Ken Wytsma - Justice Is Central To The Gospel
Ken Wytsma is a Christian author, president of Kilns College and founder of The JUSTICE Conference who spoke at chapel at George Fox University on October 13, 2015. Ken's talk begins at 5:10 in this video.
Well, good morning. I talk loud. Is that loud to you, guys? It's loud to me. It's a pleasure to be with you, the Center for Peace and Justice inviting me. It's a cool thing to have a group or an initiative on campus to try and help you stitch together the different things you're learning into some kind of a holistic world view. So that's a real treat, Rebecca [Hernandez] hosting me, and Bob Harder with the Engineering Department, as well. And we actually have saints in the room today, this morning. Donna Barber is sitting over here. She's one of the few saints walking the earth today. If you don't know Donna, you need to come down and meet her afterwards and try to talk her into mentoring you. And she'll be sure to thank me for that, because of all the time she has.
Anyways I'm excited to be here. We're talking about biblical justice or a theology of justice, and let me just give you a little bit of my story. My interest in justice, or my thinking on justice really began at a young age. My dad is an immigrant, he was an immigrant from Holland. He was born in 1944 during World War II, and his story is a fascinating one with his father, my grandfather, having to hide in the floors from the Nazis who are taking able-bodied men early in the war. Belgium and Holland were some of the first countries to fall in World War II, and the Jewish people had been taken away already, very early in the war. And then later on in '43 and '44, they were taking the men to go work in factories, making bombs, bullets, etc. So you had to hide, if you weren't going to get taken by the Nazis.
And when my grandmother got so pregnant that she couldn't go the 20 miles into the countryside to forage for food, as was what people had to do at that point when food was short, my grandfather had to dress up like a woman and ride a bike along the canals to go out into the countryside to get food. So that was my dad's story, that was what he's born into, and then reconstruction Europe, and what was going on in his world and what shaped him. And then when he immigrated to the United States, him and his two siblings, $20 in my grandfather's pocket, come on the boat. Ellis Island had been closed already, and by this time they were using Hoboken, New Jersey...is where the boats with immigrants came. You get put on a train and they went all the way to Pasadena.
And so that was my dad's story, and the interesting thing about our stories is they often shape, or we end up taking the elements of them and repeating them later in life. And so because my dad had had this experience, that when he was much further along, I was eight years old, it was about 1978, 1979, he came home one day. We lived in the Bay Area, and he said there's going to be a family that's going to come live with us this weekend. And I was eight, I didn't really know what was going on. And what it was, was a family of five that had fled the genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, the Pol Pot regime.
If you've ever seen the movie The Killing Fields or anything like that, it was about 40% of the population of Cambodia being wiped out in a handful of years. And they had fled that, through the land mines and everything to get to Thailand, where there were refugee camps. And my dad, again because of his experience, was willing to take this refugee family in. So they came and lived with us in our house, which was fascinating. They didn't speak any English. The first day the father, Fauy Long, sat down and he wrote out a letter about boys with guns, and people eating people. And there's fascinating stories of them running and trying to keep babies from crying as there were soldiers walking around. And so this was a real shaping experience for me.
They lived in our house for a year and a half, as they learned the English, as I watched my parents walk them through the naturalization process, how to get driver's licenses, eventually how to get their own home. And they're still involved in our life today. Muy Kear, the mother, Mov Song, Sok Im, Sok Im and Muy Kear came and stayed with my parents just a couple of weeks ago. My parents lived down the road from me, which back when I was your age, wouldn't have been cool at all. But I have four daughters, and so now it's actually really cool, it changes. You don't believe me but it will, it will change.
So this family that came into our life, that lived with us became something that shaped me. And so my dad's story shaped him, and that story that I inherited, being in my family, I think when God got a hold of my life at age 22 and I started looking in scripture and seeing all these verses on love or justice, or what it looks like to care for vulnerable or oppressed peoples, it pointed me back to my childhood and my story. And so the justice stuff really became, for me, an essential part of my understanding of the Christian faith from an early part of my faith walk.
