The Lord always does right and wants justice done. Everyone who does right will see his face. (Psalm 11:7 CEV)
Way back in 2012, we defined justice as “getting what you deserve.”
However, from the quote above, we can see that the Bible has more than one definition of justice, depending on the translation. It wouldn’t make sense to interpret that God wants to see everyone get what they deserve, when His Word clearly states that, “He doesn’t want to destroy anyone but wants all people to have an opportunity to turn to him and change the way they think and act (2 Peter 3:9b GW).”
Instead, what the verse is saying is that the Lord does right, so that everyone who does what He does, having been created in His own image, will get to be with Him. With this context, we can see that “justice” is referring to righteous deeds.
Now we also have established that salvation is by grace alone, and that through faith. Our righteous deeds do not save us; rather, they are the evidence of our salvation. Our making the decision to follow God and join Him in His work is what leads us to a state of righteousness.
Taking that into consideration, we can see that there is no separation between “being saved” and acting justly. Doing justice (acting righteously) is the evidence of our salvation, because we are reflecting the image of the One who created us, the One who always does what is just.
Justice and Righteousness
Abraham is a perfect example of how this plays out. Back when Abraham was still “Abram,” God made him a promise regarding his abundance of descendants, which Abram believed, even though he had no logical reason to do so. Genesis 15:6 says, “Abram believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
This example is frequently cited when people explain salvation by faith, but there is more going on here. Abram’s act of faith entered him into a covenant with God. God bound Himself with a promise because Abram fulfilled his part of the covenant, which was to believe and conform to God’s plan. Therefore, the “righteousness” with which he was “credited” is something like a legal standing. Abram isn’t just a good guy; he has a distinct position because of his act of faith.
In other words, he did the right thing, and it had a good result. His salvation was through God’s grace, but it was also an act of justice. Abram got what he deserved, because he did what God expected him to do.
The prophet Micah, in chapter 6 of the book bearing his name, asks rhetorically what must be done to get God’s attention and earn His forgiveness. Then he answers his own question, saying:
The Lord has shown you what is good. He has told you what he requires of you. You must act with justice. You must love to show mercy. And you must be humble as you live in the sight of your God. Micah 6:8 NIRV
The key word in that quote is “act.” God wants us to do justice, not just think happy thoughts about it. And how do we do that?
The simplest way is to stop thinking of ourselves first. God wants us to think of Him first, because of who He is. Next, as written in Philippians 2:4, He wants us to “look out for each other’s interests and not just for your own.”
Doing this can be temporarily inconvenient, but it will yield great rewards.
(For more on the “show mercy” bit, come back for part 2.)