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Sacred Justice

God is just and merciful. When his children are compassionate and help others in need, they reflect his character and show his love.

Justice has always been central to God’s character and design for the world. The God we read about in the Old Testament isn’t a different God than the one we follow today. But some people (wrongly) claim that in the oldest stories of the Bible, God was vengeful, angry, and mean. But God doesn't change. He is kind, merciful, caring, and just. He has always been that way.

And he calls his followers to be the same.

Justice has at least three different contexts. The first is legal. When someone breaks a law, we want the guilty party brought to justice and we want the victim to receive justice.

The second is cultural. When someone is treated unfairly or unkindly — even if no official laws were broken (like when someone is mocked or made fun of), we want the situation to be made right.

The third is spiritual. When God’s laws are broken and his plans are rejected, there are consequences.

When humanity first sinned and was expelled from Eden, that was justice. They broke a law and there was a consequence. That was just and fair. But there was also mercy. God didn’t just obliterate humanity — which would have been fair. Instead he gave them a second chance. He even clothed them so they wouldn’t be overwhelmed with shame.

Followers of Jesus are called to be agents of justice. We don’t do that by simply telling others how to be just or by merely talking about justice. We do that by being and living justly ourselves — by acting fairly, responsibly, and with integrity. We are also called to be agents of mercy and compassion. That means showing love and care to those who’ve been hurt or harmed by injustice, unfairness, or unkindness.

Followers of Jesus are called to pursue and show justice in ways that aren’t angry, hurtful, destructive, or hateful. If justice flows out of selfishness or anger, can it really be from the Lord?

There are lots of important conversations today about big topics of justice. But here we are focusing on sacred justice that means showing love, compassion, and mercy whenever and wherever it’s needed in the familiar and unflashy moments of everyday life.

It also means doing these things in a quiet and selfless way. Jesus said his followers shouldn't brag about their good works. They shouldn't care about getting noticed for their acts of kindness and mercy.

Take a few minutes to think about the difference between being an advocate​ of justice and mercy (someone who talks or writes about it) and an agent​ of justice and mercy (someone who lives it and does it).

Some people prefer advocacy because it's not as costly. It often stops with words. But Jesus called out people who worshipped him with just their words and not also their hearts, minds, and actions. He says no to that. He says his followers must live, be, and do.

Warm-Up

Begin with a conversation starter,​ then use some of these warm-up questions.

  • How would you define justice? How would you define mercy? How would you define compassion?
  • How do justice and mercy fit together?
  • What do you think “sacred justice” means? Is it the same or related to other kinds of justice? Are there different kinds of justice?
  • Have you seen or experienced injustice at your school or workplace? How did you respond?
  • If “sacred justice” means showing compassion, kindness, help, and encouragement to everyone who needs it, how would you rank yourself as someone who displays sacred justice (1 is lowest, 10 is highest)?
  • How would you describe the difference between being an ADVOCATE and an AGENT of justice and mercy?

Read & Reflect

Use one or more of these passages to see what Scripture says about sacred justice. You can also engage with the passage by copying out part of it, rewriting it as a prayer, rephrasing it as its opposite, summarizing it with a single word or phrase, making a list or chart of similar and dissimilar things, or turning it into something visual like a doodle, design, or flowchart.

Jesus' Example

Read Mark 10:13-15 (Jesus welcomes children), Mark 10:46-52 (Jesus heals a blind man), Mark 1:40-45 (Jesus heals a man with leprosy), or Mark 5:25-34 (Jesus heals a bleeding woman).

  • What kinds of injustices had the blind man, bleeding woman, man with leprosy, and children experienced up to this point?
  • What might those same kinds of injustices look like today in your school or community?
  • Compare Jesus’ response to the disciples’ and/or the crowd’s. What things about Jesus’ response and actions do you think we should imitate?
  • How do you think the main character(s) felt about the way Jesus spoke to them and treated them? Why do you think that?
  • Have you ever experienced something like that? How did that impact you?