And when I went on to grad school and started working at churches, something really fascinating happened. I showed up in these churches and no one wanted me to talk about justice, no one wanted me to talk about love. I mean, do you get how strange that is, when no one wants you to talk about love? Like love, as in loving feelings, maybe, but not love as in loving the 'other,' the people that might be different or think differently than you, right? And I couldn't understand why that was, and so as I began to lean into it, I found that really we're emerging from a hundred-year divide in the Christian church in America, where we had, basically, on one side a liberal strand, and on the other side, a conservative strand, that really were at opposite extremes from much of the 1900s.
With the liberal strand taking love and society and these kinds of things, and the conservative strand taking Jesus, the proclamation of Jesus, or the idea of salvation and evangelism. And that these two things were very separate, and that's what happens when you fight, right? When you fight you go to extremes. If you picture a boxing match, I mean, wouldn't it be crazy if in the middle of a Floyd Mayweather fight, he's fighting Pacquiao, the bell rings. It's between rounds and then two guys come out and put stools right in the middle of the ring, and they sit back to back as their taking their water, right? It just doesn't make sense, it's not the way it happens.
And so when you fight, you tend to go to opposite extremes, and that's what happened in the Christian church for a very long time. And so it began to be on this side, the conservative side, that if you talked about justice stuff, that people were threatened like, "Hey, you sound a little bit like them, and we don't believe like they do," or, "they don't believe like us." And if you argued into that and said, "No, no, no. This is important stuff. This is part of the bible." It would still be treated with suspicion, that it's like, "Hey, you're on a slippery slope, a slippery slope. And if you're not careful, you're going to go off that edge and you're going to fall away from pure doctrine or true doctrine."
It's that whole adage where if you're on a roof and you drop a hammer, you're not supposed to reach for it or grab for it, because the pitch on a roof, if you get your momentum going you'll literally run right off the roof. That's what a slippery slope is, right? And so in this kind of historical divide, you had this interesting thing where Jesus was broken in half, and his heart was on one side and his head was on the other. And so in the '90s, when I was looking at planting a church and trying to think about what God had called me to, I really was passionate about trying to speak to this divide, and to try and help inform what I would call a theology of justice.
And it's a fascinating thing, when we started The JUSTICE Conference it was really about having this deep conversation around justice, that our understanding of God would somehow inform and compel our love for others. That we wouldn't just be kind of hopped up on causes, but that we would understand the heart of God for all people, and that justice if it matters over there, in some really crazy part of the world where horrible things are happening...that if it matters there, then it also matters here, with me and my relationships, with how I treat my kids and my wife, how I respond to the person that cuts me off on the road.
Because if I can't even be at peace with my neighbor here, how do I think that I can talk to the Palestinians or the Israelis and say that somehow you need to make peace with regard to the conflict going on there. And so wanting to take and frame that conversation...and a lot is changed. In the last six years, whether you know it or not, there's been this massive shift in evangelicalism, it's your generation, what the Millennials and what they call the Justice Generation has really helped to change and to shift that.
And I don't know that there's a church today that I'll walk into where we can't talk about justice anymore openly and honestly, and have that received. Six years ago, when we started The JUSTICE Conference, there was actually a board of directors of a national organization that debated whether it could be called The JUSTICE Conference. Does that sound crazy to you? It sounds crazy now, but six years ago it was a part of how that whole tension worked itself out, whether justice was, in some sense, a safe word.
Again, I don't think there's any church you could go to where people aren't going to, unless there's a...any church where you can go to where they're not going to have that conversation and be willing to talk about justice as something that's a good thing, as something that they know that Jesus talked about, as something that they're glad that the people in the church are willing to go do. So this part of, in some sense, the program, getting it on the map or on the grid or okay to talk about, I feel like has happened. I feel like it's done. But there's something really interesting that's going on. As that came about, that age-old tension emerged again, and there's still that strong desire to put a firewall here and to say, "We can talk about justice, but only on the periphery. We have to be very careful that we don't let that justice talk change the way we see the gospel."
