I was first drawn to Tim Keller at the Lausanne Congress in Cape Town last October. That day we focused on Priorities. Tim Keller spoke at the plenary session on “God’s Global Urban Mission” speaking of the priority we need to place in building up the cities as they way to reach the next generation. It spoke to a passion of my own heart. He said, “History began in a garden…and it will end in a city.” You can see the video here.
So, I recently picked up a copy of his latest book, “Generous Justice.” I was finally able to read it last week while on an airplane. I have been challenged in new ways.
In the book he defines what justice is, especially when we live in a society that is deeply divided over what they think the definition of justice really is. His book is described as one that “explores a life of justice empowered by an experience of grace.”
There are two words in Hebrew that mean justice- mishpat and tzadeqah. The first is basically to rectify justice, which means punishing wrongdoers and caring for victims of unjust treatment. However, the second means simply, “being righteous”- that is being right with God and therefore committed to putting right all other relationships in life. Being righteous is not just about personal morality. This is a behavior that, if it was prevalent in the world, would render rectifying justice unnecessary because everyone would be living in right relationship to everyone else (pg. 10-11).
Justice is a lot simpler than changing laws and marching on Washington in protest. It simply means loving your neighbor, reaching to a world in need, particularly the poor. It means going beyond that which is comfortable in your nice Christian country club and reaching out across realms of society, class, and race.
If you don’t want to be challenged, don’t read the book. But, if you’re looking for a more complete understanding of justice the way the Old Testament defined it and Jesus lived it, check it out. Our own motivation for caring for the poor and disadvantaged is made clear as we embrace the beauty of our Lord, and the inherent beauty of his creation. . As we champion beside others who are sacrificing their own lives for the poor even though they may not share our faith we make known the Biblical roots of our passion for justice (without being judgmental) and conversations happen…and societies change.
We see God in the face of the poor.