Bethel CRC Lacombe

September 24, 2023 Broken Signposts: Justice

September 26, 2023 Pastor Jake Boer Season 6 Episode 1
Bethel CRC Lacombe
September 24, 2023 Broken Signposts: Justice
Show Notes Transcript

Today we will begin a series based on N.T Wright’s book Broken Signposts. As Wright recognizes, “signposts name a reality and point us in a direction.” The signposts we will reflect on point to deep meaning that help us understand the world and its challenges. However, these signposts are broken and let us down. This is why we will turn to the Gospel of John to show us how these themes point us to Jesus and the kingdom of heaven. We will reflect on John 3:16-21; Broken Signposts – Justice. Jesus is sent to the world not to condemn it, but to save the world through Himself. We know that things aren’t the way they should be in our world and that injustice is all around us. Something needs to be done to make things right, but what? Jesus came to shine His light into the darkness and invite those who love the darkness to come into His light 

Broken Signposts – Justice

John 3:16–21

 

This morning we’re beginning a new series inspired by N.T Wright’s book Broken Signposts where he explores seven different topics that point us to Jesus and the kingdom of heaven, but because of sin the brokenness sin brings, these signposts are broken and fail to point us in the direction of Jesus and the kingdom of heaven as well as they should. Signposts are used to show us the way to where we want to go, they are guides given to us by someone who knows the way. The seven signposts we will be reflecting on through the Gospel of John are all attributes, or aspects of who God is, and give us a glimpse of what the kingdom of heaven is life, however these signposts often disappoint us or let us down because our culture use or define them for their own reasons or purposes, and we get led astray. The first signpost we’re reflecting on is justice.

 

What is justice? The dictionary defines justice as “the quality or principle of fairness, righteousness, and impartiality in dealing with individuals and society. In the biblical context, justice is an essential attribute of God, and believers are called to pursue justice in their interactions and societal engagement.” In the Near East and in biblical times, justice was directly connected to the word of the king. Whenever the king spoke an official word about anything, the proclamation was considered righteous and good, meaning that the king spoke justly and was to be embraced the people as truth. The Bible comes from the Near East and from God, who is our king. This is why the followers of Jesus are called to accept and embrace God’s Word and Jesus’ teaching as truth that shows us what justice is; calling us to live just lives by shaping our lives and beliefs on God’s word given to us in Jesus. Injustice comes when we allow our own desires and beliefs shape our lives and how we live and interact with others and with God.

 

In the passage we read this morning, we quickly focus on “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Our hearts quickly hear about God’s love because we all have a need to be loved by someone, but we’ll reflect on love as a signpost next week. After reminding us of God’s great love for the world, we often stop reading but John goes on to talk about condemnation and light and darkness. Jesus comes to save the world, not to condemn. The requirement to be saved is to believe in Jesus; simple and yet so important, so difficult to actually do. Belief in scripture is not about simply believing in facts or believing the right things, it’s about how what we say we believe, about how who we believe in shapes our lives, our character, our relationships with God, others, ourselves, and creation. Belief is not simply an intellectual exercise; it’s about practicing what we say we believe. Justice then looks like Jesus.

Justice for Jesus is always about people, when John asked Jesus if he really is the Messiah, Jesus tells him in Matthew 11, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” Jesus cares about the vulnerable, showing us what the heart of God looks like. In Luke 14, Jesus tells his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind…” Justice is a way of living with people by recognizing their worth to God as people created in his image. Jesus often focused on the poor, sick, and those are the margins because they’re the forgotten or overlooked. 

 

This is at the heart of the criticism Jesus gives to the Pharisee in Luke 11, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you. “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.” Now it sounds as if Jesus only cared about and focused on saving the poor, but he came for all people. Our passage this morning is part of his meeting with the Pharisee Nicodemus, Jesus showed he cares about the rich man who has a hard time putting his love for money under his acceptance of Jesus, however Jesus recognizes that the more we have, the easier it is to fail to see injustice. Jesus was simply reminding us about the continuous calls by the prophets to remember God’s call in the scriptures to care for all people, not simply yourself. Doing justice doesn’t get you saved though, it’s a sign that you’re saved. 

 

John tells us that whoever does not believe in Jesus is condemned because they choose not to believe in Jesus and shape who they are on who Jesus is. They refuse to believe in Jesus, the light of the world, and embrace darkness instead. They choose to believe in other voices instead of Jesus’ and this leads them into darkness rather than light. Darkness in the bible is a symbol of evil, but also of selfishness and an anti-God focused life. Darkness is often used as a symbol of shame and fear of being seen when it might lead you into shame or rejection. John is writing this in the context of Nicodemus coming to see Jesus is the darkness of the night, afraid of being seen with Jesus by his fellow Pharisees, afraid of being rejected by his fellow Pharisees. Nicodemus is searching for light, for hope, seeking to discover who Jesus really is. Nicodemus ends up becoming a follower of Jesus, believing in Jesus, embracing his light. Nicodemus is one of the two men who take Jesus’ body down from the cross after defeating the Prince of Darkness through his death for our sin.

 

Jesus doesn’t come to condemn the world; those who refuse Jesus, those who choose darkness condemn themselves. In John 8, right after the story of the woman caught in adultery is brought before him, Jesus says, “You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me.” When you choose darkness, you experience the judgment of God. The judgment of God is simply God being himself and shining his light into the world through Jesus and causing the darkness to flee and hide. Those who brought the woman before Jesus are confronted with the darkness in their own hearts and they slip away until it’s only Jesus and the woman left. Jesus then refuses to judge the woman, but he does tell her to “go and sin no more,” to move back into the light. There is so much more that can be said here, but that’s for another time. Those who choose darkness judge themselves by fleeing from Jesus. God chose Israel as his people as part of his plan of renewing and restoring humanity and creation. 

 

In the beginning, God created everything very good. A very good world is created by a very good God, as N.T Wright reminds us, but sin enters into the world through the selfish disobedience of Adam and Eve and injustice enters into the world as humanity moves further and further away from God and who God created them to be. Early on there are those who take advantage of others for their own profit, corruption creeps into society, and power is used for selfish purposes instead of for the betterment of society. 

 

God gives Israel a way of living through the system of laws given to them at Mount Sinai after they were led out of slavery in Egypt. The laws were given to them to shape them into God’s image; a people who reflected God to the world living in a way that showed how a just and right life is lived. Jesus taught the same law, calling his followers to be salt in the world and “to let their light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Jesus shines his light into the world and takes the sin of the world onto himself to the cross to satisfy God’s requirement for justice and to begin the journey of renewal and restoration of creation and humanity. As Micha reminds us, justice is something that’s a part of what God calls us to do, Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” 

 

So how do we as followers of Jesus work for justice in a society where there’s no agreement on what justice even looks like, there are so many different ideas on what justice looks like? Tim Keller writes in his book Generous Justice, The Biblical idea of justice is comprehensive and practical, but it is also high and wonderful. It is part and parcel of what God is doing in history. God is reconciling humanity to himself—and as a result of this great transaction, he is reconciling all things to himself. He is bringing all things in heaven and earth together in Christ.” Keller, as does N.T Wright, is pointing to the return of Jesus when the kingdom of heaven will be fully realised. Justice is a signpost that point to the coming kingdom. This is a kingdom that is built on strong community where human beings can all flourish, being the people who we’re created to be in the image of God. Until Jesus returns, our call is to work to build communities where we work together, followers of Jesus with those who don’t follow Jesus, to help the weaker members of our community who are falling through the cracks and repair the cracks.