In other words, we have to keep the gospel pure. This thing that's the good news of salvation, we need to reduce it to its core, and draw a circle around it, and make sure that that doesn't get infected by something that doesn't belong there. And since Protestants believe, or Christians believe, that we're saved by faith through grace, that it's not by works, it's the grace of God that saves us, then we really want to keep out of this equation of salvation or the gospel...we want to keep out of it this thing called 'works.' This thing called 'works.'
So unfortunately, with the justice conversation is that most people, most Christian leaders naturally relocate it to the category of ethical action. Does that seem logical? I mean, it is logical. Does that seem logical? It's justice. It's doing justice. It's doing justice work. It's ethical action, and ethical action is a form of works, it's a form of doing something. And so if justice is good works or doing something, then we can't let justice into our understanding the gospel, which has to be received completely on faith and by the grace of God, which is very different than this. So there's this strong push-back on justice in the evangelical world, to say, "This far, but no further." Does that makes sense?
What I want to argue, with just the brief time that we have this morning, is I want to argue two things. I want to argue first, that you cannot understand the gospel...so not only does justice belong in our gospel conversation, but you can't even have a logical or informed or sensical conversation, I think, about the gospel without reference to justice categories. And as a part of that, I'm here to disvalue of this believe. I'm here to disvalue of the belief that Jesus died for your sins. Now you know, they brought me here to be a speaker, and they wouldn't have done it if I was a heretic. So you're like, "Okay, I know you don't really mean that." And I don't.
I'm here to disvalue the belief that Jesus died for your sins period, and I'm here to try and argue and replace that with a belief that says Jesus died for your sins comma, with something else we need to add to that sentence. Does that make sense? So Isaiah, chapter 59, if you have a bible you can jump in with me and we'll move through this pretty quickly. Isaiah chapter 59, if we just pick it up in verse 14, this is what we read. "So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance. Truth has stumbled in the streets and honesty cannot enter." I think the first thing we need to do is to find justice. So justice, if you want to put it one way, is simply a right relationship with God, self, others, and creation. Justice is a right relationship with God, self, others, and creation, which is actually the same meaning of righteousness.
Righteousness is a right relationship with God, self, others, and creation. Justice and righteousness are synonyms, which is why they're put here as synonyms in verse 14. "Justice is driven back, righteousness stands at a distance," and that kind of Hebrew parallelism where they restate the same thing just a little bit differently. So one way to understand justice is this right relationship with God, self, others, and creation. Another way to understand it, and I think a really helpful way, is to understand it by analogy with truth, which is what the writer here does. Uses justice and righteousness, and then switches to truth and honesty.
You see, truth is an easy category for us. Truth is what is. Truth is what's real. So in other words, it's the correspondence theory of truth. If you go to get...I have a Masters in Philosophy, so if you went and talk to philosophy, you'd be talking about what's called the correspondence theory of truth. And the correspondence theory of truth simply means truth is what corresponds to what is. Truth is what corresponds what is. Does it matter whether I know it? Does it matter whether I like it? Does nothing about my feelings for truth matter? Truth is what is. So I can pretend I can fly, I can think I can fly, I can believe I can fly. I can tell you that it's true that I can fly. But if I jump off the building, I'm going to learn real quickly that what's true is that I don't fly. You know what I'm saying?
I like to joke about Pluto. When I was a kid growing up, Pluto was a planet. I don't know how many years ago it was, Pluto, do you remember that? It lost its planet status, it was de-planeted. And then I heard recently that it was reinstated, it's out of time-out, you're back in the solar system now. All of our ups and downs and whatever the heck we're calling Pluto, it has never changed the fact that Pluto is what it has always been, and doesn't care what we think about it, right? Truth is this cold, impersonal, umbrella over reality that we're under, okay? It's what called a 'universal concept.' So I think we all get that, with truth.
