But you, God of mercy and compassion,
slow to anger, O Lord,
abounding in love and truth,
turn and take pity on me.
– Psalm 86
The Lord has made known his salvation;
has shown his justice to the nations.
Rejoice at the presence of the Lord:
for he comes to rule the earth.
He will rule the world with justice
and the peoples with fairness.
– Psalm 98
The Psalmist says he will rejoice at the presence of the Lord. Why? Because as the Lord rules the earth, he does it with justice: fairness, with deep compassion, love, and truth. This is cause to rejoice! This is cause to respond in worshipful praise and thanksgiving.
This is the kind of justice we’re looking for in our cities and communities. As Christ followers and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are shaped by a biblical image of God who is about faithful, fair, authentic, loving, and compassionate leadership-governance-rulership-exercise of power.
Our exercise of justice (the exercise of governing, leadership power) is now judged faithful or unfaithful in a moral sense because of God’s ways of justice. Our sense of justice is now measured up to God’s sense of justice. This is why how we view social justice has much more to do with the way we image God. How does God govern? How does God rule? How does God bring forth fairness? He rules with tenderness, compassion, truth, love, and fairness. This means that our sense of justice is to be shaped by God’s sense of justice.
My friend Robert is one of the most upstanding men I know. A family man. A committed follower of Jesus. He has shared stories with me of growing up in San Diego and being pulled over by police officers who didn’t rule (justice) in authentic, faithful, and compassionate ways. For no reason (other than being a black man), he’d get pulled over while going to work, or to the beach, or driving back home. Simply because he was black.
Are there good, faithful, authentic, and compassionate cops? Absolutely! There are two retired cops living in my neighborhood who are upstanding!
But even they would tell you that having governing power in the wrong hands is dangerous. And it’s in the particular stories that we find a particular God ruling something just or unjust. And it’s in the particular stories of our friends that we find human unfairness, inauthenticity to exercise power, anger, and prejudice.
We seek God’s justice and pray that God would rule in the hearts of people. We pray for ways to see God in biblical ways: compassionate, faithful, authentically truthful, fair, and abounding in love. And this is why we are to pray for those who have misused their power and have used it unjustly. God will show them mercy and compassion. And this is why you and I are to seek God’s justice for the oppressed and marginalized.
One pastoral note: if we’re having a hard time with justice, we might want to return to the scriptures and read how God judges and rules. God has set the standard. Psalm 86 and 98 make it plain.