Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Honor of Humanity Part 7 - Righteousness (Justice)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on his apologetics series on The Honor of Humanity Part 7 on 17th September 2006

No human culture and philosophy has brought humanity to the height of dignity as the Bible does. This is because all cultures and philosophies are men’s attempt to seek to understand who they are, but the Scripture is the revelation of God the Creator to us. The God who creates us surely know and understand who we are. Indeed we can only find ourselves in the revelation of God.

Romans 1:19-20 says that through the creation of heaven and earth, we know God’s power and eternity deep inside of our heart. So the existence of God is not something we are trying to prove. It becomes our knowledge because God is in the center and He has revealed to us. The creation of all things is the external witness of His existence. The conscience in our hearts is the internal witness of His existence. By this general revelation, we do not know who God is, but at least we know that He exists.

God’s wrath is upon the unrighteous who suppress the truth in their hearts.

When God made man in His image, He has given us His demand of righteousness. The function of righteousness is expressed in law. This is another aspect of humanity. Wherever there is human society, there will be legal system and constitution. The existence of lawyers, judges and constitution means human beings are honorable so our lives are precious.

The judges are supposed to serve the law. But many judges can be bought by money. So many law systems become a place for evil deeds. When we talk about the holiness of God, we refer more towards our individual ethics before God. But the matter of righteousness concerns our social responsibility. This demand for righteousness is something God has placed inside of us.

Righteous demand is not initially the result of education but it is something we instinctively have. We can see examples of this in our daily lives. Babies do not care how beautiful or rich their parents are, they stick to their parents. But it matters to them that their parents are fair. It is difficult for children to forgive their parents when they are treated unfairly. A lot of family tragedies have come about because of unrighteous treatment in the family.

Jacob had 12 sons but loved only one child, Joseph. This child who was especially loved became an enemy to all the brothers. The most beloved became the one who suffered the most. When Jacob finally saw his son again, he was already very old and had lived many years of his life with the grief thinking Joseph was dead.

Unfairness is against humanity. We grieve when our parents are unfair. We are angry when our teachers are not fair. When we become adults, we are angry with unfairness in society. This is because we have a demand of justice in our hearts. This can become something frightening. Revolution comes about by extreme demand of justice by the masses. Often times many people are killed in the process.

But very often our demand for justice comes from selfishness. When we review our lives, we realize that we often do not care when injustices happen to others because we feel that this social injustice has nothing to do with us. But we immediately respond when the injustice happens to us and attempt to solve the injustice, presuming ourselves to be the savior of the unjust society. We fight for our own purposes and in the end only want to benefit ourselves. This frequently happens to leaders who come in the name of correcting social injustice. Therefore we respond to the demand of justice in our heart in a very unjust way.

The demand for justice can even result in equality of poverty rather than equality in wealth, as is the case of communism.

In developed countries, many people do not want to work menial work and people in third world countries come in to work and are paid cheaply. If these people do not work, there will be other poorer people who will be willing to work for such cheap wages. Many illegal immigrants come to more developed countries for these reasons.

Many people say that Chinese have greater savings and people are getting prosperous. But behind all these sweet words, China is also a country with most poor and there is a huge and growing gap between the rich and the poor. This is another expression of injustice.

So is it a goal that is unachievable? What we have to acknowledge is that it is a very difficult problem to solve. But the Bible does demand that we care about the injustices that happen in our society and the rest of the world.

Since we are made in the image of God, what would we do regarding the demand of justice? How should we solve the problems of injustices?

In all generations, there are theologians who work hard to write social laws. Kingsley said Christians should not numb themselves in church on Sundays and keep sinning the rest of other days. The purpose of his book is to remind the Christians of their responsibility to the society before God.

Social injustice is a very difficult problem to solve. And we often want to solve these problems by our own unrighteous motives.

In Greek mythology, the goddess of justice must be blind. She must not care who she is judging so that she can execute justly. This is a very profound concept. But today we see that very often the law is the platform for the greatest injustice.

The first time the word ‘just’ appears in the Bible is from the mouth of Abraham. Abraham believes that God is just. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he responded to God when God told Abraham about the upcoming judgment to Sodom and Gomorrah, “Shall not the Judge of the world do right?” Such concept that integrates a Personal God with the essence of Justice does not exist in other philosophies and religion.

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses said that God is a just God. This is a marked difference between real God and false god. This is also a mark of difference between a person who is true to God and a person who is not true to God. Righteous men express the image of God in their righteousness.

When the Bible uses the word “justice” there are at least 5 aspects. If a person displays righteousness these five areas, he can be called a righteous person.

1. A person who lives with integrity and does not use deceitful means to deceive others.
2. A person who is just and fair towards all, whether to the rich or to the poor, whether to the good or to the bad.
3. A person who loves the truth, defends the truth and lives by the principles of truth.
4. A person who has a clean heart and holy conscience to solve problems. Holiness becomes the essence of righteousness.
5. A person who does not compromise with evil, maintains the spirit to fight to the end against what is wrong.

Do we behave like the sinners of the world? We behave like the world when we are deceitful and irresponsible, when we try to achieve our goals with deceitful means, when we treat people with bias, when we are fearful towards people and compromise with sin, and when we ourselves are involved in sinful actions, whether our mind, heart or body. When we live this way, we are not righteous people.

We are human beings. We are honorable because we have been made in the image of God. As God is just, He has put the essence and demand of justice and the potential of righteousness in our heart. Other than submitting ourselves as a tool of righteousness, we also need to influence the rest of humanity so that there will be more righteous people.

When we have greater knowledge, greater riches, better opportunities than others, we should share with others and make ourselves useful to the society. This will become another expression of righteousness.


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