Justice is similar. Justice is what corresponds to what ought to be. So if truth is what is, justice is what ought to be in the realm of relationship. And so, when God created the world, he made it, he said it was good. Why did he say it was good? Because what came out of his creative act matched his intention for it. If you're cooking something and you're like, "Oh, that's bad." It's because what you are creating came out on the wrong side of what you're intending. If you cook it and you go, "Oh, that's actually, that's good." It's because what you created or what you cooked reflects your desire or your design for what it was you were making.
So God's creating the world. He says, "Yes, that's good, because it glorifies me, it honors me. It reflects my will for that world." And so he says it's good. And he puts Adam and Eve there, and they're interacting and things are according to God's design. So the philosopher, Nicholas Wolterstorff, he's retired out of Yale. He would say that the way we can call this, is primary justice. So primary justice is when it is as it ought to be. Primary justice is when it is as it ought to be. If you look at the love of a mother for a child you're like, that's the way it's supposed to be. That's true, it's right, it's just. Okay?
So when things are broken - so now you get sin the world - it's not the way it's supposed to be. I love this metaphor that you get from C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy. Has anyone read The Space Trilogy? Like six or seven nerd friends of mine, it's phenomenal. And Out of the Silent Planet, it's the first one in Perelandra. The second one...for a long time, it was actually Lewis' favorite book that he had written, Perelandra was, until he wrote the book later in his life Till We Have Faces, which is my favorite book. It's fascinating. But in this Space Trilogy, the first one is this crazy thing set on Mars and the silent planet is Earth, because no light emanates from it because it's fallen, Earth has fallen.
Mars isn't fallen, so the indigenous people on Mars, the people that are native to Mars, they don't understand sin. So this character that Lewis' puts on to Mars is modeled after his friend J.R.R. Tolkien. Maybe you don't know, but J.R.R. Tolkien helped to lead C.S. Lewis to the Lord, or helped him become a Christian. And Tolkien was a linguist. When he got injured in battle one time back in the wars, he sat there and was making up languages for fun as he was convalescing in a hospital bed. Like, Tolkien was crazy. Not only was Tolkien crazy, but people that follow Tolkien are crazy. I went to Wheaton one time around the time The Lord Of The Rings were coming out and there was a whole Elven Club, that they dressed Elven, and walked around campus dressed Elven and they would talk Elven to each other. So not only Tolkien but, anyways...
So this character, Ransom, who is on Mars and he's talking to these people there, he's trying to explain what the deal is with this silent planet, you know, sin. But they don't have a word for it so this character, modeled after Tolkien says, "The people on that planet are bent. They're bent." I love that, I love that description. Like, it's supposed to be this way, and it's actually bent, it's broken in some way. That's sin. So primary justice is when it is as it ought to be. When it's bent or broken however, the efforts we undertake to bring it back into alignment, to bring it back to primary justice, if we're going to call that a very big broad word, we would call that restorative justice. Primary justice as it ought to be, restorative justice, trying to bring it back or reconcile it to its intended state. Does that make sense?
Because most of the justice things we talk about, going and fighting trafficking, or trying to do reconciliation with regard to different racial issues, or working with poverty and saying, "That's not the way it's supposed to be." We're engaging in a broad restorative justice pursuit. Okay? So that's a little bit of definition. So, "Justice is driven back, righteousness stands at a distance, truth has stumbled on the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. Now the Lord looked, and was displeased." Now this is YAHWEH, so you see capital letters in the Old Testament, it's YAHWEH, it's God. God looks, and he's displeased.
Why is he displeased? Because there was no justice. He saw that there was no one. He was appalled that there was no one to intervene. So God let his people out of Egypt, from slavery, helped put them in the promised land. He had allowed judges to come up and bring them back. He'd eventually brought kings and given them the power to try and form a just society. He had given his law, his commands. He even then sent the prophets to speak for him. And after all of this time of saying, look, I care that you love your neighbor, I care that you care about others. And that in doing so, the right kind of society is going to be formed and built up, one that reflects my values. Where there's equity and fairness and goodness, where it's just, right and true.
