Seeking Justice: Perseverance and Redemptive Hope
What is the hope of redemption and what role does it have in promoting perseverance in the work of seeking justice. The hope of redemption is simply this: that God will make all things right! That as far as the curse of the fall has extended, the work of redemption will exceed.
‘Virtually all of the basic words describing salvation in the bible imply a return to an originally good state or situation. To redeem is to buy back, in effect to liberate or return to a lost freedom. To renew is to make new again. Reconciliation is a restoration of a broken relationship and a return to a mended one. Regeneration is a return to life after being dead. Even the word salvation carries the idea of a return to health after a time of sickness.’ — Albert Wolters (in Creation Regained)
Looking at Wolters’ statement we learn that in all these cases, the purpose of grace is to remove, and draw out the cancer of sin that once devastated and corrupted the originally good creation; beginning first in the heart of humanity, where the core sin of injustice was located, but finally in the entirety of the created order. This is further supported by other passages such as Romans 8:20–21 where Paul ties the liberation of creation from the bondage of corruption to the redemption of humanity. And also in Colossians 1:20 where Paul says that God, through Jesus Christ, will reconcile all things to himself, whether on earth or in heaven.
Here we see a vital redemptive touchstone for seeking justice: if sin brought about injustice, then redemption will be the removal of injustice, and the establishing of right order. When we stop and look at the grand scheme of cosmic redemption, a key component then is the breakdown of all forms of injustice. We easily see this on a personal level, where as redeemed in Christ, through sanctification in the spirit, Christians move away from a heart that seeks to sacrifice others for the sake of their own advancement to now sacrificing themselves for the sake of others. However, this then must be visible on the systemic level; where Christians not only speak up for the victims of any and all forms of injustice (victims of the sins of others) but speak against oppressors and perpetrators of injustice (thus speaking against the sins of perpetrators) — addressing structures that perpetuate these injustices.
One of the challenges to the Christianity that is often raised is; if God exists why does he let so much injustice persist? Ethnic cleansing, rape, murder, slavery, domestic abuse, and the list just goes on. And the huge amount of perpetrators get away with it. How can your God be just if this is the case? And the answer is that no one gets away with it! Throughout the bible (e.g. Matthew 25) we are told that in the end all wrongs will be righted, and that the wicked will be punished for their evil. Which means that Hitler (when he committed suicide in an attempt to escape justice) never got away with it!
In Ecclesiastes 3:16–17 Solomon asserts that in the place of justice he found wickedness, and in the place of righteousness he found wickedness. In the areas where justice is meant to abound, due to sin, injustice did. Isn’t this a self-evident truth? That at every point of the ‘justice’ ladder you’ll find corruption. For example, think of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Judge (Mark Ciavarella) who was jailed for 28 years for sending children to a detention centre in exchange for money. Where justice was meant to abound instead, due to greed, injustice did. Solomon shows us that under the sun there is no place where we can look to for final and certain justice and righteousness. This is why the final judgment gives us hope in the seeking of justice; we know it will certainly all come true. This transforms our present pursuit of justice. You might say ‘well if final judgment is inevitable, why bother with the work now? Isn’t this the mentality that has made so many Christians sit back and do nothing?’ The answer is a resolute no!
Firstly, Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, after speaking about the resurrection of Christ, the hope that it brings for the Christian, and then the future resurrection it secures for God’s people, ends the chapter (in vs58) by encouraging the Corinthians when he says ‘therefore your labour is not in vain.’ Because of the resurrection, any and everything we do for the Lord is not in vain. It is far from pointless, far from wasted, far from useless. Secondly, in Revelation 21, when John speaks of the heavenly city, the new heavens and the new earth, he says something mind blowing: ‘And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it… And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.’ (vs. 24, 26) When Jesus returns to restore the created order completely and finally, he doesn’t blow up creation and start all over again, he expunges the sin for the present creation and elevates the goodness of creation to a state of permanent glory. This means that any goodness, any righteousness, and holiness present in the created order right now will pass through into the new heavens and new earth and remain forever. The honour and the glory of the nations are brought into the New Heavens and the New Earth.
The hope of final redemption tells us that any good we do on this earth, any righteousness that is established on this earth, will pass through and remain forever. At this point it is clear to see that human action is not in vain and is a part of the redemptive story of God. This is fuel for persevering in the work of seeking justice in this world. It is not in vain, and it will not be undone but pass into glory.