Monthly Archives: October 2020

God’s Righteousness and Justice. I: How To Identify Righteousness and Justice

“The Rock! His work is perfect,
For all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise indicated).

Image created using the YouVersion Bible app.

I intended this post to begin a new series on God’s justice. However, as I studied, I realized we might benefit by using two English terms interchangeably: justice and righteousness. They are almost synonyms in the Bible.

Mishpat” is the Hebrew word that is most frequently translated as “justice,” providing the root for the word “just” in the above verse; Scripture often uses it in legal settings or when God executes His judgment on people, sins, or nations. Another word, “tsaddiq,” is translated “righteous” above and is usually translated that way in the New American Standard Bible. It is also translated as “righteous person,” “righteously,” “right,” “one who is in the right,” “just,” “blameless,” and “innocent.”

The equivalent New Testament word is the Greek “dikaios” and various terms related to it. It is translated as “righteous,” “just,” “justice,” “right,” or “innocent.”

Nelson’s Three-in-One Bible Reference Companion defines justice as “administration of what is right.” Righteousness is an attribute of one’s character; justice is that righteousness in action. Since the terms are so closely related in Scripture, throughout this series I will use them interchangeably. While there are slight differences in emphasis, the meanings of the words are similar enough to justify this usage.

Now, let us consider a few difficult questions: What do righteousness and justice look like? How do we know an action, behavior, or decision is righteous or just?

While we often think of justice in legal terms, we cannot always trust man’s laws to be just or righteous. Before 1865, slavery was legal in much of the United States. It was banned after the Civil War, but legalized racial segregation remained on the books in southern states for about 100 years after that. It might have been legal, but it was not righteous or just. The Nazi holocaust that killed six million Jews was legal—the government authorized it—but it was not righteous or just.

People and societies lose their way when they have no objective standard for justice. Humans can agree that we want justice in our culture, but we may disagree about how to bring it about or which activities are righteous or just. In recent years, a branch of America’s Democrat Party (including far-left liberals like New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) has referred to itself as “justice Democrats.” They claim to promote justice with their emphasis on environmentalism, racial equality, women’s rights, etc. However, they often do so at the expense of biblical truth and the traditional Judaeo-Christian values that provide the basis for our nation’s legal system.

I will add that many Republicans err as well. They may support values that are more consistent with Scripture in some regards (e.g., opposition to abortion, support for traditional marriage). However, some of them might ignore Scripture’s teachings about defending the poor and showing no partiality to the rich and powerful. Political party platforms are not a valid objective basis for defining justice.

True justice is an attribute of God. The prophet Jeremiah referred to Him as “Yahweh tsidkenu”—The Lord our righteousness. Any concept of righteousness or justice that ignores or contradicts God’s nature or Word is not true justice. Equitable enforcement of godless legislation is not justice. God’s Word is the foundation of all justice. Psalm 119, the Bible’s epic hymn of praise to God’s law, says:

“Righteous are You, O Lord,
And upright are Your judgments…
Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,
And Your law is truth” (Psalms 119:137, 142).

Elsewhere, God’s Word says:

“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward” (Psalms 19:7-11).

We should continue to fight for justice. Christians should be on the front lines of the battle against injustice, corruption, and oppression in society. However, we must not follow a political platform or cultural norms. Instead, we must continue to live by and declare God’s Word. When our favorite politician deviates from Scripture, we must remain steadfast in our obedience to the Lord. God has called us to be His ambassadors.

How do you see justice and righteousness? How would you like to see it manifested today? Share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ignatius of Antioch

“Let me be given to the wild beasts, for by their means I can attain to God. I am God’s wheat, and I am being ground by the teeth of the beasts so that I may be like pure bread” (Ignatius of Antioch).

Ignatius, a second-century bishop of Antioch, is commemorated in several traditional churches on October 17.

Ignatius of Antioch. Image via Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Ignatius was an early bishop of Antioch who was killed in the Roman arena around 107 AD (some historians believe it was later, perhaps around 140 AD). We do not know if he ever met any of the apostles. It is possible: He wrote a letter to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who had been a student of St. John. So, he lived early enough to have met or learned from one of the men who wrote the New Testament.

Most of what we know about Ignatius is from the last few months of his life. He wrote several influential letters while being transported to Rome, where he would be executed in the Coliseum. Although facing death, he did not give in to discouragement.