After all of this talk of justice and my desire for justice, the way I created it to be, there's still no justice. And not only that, after all this time, all these leaders, all these kings, all of it, I can tell you that there's no one, there's no one that's going to come along and be able to intervene, and get you guys sorted out so that you're actually living justly. God was appalled that there was no one to intervene. "So his own arm worked salvation for him." Interesting, it didn't say, "So his own arm worked restorative justice." "So his own arm set it right," "so his own arm brought it back to the way he intended." "So his own arm set it true again and unbent it, made it straight." It says his own arm works salvation for him.
So we find something out about salvation, the purpose of salvation is the restoration of what's broken. Salvation and restorative justice are actually the same animal. Does that make sense? You can't talk about salvation without reference to justice. "So his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him." And then we get some of this messianic prophecies, "He put on righteousness as his breast plate and the helmet of salvation." There it is again, on his head. "He put on the garments of vengeance, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak." So the interesting thing is, I would say to you the incarnation of Jesus Christ is literally the right arm of God breaking into his creation, to fix what has been broken, to make it right again, to work restorative justice.
Now if that's a good working theory, I would ask you this question, this idea of gospel. By the way, we can take religious words and say them a certain way, but gospel just simply means 'good news.' It's the good news of Jesus. The one who was promised, who has now come, the in-breaking of God's right arm. And so Jesus coming, this good news, where do we see good news first talked about in the New Testament? The very first time you ever see the phrase or the idea of good news. Anyone? Angels. Angels go to the shepherds and they say, "We bring you glad tiding of great joy that will be for all the people." And then it talks about peace on earth, good will to men.
So in other words, 'shalom,' which is the Hebrew word for peace, the concept that would have been espoused here. It's different than our English word of peace. Our English word of peace means the absence of conflict. So when someone yells, "I just want some peace and quiet," it means I want the absence of stress or tension or conflict. The Hebrew concept of 'shalom' is the opposite. It accomplishes the absence of what's bad, because it's focused on the presence of what's good. 'Shalom' is like a garden. It's when things are working as it ought to be when it's flourishing. It's now 'shalom.' And so these angels say to these shepherds, they say, "Shalom, peace, shalom on earth, good will to men." In other words, good news has come, because what is broken, what is how it's not supposed to be is about to be made right, the way it's supposed to be. So we see good news, right at the beginning as Jesus breaks in as the incarnation.
Where do we see it next? Jesus goes through and he's going to begin his public ministry and he opens the Isaiah scroll, to Isaiah, I think, 61, and he begins to read and he says, "I have come to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor to bind things up, to heal things, to set the captives free." And then he shuts the scroll and he says, "Now this is happening in your midst. I'm doing this." So God, the right arm of God, the incarnation that's going to bring good news and health and flourishing, make things the way it's supposed to be for the earth now is saying, "I'm proclaiming the year of the Lord's favor, that he's going to shine on you and fix the things that are broken, and put them back the way it's supposed to be."
And then Jesus' example, I think the next instance, where he begins to heal people and do things. So his ministry - not just his teachings - begin to reflect this good news. People are running around and talking about him. Why? Because there's something to talk about that's exciting, there's good news. John the Baptist gets thrown in prison. He's worried about dying and he begins to doubt, and he sends people to go ask Jesus like, "Are you really the guy? Are you really the Messiah? Are you really the one that was promised?" And Jesus doesn't say yes, he says, "Go tell John how the blind are receiving their sight, the sick are being healed."
