From Rev Dr John Squires
Presbytery Minister - Wellbeing
“Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” So we read in scripture (Deut 16:20). And once they were in that land (even though they colonised it unjustly), the people of Israel were regularly reminded of the centrality of justice. “What does the LORD require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”, one prophet asked (Micah 6:8). “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream”, another of the prophets declared (Amos 5:24).
Jesus himself had made it clear that his focus was on fulfilling all the Law (Matt 5:17–20) regarded “the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness” as what ought to be given priority (Matt 23:23). In this regard, he stands in the line of the prophets, calling for justice and righteousness in the life of the people of Israel. Both Jesus and the prophets who came before him follow the guidance of the sage, who advised, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Prov 31:8–9). The sage was promoting the importance of advocacy.
Advocating for justice is thus seen as integral to faith in God. One of the prophets put it clearly: “Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” (Zech 7:9). Another prophet asserted, “Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my righteousness be revealed.” (Isa 56:1).
The Psalmist affirmed that “Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him” (Psalm 41:1). When Jesus himself declared that “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” are blessed, “for they shall be satisfied” (Matt 5:6), he is placing justice at the centre of his message. (The Greek word translated here as “righteousness” can equally be translated as “justice”.)
At the meeting of the Canberra Region Presbytery that is to take place this coming Saturday, we will be focussing for a time on how we advocate for justice for those who are being treated unjustly. It will be a time of hearing from the Presbytery’s Social Justice Group, and then of considering how best we might join in advocacy for those who are in need in our own communities today.
Justice is an important and oft-recurring theme in scripture, in both Old and New Testaments. It is not an add-on, an optional extra. It sits at the centre of the scriptural witness. Advocating for those in need is integral to our discipleship as followers of Jesus. We are all charged with the responsibility of advocating for those in need. Together, we can work effectively to advocate in this way.
You can read more of my reflections on the scriptural foundations relating to justice and advocacy at https://johntsquires.com/2021/08/16/justice-and-only-justice-you-shall-follow/ and more about the ways that people locally are advocating for justice in the new issue of Viewpoint.