WHAT DOES THE LORD REQUIRE?
AN INTRODUCTION TO JUSTICE MINISTRY
Faithfulness, Mercy, & Justice
Scripture References: Micah 6:8; Matthew 23:23
Micah 6:8 provides a clear list of requirements for God’s people: to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. A similar list is found in the Christian gospel of Matthew 23: 23, where Jesus declares that the "weightier matters of the law" are "justice, mercy, and faithfulness." How well are our congregations living out God's call to faithfulness, mercy, and justice?
An Example From Scripture
Scripture Reference: Nehemiah 5
The fifth chapter of Nehemiah is a great example of God’s people organizing in large numbers to do justice. Nehemiah, Cup-bearer to the King of Persia, goes to Jerusalem to restore its identity by rebuilding the wall around the city. During construction, there is an outcry among the people. There has been a drought in the land and the people of Jerusalem have been forced to take out loans to buy food and pay taxes. As the drought continued, the moneylenders took everything: the people's fields, vineyards, orchards, and even their children.
The City of God
Scripture References: Deuteronomy 6; 7:7-11; 10:12-11:28; 15:1-17; 16:18-20; 17:14-20; and 18:15-19
In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses provides the Hebrew people with a vision for God’s kingdom that extends far beyond our individual actions and narrow religious observance. In preparation for the Promised Land, God prescribes the creation of a nation where public leaders are led by justice and economic systems that regularly erase debts and ensure care for the vulnerable.
The Prophetic Call to Do Justice
Scripture References: Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Ezekiel 22; Amos 5: 21-24; 8: 4-8; Isaiah 61; Jeremiah: 22:13-17
Like the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. expected faithful action from the church on the issues of injustice facing the world, and he lovingly criticized the church when it failed to fulfill this obligation. In his book, Strength to Love, Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote the following: "The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority."
Redeeming the Systems
Scripture References: Colossians 1:16-17; Acts 3:21
BOLD Justice includes congregations from the Christian and Unitarian Universalist traditions, and is actively recruiting congregations from the Jewish and Muslim traditions. While not all members of the BOLD Justice organization hold the Christian New Testament as inspired scripture, we can all learn valuable lessons about justice and God’s concern for the world from this text. The following stories from the Gospels show Jesus’ deep compassion for all people and his concern for matters of justice:
- Matthew 5-7 (The Sermon on the Mount)
- Matthew 23:1-36 (Woe to the Scribes and Pharisees)
- Mark 11:15-19 (Jesus Drives the Money-Changers out of the Temple)
- Luke 15 (The Parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son)
The Difference Between Mercy and Justice
Scripture References: Entire book of Exodus with particular emphasis on the following: 1:8-16; 5:1; 6:1; 12:41; Luke 10:25-37
We discussed the difference between mercy and justice in the introduction: mercy helps individuals, while justice holds systems accountable. Perhaps two well known Bible stories can further clarify the distinction. In Luke 10, Jesus shares the parable of the Good Samaritan. This story gives us some clues about assisting individuals in need. First, we notice that it is the unlikely Samaritan – not a religious leader – who stops and helps out the man who was left for dead on the side of the road. Second, we learn that the Samaritan does not hesitate and is quite generous toward the man in his time of need. He not only bandages the man’s wounds, but also pays his expenses while he recuperates at a nearby inn.
To Love Your Neighbor as Yourself: an Interfaith Perspective on the Great Commandment
Christian References: Mark 12: 28-34; Matthew 19:19, 22:39, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14, James 2:8
Jewish References: Leviticus 19: 17 and 18, Leviticus 19: 33 and 34, Talmud, Shabbat 31a, Tobit 4:15 Islamic References: Number 13 of Imam "Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths"
BOLD Justice includes congregations from different faith traditions working together to do justice. All major faith traditions share a crucial common message known by many as the Great Commandment. Jesus echoes word-for-word the same message found in the Jewish scripture: "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." In the Koran, we find the same simple sentiment: "None of you truly believes unless you love for your bother what you love for yourself."