Positive and Negative Example

Read Luke 10:30-37 (parable of the good Samaritan).

  • Read the verses before the story, 25-29, which is about the greatest commandment. How does the story show the Samaritan loving with his whole heart, soul, mind, and strength?
  • Describe each of the people who passed by without helping. What do you notice? What seems important about that?
  • How did the Samaritan show sacred justice?
  • How did the Samaritan show mercy and kindness?
  • The hero of the story (a Samaritan) would have been looked down on by God's people in that culture. Why do you think Jesus told the story with a Samaritan showing sacred justice to a Jewish person rather than the other way around?
  • Rank the un-models in this story (robbers, priest, Levite = temple worker) from worst to “best” — why do you think that?
  • About this parable, Martin Luther King Jr. said something like this:
“I imagine that the first question the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man what will happen to me?’ But by the very nature of his concern, the Good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop and help this man, what will happen to him?’” (MLK Jr. excerpt from Dr. King’s “I’ve Been on a Mountaintop" speech)
  • How can we be agents of mercy and justice in our daily lives at home, at school, in our neighborhoods?

Teaching Passage

Read Micah 6:6-8 and Isaiah 1:17.

  • Does it surprise you that these verses are from the Old Testament, before Jesus lived on earth? Why or not?
  • Read James 1:26-27 to see how unchanging God’s character is. What does James add? What do you think that’s all about?
  • What is God’s idea of justice based on these verses? What are his instructions to his followers and children?
  • If you don’t personally know a widow or an orphan or someone living in poverty, what are other ways you can show sacred justice?
  • We’re saved because of what Jesus did, not because of what we do. But in these verses, God is telling us to do things. What do you think about that?
  • How do sacred justice and humble service sometimes relate to each other?
  • Are there any other marks of a disciple you've learned about that overlap with sacred justice? In what way?

Some Ideas About How to Show Sacred Justice

  • What’s something in your school or community that breaks your heart? Think about specific individual people, not just a group of people. How can you begin to show compassion, mercy, kindness, help, or encouragement to them (in other words, be an agent of God’s justice)?
  • Find an organization in your community that could use hands-on practical help — maybe helping fill shelves at a food pantry, or volunteering at a nonprofit that helps others, or helping a neighbor in a way that moves beyond humble service to include sacred mercy and justice. Then do it.
  • These global charities (among others) provide information about injustice and need, and provide practical ways to help:
  1. International Justice Mission
  2. Compassion International
  3. World Vision

 

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Capernaum Version

More verses about sacred justice

“Do not twist justice in legal matters by favoring the poor or being partial to the rich and powerful. Always judge people fairly.” (Leviticus 19:15)

For the word of the LORD holds true, and we can trust everything he does. He loves whatever is just and good; the unfailing love of the LORD fills the earth. (Psalm 33:5)

Turn from evil and do good, and you will live in the land forever. For the LORD loves justice, and he will never abandon the godly. (Psalm 36:27-28)

Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people. (Psalm 82:3-4)

There is joy for those who deal justly with others and always do what is right. (Psalm 106:3)

Justice is a joy to the godly, but it terrifies evildoers. (Proverbs 21:15)

The godly care about the rights of the poor; the wicked don’t care at all. (Proverbs 29:7)

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. (Isaiah 1:17)

“Listen to me, my people. Hear me, Israel, for my law will be proclaimed, and my justice will become a light to the nations. My mercy and justice are coming soon. My salvation is on the way. My strong arm will bring justice to the nations.” (Isaiah 51:4-5)

“For I, the LORD, love justice. I hate robbery and wrongdoing. I will faithfully reward my people for their suffering and make an everlasting covenant with them.” (Isaiah 61:8)

So now, come back to your God. Act with love and justice, and always depend on him. (Hosea 12:6)

“I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living. (Amos 5:21-24)

(These verses from Amos are not saying that all religious festivals and gatherings and music are evil. Rather they say the God is displeased with people who claim to follow and love him but instead live selfishly and ignore the needs of those around them.)

O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. (James 1:27)

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2103 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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