One of the last things he said, while being taken to his execution, was “Now do I begin to be a disciple of my Master, Christ.” Suffering—even torture or death—would not discourage him. He saw it as a vital part of being a disciple of Jesus.

How do we handle hardship? The last seven months have been difficult for most Americans. Many have lost jobs. Most have experienced isolation. Some have suffered severe illness. Many have lost loved ones. Have we complained, grown bitter, or struggled in our faith?

Or, have we seen it as an opportunity to grow as disciples of Jesus? The early Christians took Jesus’ words seriously:

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?’” (Matthew 16:24–26, New American Standard Bible).

Jesus calls His disciples to value His kingdom above this world. They sought to glorify Him rather than seek rewards, comfort, and pleasure in this world.

We have been through difficult times, but we have not been thrown to the lions. Actually, some of us have complained like spoiled children when told to wear a mask in a public place, as if that was painful suffering. We have had opportunities for meditation, self-examination, and reflection. We have had time to look at our lives, spend more time praying, study Scripture more, and so on. Have we sought God in our circumstances, or have we ignored Him? Have we avoided Him? Have we put our own comfort ahead of His will?

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Quotes by St. Teresa of Avila

“Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you. Though all things pass, God does not change. Patience wins all things. But he lacks nothing who possesses God; for God alone suffices” (Teresa of Avila).

Statue of Teresa of Avila, Saint Teresa Church, Braga, Portugal. Photo by Jose Goncalves via Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

Teresa of Avila (March 28, 1515–October 4, 1582) was a Carmelite nun who is commemorated as a saint in several denominations on October 15. She is best remembered as a contemplative writer, whose books about prayer, meditation, and spirituality have inspired many people for centuries.

Having recently reflected on the conflict between God’s perfect goodness and life’s unfairness, I think it would be good to think about the above quote. Though all things pass, God does not change. He is always in control.

The following is another favorite quote from Teresa of Avila that I have read in several places. When disaster strikes or hard times come, we might be tempted to ask God why He is allowing people to suffer. Teresa gives us the answer. God usually works through His people in the lives of others:

“Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes with which Christ looks out his compassion to the world. Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which he is to bless us now” (Teresa of Avila).

Let us go forth today and always to be Christ’s hands, feet, eyes, and ears through which He can extend His love to the world.

Feel free to share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life Is Not Fair, but God Is Good

“Are You not from everlasting,
O Lord, my God, my Holy One?
We will not die.
You, O Lord, have appointed them to judge;
And You, O Rock, have established them to correct.
Your eyes are too pure to approve evil,
And You can not look on wickedness with favor.
Why do You look with favor
On those who deal treacherously?
Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up
Those more righteous than they?” (Habakkuk 1:12–13; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Life is unfair and can bring doubt and grief, but God is still good and just. Image by Victoria Borodinova from Pixabay.

The Bible and Judeo-Christian tradition make bold statements about God. We believe that He is always present, all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal, unchanging, holy, righteous, merciful, loving, and good. He is perfect in all of these attributes.

However, we see the world He created and governs, and things do not seem right. Wicked rulers enslave millions of people through violence, fear, and corruption. A global pandemic strikes down good people who are taking necessary precautions to protect themselves and others, while violent rioters burn buildings and loot businesses without catching a sniffle. A head-on automobile collision kills a careful driver and his passengers, while the drunk driver who was speeding the wrong way down a highway staggers away uninjured.

Life is not fair. Injustice exists everywhere. It can be easy to doubt God when bad things happen.

This dilemma is ancient. Even the authors of Scripture struggled with it at times. Abraham, the father of the faith, once asked God, “Shall not the judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Genesis 18:25). The prophet Habakkuk uttered the prayer at the beginning of this post while the Babylonians were ravaging the nation of Judah. He understood that the Jews had sinned against God and deserved some kind of judgment. However, the violence he saw seemed to be much worse than they deserved. Furthermore, they were suffering at the hands of the Babylonians, who were more wicked than the Israelites or Jews had ever been.

“God, do You have any idea what you are doing? Do You think this is right or fair? Where are You in this mess?” Do we not all pray like this at times? Throughout the ages, people have asked the same questions: How can a good, holy, righteous, and loving God allow wickedness and evil to prevail? How can such a God use evil people or events to judge His children or otherwise accomplish His will?

These questions continue to nag us, and people have answered the question in three ways.