In other words, there's evidence of things being put back right again. The power of the creator is fixing creation. And then we go forward, and now we get to the cross, and Jesus dies for our sins. He hangs on the cross, his blood pays for our sins. Is it good news? Yes. It's also sad news. But it doesn't stop there. What happens three days later? It's the best news day of the Christian calendar, isn't it? Easter. It's when everyone wears purple, pink. Jesus rises from the dead. There actually - according to Paul - wouldn't have been good news, if Jesus hadn't risen from the dead. In 1st Corinthians 15 it says, "If Jesus doesn't rise from the dead," if he didn't actually bodily rise from the dead, "then we're the most to be pitied of all people, because we're still in our sins and there's no hope of resurrection or salvation."
So the good news, the gospel, the formula can't start and end with Jesus dying for your sins. It includes the resurrection, which is good news. And then it continues, Jesus begins to talk and he says to his disciples, "Wait for the Holy Spirit to come on you in power, and the Holy Spirit is going to enable you to carry forward my ministry, my work of restorative justice, my work of reconciliation." And so you wait for that Holy Spirit, and then Jesus descends into heaven and the angels come and they give more good news. They say, "What are you waiting for? What are you waiting for? The one who left will come again. Now, go wait for the Holy Spirit." And then the Holy Spirit comes and empowers them, all of this good news.
So the gospel, the good news is this story of the in-breaking right arm of God, the incarnation, the second person of trinity, Jesus, however you want to say it, breaking into the world and beginning to do this work of reconciling the world, and carrying that through and then demonstrating with power that this is what is going on, what's promised, and then giving us the commission. So as Paul would say, "God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ Jesus, and has now given us the ministry of reconciliation." Jesus' whole purpose in coming was restorative justice. Salvation is understood in terms of restorative justice, and putting things back right again.
Our work in continuing that legacy forward, is working to put things back the way they ought to be as we both proclaim and act to restore things the way God intended. Let me try and argue real quickly that I'm not just making this up. By the way, we really get hung up on the cross. It's the atonement theory of salvation. And we get hung up on it, and we can begin to get so dialed into that, that that's all we see and we begin to worship it. And we make it an end in itself. And what I'm saying to you is the atonement was not the end of salvation, it was the means of salvation. By the way, the first symbol of the Christian community in the early church, it wasn't the cross. It wasn't till much later that the cross became this dominant symbol for Christianity.
What was the first symbol? What? The fish, the ichthus. Ichthus was just the Greek letters for Jesus Christ, son of God, Savior, that they would kind of do this. But they would cash out the relationality of God and his son in this symbol of the fish, which gives you this whole picture, possibly, of relationship and reconciliation. Over time, probably the late hundreds, and then certainly after the time of Constantine, because Constantine saw the cross in a dream and then he conquered...isn't that funny? He saw the sign of the cross in a dream, and then used that to win the war and proclaim himself emperor, and then therefore that becomes the dominant symbol of the Catholic Church in that era, and all the way down to today. And it's not that the cross is a bad symbol.
If we make it the only symbol, we lose sight of the whole picture of what's going on. So when Jesus died, if the atonement was the whole ball game here, if we're reducing down the gospel to just this circle, not letting anything else in. If the atonement, Jesus dying for our sins is the whole ball game, then when he died something really interesting happened, if you remember. Jesus dies on the cross, the heavens quake, lightning flashes, everything goes crazy. And on the Temple Mount, which is still there today, it's where the Al-Aqsa Mosque is, and right past the Western Wall. So on that Temple Mount, King Herod's Temple, you had the altar here where people would come and bring their sacrifices, blood sacrifices, so that they would be washed, cleaned or atoned. And being made clean, they could come closer to God, have fellowship with God.
And so you had this altar, you came over here, you had the Temple proper, which is the holy place, and then you had the most holy place, where the presence of God or the spirit of God was dwelling with the Ark of the Covenant. And then you had this veil that separated the holy place from the most holy place, because nobody could go in there without losing their life. Impurity can't be with purity, unrighteousness can't be with righteousness. Whatever it is, we can't meet fully with God unless we're made clean. So this is what's going on in Temple Mount.
