outlines from a class on justice at Central Presbyterian Church cover some important biblical and theological foundations for doing justice. Books Timothy Keller, Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just (Dutton, 2010). This short book is probably the best available book-length introduction to the Bible’s teaching on justice along with practical guidance and inspiring stories of Christians doing justice in the modern world. Bethany Hoang and Kristen Johnson, The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance (Baker, 2016). A great Genesis-to-Revelation survey of the Bible’s teaching on justice with amazing stories of Christians doing justice through the word of the Christian organization International Justice Mission. Brian Matz, Introducing Protestant Social Ethics: Foundations in Scripture, History, and Practice (Baker, 2017). This is a wonderful basic introduction to social ethics that builds on a survey of biblical teaching and church history to outline key principles for understanding the foundational ethical principles that should guide the way we think about social order: human dignity, the common good, justice, solidarity, and subsidiarity.

Action Steps

1. Check your understanding.

  • What is the biblical concept of justice?
  • Why is justice important for spiritual growth and formation?
2. Study one or more of the other recommended resources above ( Generous Justice by Tim Keller is a great place to start).
  • Why is justice so important to God and so frequently discussed in the Bible?
  • What are key biblical texts for understanding justice in the Bible?
  • How does doing justice relate to the gospel and mission of the kingdom of God?
  • How are injustice and justice displayed in both individuals and in corporate/social systems and institutions?
3. Get informed and make a plan to get involved in promoting and pursuing justice in some sphere of your life.
  • In your sphere of family and friendships or in the neighborhoods where you live, work, or play, where has God brought you near to people who are vulnerable to exploitation or other injustice? How might you use whatever resources God has given you to become a means of helping seek justice for them?
  • If you work within an institution of some sort (e.g., a company, a non-profit organization, etc.), are you aware of policies or practices that might be harming people, whether intentionally or unintentionally?
  • In that place or institution, how could you use your vocational position, relationships, training, and resources to be an advocate for people who are vulnerable, mistreated, or unfairly excluded?
  • How might your institution use its resources and relationships to be an advocate for the poor and vulnerable within our broader city, region, nation, and world?
  • Where is there injustice in your city, state, or beyond? How can you work with others in your church and other organizations to educate and advocate for justice?