I have written about the idea of Biblical justice as a necessary response to our faith. Recently, I have been challenged by several friends about the difference between the meaning of the word “justice” as it pertains to political ideologies and its meaning as a necessary expression of the Christian life. There is a big difference. The following is an excerpt from my next project, a chapter called “Free Trade Coffee and Jesus Tattoos”, considering Jesus’ words “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice… for they will be filled.”
“Jesus’ statement ties justice directly to him with His words: “. . . for they will be filled.” The particular word for filled in the Gospel of Matthew is the Greek word chortazo, which means to be filled abundantly and to satisfy. There are many different Greek words for “filled” used in the New Testament, but this one is employed specifically in relation to Jesus. It is interesting that the writer of Matthew does not use chortazo when he is talking about being filled with the Holy Spirit or filling the jugs of water that were turned to wine. Matthew is continuing the metaphor of hunger and thirst in these lines and chortazo refers to the deepest primal needs of a human being. The other significance of the word is that it is a verb, in other words “filled” is something that is done to them. Matthew is making it clear that Jesus is the One who will satisfy those who pursue justice. We cannot lose sight of the truth that he is the only One that can satisfy that vision.
While the church is often wrought with the misguided pursuance of the Gospel as exclusively personal spirituality, popular culture is generally anxious to leave Jesus out of the equation. We cannot forget that there is indeed a problem with the world’s sense of justice. When we are tempted to leave Jesus out of it, we need to remember that His mission on earth was to begin a revolution of God’s world order. To bring a sense of justice that began with the transformative compassion of a God who moved into our neighborhood, a God who taught us our greatest responsibility, next to loving Him, was to love our neighbor. Not every compassionate move on earth is a direct result of following Jesus, but I do believe that every compassionate moment is a true reflection of God’s order. I love Gandhi’s quote, “Justice that love gives is surrender, justice that law gives is a punishment.” We see it in bits and pieces, but the truth is that we cannot achieve it unless we follow. Jesus is the only one who demands we die to ourselves, who holds up the reward of being loyal to him as crucifixion. We are all in some ways the young, angry, fearful rebel on the hill. As much as we want to have the compassion to be just, we cannot unless we are gazing into the eyes of the One who embodies compassion, to “be filled” by the hand of Jesus.”