Poverty, abuse, human trafficking… all forms of injustice stir the heart of God. God’s plan is to set the world right, and we can see His plan in every book of the Bible, from Genesis through Revelation. Tim Stafford traveled to five continents, gathering together over 50 international biblical scholars and activists, in order to bring a global perspective on justice issues for the NIV God’s Justice Bible. It’s a grace to welcome Tim to the farm’s front porch today…
It happened to me in a meeting.
I was helping to plan a new kind of Bible—one that would tell the story of justice.
This Justice Bible would have commentary from 55 writers around the world, many from the global South. As a planning group, we were discussing what form we wanted those writers to use when they set to work.
Some of it came easily.
For example, the writers should write introductions to each book in the Bible, explaining what it had to do with the story of justice.
(Our thesis was that justice is not an occasional scriptural interjection, but the Bible’s backbone—that the whole Bible is devoted to explaining how God sets the world right, doing justice for all his creation.)
One question made us pause. Should we include short articles on key justice issues? For example, sex trafficking, slavery, racial discrimination, bribery?
There seemed a crying need to discuss these issues, but wouldn’t the material soon go out of date?
Were there specific biblical comments to be made on each issue?
For example, does the Bible address female genital mutilation?
What issues should be included—surely there could be hundreds—and what left out?
How could we handle regional issues—for example, caste discrimination that is such a major justice issue in India, but not (at least in that form) in the rest of the world?
When we talked in detail, I felt a rift opening up between what we consider justice issues—specific, horrifying, identifiable phenomena you could sign up to fight—and the Bible itself.
Surely a Justice Bible should address these troubling issues. But it might seem as though we were sticking blog posts into the Bible, with little linkage to the Bible’s text.
Then somebody said it: “This isn’t the Injustice Bible, it’s the Justice Bible.” At that moment, something very important began to make itself clear to me.
I realized that all the issues we were considering described injustice.
Without realizing what we were doing, we left justice behind to talk about violations of justice.
Of course we have to talk about injustices. The Bible is explicit in addressing them.
The condemnation of evil, which is part of the story of justice, requires that we identify what evil consists of. We don’t, however, want to go straight there. The Bible doesn’t. It says far more about justice than injustice.
Justice begins with the Garden God created.
Not only are all its components good, the complete whole is very good. Justice reigns in the garden, because all the good components are in right relationship with each other—male and female, human and animal, humanity and the rest of creation. That is the world God intended — a world of just relations.
When that just world is spoiled by sin, God sets out to restore it. The rest of the Bible is dedicated to telling that story: how God works to set the world right. Through Abraham, through the nation of Israel, through David, through Jesus, ultimately through His followers—through us—God is setting the world right.
That story finds its final vindication in the Last Days—the vision expressed in Isaiah, in the gospels, in Revelation of a gleaming city.
Wars are no more, pain and death are gone, and all ethnicities come together to worship in the light of the Creator God. That is the world of justice realized.
Our tendency to skip this when we say the word “justice”—to go immediately from justice to injustice—undermines the cause of justice.
In many conversations about justice I’ve noticed how often people think of justice in terms of Crime and Punishment.
It’s all about catching the guilty and punishing them. While it’s true that criminal justice is part of justice, it’s a small, dark patch in a large and luminous piece of art.
By going from justice to injustice, we turn justice into a turn-off. It seems to assault people with their failings, rather than appealing to them through their hopes. Only a few people have unlimited energy to contemplate the evils of the world. Few can sustain the energy to battle endlessly against dragons that shape-shift and never seem to stay dead.
Such is the life of the reformer fighting injustice, without a vision of justice.
We are called to fight for Justice.
More, we are called to join a loving God who is fighting for us.
That’s something you can build into a joyful life.
The Bible we were planning, God’s Justice: the Holy Bible, is a reality now. It will change the way you read the Bible.
The world has never been more in need of those understanding and living justice —
More than changing how you read the Bible — reading this Bible could change the world.
Designed to inform and inspire, NIV God’s Justice: The Holy Bible carefully addresses the timeless and universal issues around injustice. Written by a team of international writers who bring a global perspective to these issues, NIV God’s Justice: The Holy Bible is designed to fire readers’ passion for social justice and take positive steps to bring justice issues to light in their own circle of influence. The writers come from every continent, representing organizations such as the International Justice Mission, Compassion, and World Vision. 4 years in the making, God’s Justice represents a new kind of Bible. Not only because of its emphasis on the story of God’s justice, but also because of its truly international character. For two thousand years we have known that God’s kingdom represents members of “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9), but only now has it been possible to gather them to work on a common publication. This is a new and wonderful day.
[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership in today’s devotion ]