Now when the heavens quake, the lightning flashed, crazy thing happened...and C.S. Lewis had it right, right? In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, when the table cracked that Aslan was killed on, remember that? So when all this happened, the altar on the Temple Mount, it cracked. Why? Because never again would there need to be a sacrifice. True or false? True or false? Sorry, because I was setting you up. Whoever said true, false. Nothing happened with the altar. If you were standing next to the altar with your phone and you were going to Instagram the big crazy events that were about to happen, nothing would have happened, you wouldn't have gotten a picture. The altar was left untouched.
What really happened? Anyone remember? The veil over here ripped from top to bottom symbolically, as if God was saying the barrier between me and you now has been erased. I have now accomplished reconciliation that you can be with me again, that the relationship is restored. You see, the cross where Jesus died for sins, like the altar, was a means, not the end. If it was the end, then the real business would have been to say, "Let's get away with this altar altogether, never again is it going to be needed." It became completely pointless, once the veil was ripped. So the end, the purpose of atonement, the purpose of sacrifice, the purpose of the cross is pointing to reconciliation, or God's restorative justice act in the person of Jesus Christ.
We cannot understand the gospel fully without reference to justice language. Do you see that? So I think it's incredibly important that we begin to learn how to see what's really going on here in the biblical narrative. That the good news that we're invited into is that God cares about justice, he cares about the goodness of the world, and he cares about it not just for you, but he cares about it for your neighbor. He doesn't just care about it for you and your neighbor, but he cares about it for society, or the other societies that might be out of your community that's healthy, the ones that aren't healthy, or oppressed. And he desires that all people would know the goodness and the joy of creation, as it was intended to be. And Jesus plays the fundamentally important, necessary part in this, and that's why our salvation comes through Christ. But what Christ worked is restorative justice for God's people and we now inherit this ministry of reconciliation.
So when we go forward and we say, "Justice, it's just ethics. It's just good works. It's nice that some people do that. It's a good thing that Shane Claiborne, with dreadlocks or without, lives the way he does. I like that there's people like that out there. But it's not necessary for all of us and not only that, we gotta be really careful that that justice stuff doesn't swallow up our conversation about Jesus." And I'm saying to you this, there's never a time and a place in the history of the world where Jesus existed, and justice wasn't also there. It's the foundation of God's throne, it's the scepter in his hand, it's the reason why Jesus came to be the justice of God. And as he's the justice of God, it's the mandate he left us, that you would go and love others, that whatever you do for the least of these, is as if you do it for him.
And so justice is so woven throughout the person of Jesus Christ, that to try and separate those two things out and to say, "Let's talk about this one now in our good works conversation, but then we'll get to the real conversation where we're talking about Jesus, and his death on the cross, and the forgiveness of our sins," and I'm telling you that's an injury. We have two words we use to create this false dichotomy. We leave justice over here, and we use righteousness - righteousness - to talk about salvation.
And if - I don't have the time - but those two words were actually synonyms. And when we give this whole conversation, the pushback is usually, "It's righteousness that Jesus came for, don't you understand that, Ken? It's not justice. Justice is the other thing." And so I'll leave you with this. My facetious argument - sarcastic argument, is really what it is - what I do sarcastically, when I'm talking to a pastor and they just cannot wrap their mind around the fact that it's justice, not righteousness only that was going on, is I simply say this to them.
I pretend that they've got me. "You've talked to me into it. I think I understand it now. I think I get the gospel, and I think I understand how it's about righteousness. So let me just tell it back to you, and you tell me if I understand." And they're like, "Sweet. Cool. Go ahead." And I say, "So Jesus came so that unjust people could stand next to a just God, as if we're just. Through a process of justification, whereby we're justified in him, and it has to do with righteousness. Am I getting it right?" And then they usually go, "Oh, that language has been there all along, and we didn't really see it." And I'm like, "Exactly."
So we need justice, not just for good works, not just to go to some other country, or to fight trafficking. We need justice to understand our relationship with God, and our calling moving forward. Hey, I appreciate you guys' time. Thank you for having me. I'll be around for a little while. God bless.
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