Justice and Advent
As I reflect on justice for this Advent season, I often go back to this larger idea of God’s original intention and motivation in the act of creation. What God created, He called good. Humanity was part of that creation. We were meant to reflect God to the world. We were those images of God, mysteriously pointing to and embodying the divine.
Genesis teaches us that God placed us here to work and care for the planet, to steward its biodiversity, and to exist in communion with God and one another. But humanity veered off that trajectory when selfishness, pride, and fear crept in. It’s led to our insatiable drive to accumulate, consume, and waste. In the last five hundred years, this has led to all sorts of problems.
Humanity can’t seem to divest from the systems that perpetuate violence, oppression, consumption, and wastefulness. And when we look at the larger world, the benefactors of those systems enjoy privilege and access and power, while the rest suffer under the weight of those systems and fight for the scraps that remain.
Scriptural Context and Jesus’ Kingdom
Throughout the Bible, we see a call to caring for and stewarding the planet. There is this larger sense that this wide creation and the entire cosmos, is God’s and that we are recipients of a special, divine grace. We see these threads in the story of Adam and Eve in the garden, or God’s command to the Israelites to care for the land and love the stranger, or God’s redeeming love and restoration to an exiled people in Babylon while an over-worked and abused Canaan finally receives seven decades to rest.
This larger concept of justice then culminates in the person and work of Jesus. He is God enfleshed, embodying His very creation, and showing us the truer, better kingdom that we now can partake in. He shows us that violence begets violence and hate perpetuates hate, and takes on the worst of human oppression to the point of death and crucifixion.
Jesus then shows us that all those things that keep the world broken, have no power or agency in His inaugurated kingdom. His resurrection reveals that evil cannot conquer good, that hate cannot bury love, and that the truest and deepest parts of God’s good creation turns that evil and hate on its head.
What Jesus then inaugurates, He calls us forward into. Justice is all about joining Jesus in revealing new creation possibilities. The future hope of new heavens, new earth, and new humanity, are drawn into the messy brokenness and flawed systems we know of today.
The Implications of Justice
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”Micah 6:8 NRSV
One those threads I mentioned earlier are seen in the prophet Micah’s words. When you hear Micah’s words in the larger scriptural story, you begin to see that:
Justice helps us see the wider and deeper connections between the soil, the sea, and our souls. Our convenience, accumulation, consumption, and wastefulness, are deeply connected to oppression, racism, nationalism, sexism, xenophobia, pollution, and the like.
Justice encourages us to ask the critical questions that connect the dots. It joins Jesus in redeeming and remaking the world. It doesn’t divide or separate or ‘other-ize’, but reveals a new creation and new humanity.
Justice asks us to confront our own privilege and agency, and seek to expand that privilege and agency for those who don’t have the same. It encourages us to listen and learn, even when it’s uncomfortable. It asks us to step outside of our echo chambers and look the “other” in the eye. It asks us to put ourselves in the shoes of the other, and make choices that don’t always benefit us.
Justice joins Jesus in the redeeming and remaking of all things. It gives way to the new reality of loving sacrificially, doling out grace liberally, giving of ourselves generously, and stewarding our planet sustainably. Jesus asks us to sit in the tension of a broken world, and yet imagine and embody new creation possibilities.
Justice moves us to lean on the Holy Spirit. To keep asking, “What’s next,” and “Where are you leading God?” It requires us to open our eyes to the Spirit at work, to live in that constant recognition that God is in the business of redeeming and remaking, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal your place in that story.
The single greatest act of justice was the incarnation of Jesus. God choosing to intersect the course of human history and creation itself, was justice embodied.
As we reflect on Advent, may we follow the Spirit’s lead. May we let the Jesus remind us to love, sacrifice, and embody new creation possibilities. May justice be rooted in our deeper awareness of God redeeming and remaking, and the part that we play in that work.