First, some people conclude that there is no God. For them, there is no conflict. They believe that the universe is not governed by a supremely intelligent being; rather, impersonal natural laws of physics govern the universe. We are merely the random products of billions of years of chemical reactions that led to organic matter, then to living organisms, which eventually evolved into more complex life forms, including humans. In such a universe, right and wrong are merely human concepts, not objective realities. You cannot say “Bad things happen to good people,” because bad and good are just matters of opinion, not facts.

A second solution to this dilemma suggests that God (or several gods) exists, but He/she/they is/are imperfect. Rabbi Harold S. Kushner shared this view in his 1981 bestselling book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. He proposed that God exists and is good and loving but not all-powerful. He might want to heal your horrible disease but cannot do it. Similar worldviews state that God is less-than-perfect in some other way. Maybe He is not perfectly loving or just. Perhaps there are several gods, all of whom are imperfect. Ancient polytheistic tales like the myths of ancient Greece or the Middle East give this perspective. For example, in the ancient Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, a hero named Utnapishtim builds a large ship to save part of humanity during a global flood (similar to the biblical story of Noah). At the end of the flood, Utnapishtim offers sacrifices to the gods, who gather to ravenously receive the offering. One capricious deity had forgotten that all of the gods need to be fed by sacrifices offered by humans, and the other gods and goddesses were not able to stop him.

The response of faith holds that God is perfect, but His ways are beyond our full understanding. In the words of Isaiah:

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.
‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8–9).

God is perfect. He is all-powerful, holy, just, and loving. When things do not seem to be going right, He is still in control. We may not understand what He is doing, but He knows exactly what He is doing or allowing.

If He does not fully judge evil in this world, He will do so at the final judgment. Although evil men may get away with their crimes in this life, God will hold them to account. We may not see it in this world, but God’s justice will come to fruition.

We will continue to see or experience things that tempt us to doubt God’s goodness or perfection. Do not fear. He will make all things right in His time. Life is not fair, but God is good all the time. Let us continue to trust Him even when circumstances tempt us to ask questions.

Life is not fair, but God is good. Have you struggled with this idea in your own life? How has it played out for you? Feel free to share by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

God’s Holiness. IV: Holy Reverence, the Fear of the Lord

An important key to expressing God’s holiness in your life is to recognize Him as holy and worthy of reverence:

“If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth…” (1 Peter 1:17).

Photo courtesty of PxHere, published under a Creative Commons License.

In Revelation, a multitude of Christians in heaven says He should be feared:

“And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU, FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED’” (Revelation 15:3–4).

Many Christians have eradicated the fear of the Lord in our lives. Our worship exalts our feelings; we enjoy the bouncy music and uplifting feel-good message of the lyrics. We think God’s main responsibility is to make us feel good about ourselves, build up our self-esteem, and remove any sense of guilt. If God’s Word says anything that makes us uncomfortable, we try to rephrase it to suit our opinions, ignore it entirely, or claim that we know better than He does. Many Christians think they can mold God into whatever image they desire.

“Fear of the Lord” does not mean we expect God to beat us up over every little misstep and mistake. He is our Father, but He is not the abusive kind of father who comes home drunk and starts beating the kids for no good reason. He does not want us to fear Him like that. In fact, the true love of God casts out that kind of fear (1 John 4:18).

Here is how I can best illustrate the fear of the Lord. Like most Long Islanders, I drive slightly above the posted speed limit at times. However, if I see a police car along the side of the road, I will take my foot off the accelerator. I respect the police officer. I know he can pull me over and write me a ticket if he catches me speeding.

I do not live in fear of police officers, though. The same cop who inspired me to slow down on the road may be the one whom I was chatting with while standing in line in a coffee shop a few minutes earlier. The badge, uniform, and car do not scare me. However, they do remind me that it is in my best interests to show them some respect.

So it is with God. We know that He is always with us. We know that He knows everything. We should know that He is holy. But, do we respect Him? Do we give Him the honor He deserves? Or, do we try to reduce Him to our level? The Bible tells us that God made humans in His image (Genesis 1:26–27), but we often try to reshape Him into our image.

Do you believe God is holy? Are you aware that He is always with you? If so, live as though you believe that. One of the classic writings of Christian spirituality is a short book entitled The Practice of the Presence of God. Practice that presence. Live with the awareness that He is always with you since He dwells within you. In so doing, you will be inspired to live in a way that allows His holiness to shine forth from within you.

Do you respect God? How can you cultivate a genuine respect for Him in your life? Feel free to share by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Holiness, God's Majestic Attributes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

%d bloggers like this: