"P" is for Perspective - Part 3

By: Craig Mercer

August 27th, 2021


Last time we explored the idea of "A God of Patient Wisdom." Now I want us to take a few moments to reflect on the concept of "A God of Loving Justice" and how it should shape our perspective and daily life.


God of Loving Justice

In case you have been living under a rock, it is clear that we are living in tumultuous times! Society is rapidly unraveling and redefining the meaning of everything to suit preferences and inclinations at an alarming rate. From "Cancel Culture" to "Social Justice," there is a groundswell of hostel intolerance for differing perspectives. The terms "love and justice" are frequently hurled around. However, just because someone uses the words does not mean we are talking about the same thing! We need to make sure we are using the same dictionary definitions. Kierkegaard, astutely observes,

"There are two ways to be fooled: one is to believe what isn't true, the other is to refuse to believe what is true."(1)

As Jesus followers, we thankfully do not have to be tossed to and fro on the sea of subjectivism.(2) As those created in the image of God (Imago Dei), we are privileged to experience and express many of God's communicable attributes.(3) God has blessed us with an objective standard revealed in His Word; this means we must seek to have our understanding and perspective anchored and shaped by how God defines reality.(4,5)


It is essential to remember God is not some abstract deity creating a world of subjects to adore Him out of need, but He is a Father who delights in creating a world that can know Him and experience unending joy with Him. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore."(7,8) God's design has always been for us to experience a progressively joyful intimacy with Him that will only find its consummation when we see Him face to face.(9,10) As we reflect on the ideas of love and justice, let us take it back to the beginning and consider the implications. When we think of defining love, I appreciate Grudem's concise but vivid description,

"God's love means that God eternally gives of himself to others."(11)


It is essential to remember God is not some abstract deity creating a world of subjects to adore Him out of need, but He is a Father who delights in creating a world that can know Him and experience unending joy with Him.

Love is outwardly focused and sacrificial in nature. Therefore, God never needs to be coerced to be loving; it is the very essence of who He is!(12) "…I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them."(13)

Now when we look at the concept of justice, Grudem describes it as, "God's righteousness means that God always acts in accordance with what is right and is himself the final standard of what is right."(14) It is essential to realize that justice is more than equity for all but carries more the idea of a return to shalom.(15) One author captures its essence this way, "justice is simply love distributed."(16) "The LORD your God . . . defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the immigrant, giving him food and clothing."(17)


Love is outwardly focused and sacrificial in nature. Therefore, God never needs to be coerced to be loving; it is the very essence of who He is!

We see the first expression of God's loving justice in response to Adam and Eve's rebellion.(18) When we consider Jesus, He is the touchstone for our experience of who God is. Or, in other words, He is the apex of love and justice.(19) What is incredible and worth mulling over is that to see Jesus is to be fully exposed to the complete nature of who God is in His disposition toward humanity. He is a God of love and a God of justice!(20) The mystery and majesty of God's love and justice are most vividly displayed in the cross and resurrection! Their rebellion was met with a promise of redemption(21); God's love and justice compel Him to desire and pursue what is best for all of creation!(22)


It is essential to realize that justice is more than equity for all but carries more the idea of a return to shalom.

What difference should knowing and reflecting on these realities make? Firstly, it shapes our pattern of living. It is the core of a God-pleasing life! Loving justice is at the heart of God's story. Therefore loving justice must be at the heart of ours. If we have been, are being, and will be rescued by the God of loving justice, loving justice must overflow in the rhythm of our life.(23) Justice is love in action!(24)

Secondly, It expands our awe and affection for the God of Loving Justice! C.S. Lewis captures it this way,


"You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the 'lord of terrible aspect,' is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist's love for his work …" (25)


When you speak out of your own excitement, the way a new parent naturally speaks about their child without any cue cards or scripts, it becomes more engaging! Do you sense how good, how motivating, how grand these truths are? These are the transformative realities we need to invigorate our souls with as we help others.


Justice is love in action!

What difference does this make in our sojourning with others? It shapes how we engage with their stories. Love will always be provoked by injustice! We must enter their pain and suffering with empathy. "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep."(26) When you hear the account of someone's journey, it is normal to experience deep emotions! Whether anger at injustice or grief at inflicted suffering, we want to help shoulder their burden. It is important to remember the flesh left unchecked will always produce destructive attitudes and actions in response to sin and suffering.(27) Therefore it is vital that we consistently yet gently unpack these truths God has revealed about Himself.

As we do this, we will experience a renewed confidence to draw near to God(28) and a restful hope in the future resolution of injustice(29) as God will ultimately deal with all hurts and injustices. Having this perspective cultivates a resilient love in the face of whatever hardships come our way.(30) Embracing the idea of a God of loving justice helps us remain grounded in relational language instead of theological abstractions. It gives the opportunity to allow how God sees us reshape our perspective. "The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing."(31) This is how God views you, not as a burden but a delight!


It is important to remember the flesh left unchecked will always produce destructive attitudes and actions in response to sin and suffering. Therefore it is vital that we consistently yet gently unpack these truths God has revealed about Himself.

Sam Storms captures this beautifully as he shares the impact of this passage on his own heart.

"God's presence comforts me. His power reassures me. But His passion overwhelms me. You may not be comfortable with me saying that God is passionate for His people, but there's simply no way to avoid the force of this text: God exults, delights, rejoices, and sings as the expression of His love."(32)


Next time we will look at "A God of Grace-filled Truth”.



References:

  1. Søren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, ed. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, vol. XVI, Kierkegaard’s Writings (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995), 23.

  2. Ephesians 4:11-16 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

  3. In attempts to better understand God, various systems of classifying his attributes have been devised. One system found especially in the writings of Reformed theologians speaks of communicable and incommunicable attributes. The communicable attributes are those qualities of God for which at least a partial counterpart can be found in his human creations. Here there are love, which, while infinite in God, is found at least in partial form in humans, and even omnipotence, for humans have at least a degree of power. Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology., 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1998), 292–293.

  4. Ephesians 5:1-2Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

  5. Hebrews 4:12-13 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

  6. Acts 17:24-2524 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

  7. Psalm 16:11

  8. Ps 21:6-7 For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence. For the king trusts in the Lord, and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved."

  9. First Corinthians 13:12-1312 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

  10. Psalm 36:8-9."They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light."

  11. This definition understands love as self-giving for the benefit of others. This attribute of God shows that it is part of his nature to give of himself in order to bring about blessing or good for others. John tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). We see evidence that this attribute of God was active even before creation among the members of the Trinity. Jesus speaks to his Father of “my glory which you have given me in your love for me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24), thus indicating that there was love and a giving of honor from the Father to the Son from all eternity. It continues at the present time, for we read, “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand” (John 3:35)

  12. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.

  13. Hosea 11:4

  14. Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 203.

  15. In the Old Testament Shalom, the most prominent OT term for “peace,” held a wide range of connotations (wholeness, health, security, well-being, and salvation) and could apply to an equally wide range of contexts: the state of the individual (Ps 37:37; Prv 3:2; Is 32:17), the relationship of person to person (Gn 34:21; Jos 9:15) or nation to nation (e.g., absence of conflict—Dt 2:26; Jos 10:21; 1 Kgs 5:12; Ps 122:6–7), and the relationship of God and people (Ps 85:8; Jer 16:5). Walter A. Elwell and Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Tyndale Reference Library (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 1004.

  16. Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology., 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1998), 324.

  17. Deuteronomy 10:17-18

  18. Genesis 3:15."I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."

  19. John 14:9 "Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?

  20. Rom 3:23-26"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."

  21. Genesis 3:15."I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."

  22. Isa 53:10-11."Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities."

  23. Zechariah 7:10-11 This is what the LORD Almighty says: Administer true justice, show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the immigrant or the poor."

  24. Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"

  25. C.S Lewis: The Problem of Pain Lewis, C. S.. The Problem of Pain (Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis) (p. 39). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

  26. Romans 12:15

  27. Gal 5:19-21."Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."

  28. Hebrews 4:14-16 "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

  29. Romans 12:17-19 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."

  30. Romans 12:20-21.To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

  31. Zephaniah 3:17

  32. Sam Storms, The Singing God: Feel the Passion God Has for You...Just the Way You Are (p. 13). Charisma House. Kindle Edition.





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