May God’s justice reign over us! God’s justice is revealed through the blood of Christ. It shines forth in the world. I would like to speak of God’s justice. Political philosopher, Michael Sandel asks us “What justice is” in his book, [The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?]” Sandel raises questions that demand our attention: “Does our system distribute wealth and opportunities in a righteous manner? Is it right that most of the wealth is concentrated in a certain group?” By shedding light on these critical issues, Sandel uncovers the illusion of equal opportunity and an even starting line in contemporary American society.
When I was a Columbia seminary student in Georgia, I participated in an interesting event. About 100 seminarians gathered at the event. It was a mix of different races, genders, and age groups. I played a game with them, and the rules were very simple. 100 people stood in a line, shoulder to shoulder, side by side. Along the way, if the answer to a question was Yes, we took one step forward, and if the answer was No, we took one step back. When all 70 questions were completed, 100 were in a completely different position.
Most of my white classmates were in the front row, my black classmates were in the middle, and in the very last row were just the two of us, international students, my friend, and me. The questions focused on the material and cultural privileges of our parents. In addition, it asked about the educational environment according to that wealth about whether we had ever taken tutoring or whether we had financial support from our parents without student loans.
I am not here today to define “what justice is.” Instead, I invite you to join me in a thoughtful exploration of its meaning. Let us engage in open dialogue and consider various perspectives. For example, is it right to provide special benefits to black students for college admissions? If so, what reasons support this approach? Another pressing matter to ponder is gun control. What are the appropriate restrictions on gun use in Washington State? Additionally, we must critically examine the fairness of Washington’s Real Estate Laws concerning indigenous peoples. Furthermore, we need to discuss the direction of Washington State’s refugee policy. These questions may indeed cause us to feel overwhelmed at times, but they also have the power to inspire profound reflection.
Why should we think about and discuss these things? As we gather on Sundays, we yearn for the uplifting message of the gospel and a much-needed sense of peace. The weariness from the week’s political conflicts weighs on us, and we desire solace in the comforting embrace of God’s word. However, it is crucial to remember that discussing these matters is not exclusive to seeking justice. In fact, exploring these questions can deepen our understanding of God’s justice and His love. Considering these issues does not mean forsaking the gospel’s message of peace. Instead, it can enhance our appreciation of God’s justice which is revealed on the cross.
Proclaiming social justice in the church is important. This is the truth taught not only by Lutheran theology but also by the teaching of the blood of Christ.
First of all, let me introduce you to Lutherans’ beliefs. That is the two-kingdoms theory. One kingdom is the kingdom of God. We live in the kingdom of God in terms of the invisible church. God governs us, the church. This includes all Christians living in heaven and on earth. This kingdom is governed by God’s love and justice. Among them, love is the best law. The other kingdom is the state that people belong to. For example, American citizens, belong by faith to the kingdom of God, but at the same time, we belong to a federal state following democracy. Then, sometimes, if our democracy goes the wrong way, Christians have a duty to make it right. Tolerating what is not right is not love. (1 Corinthians 13)
Second, the blood of Christ calls us to a righteous life. It contains the meaning that the blood of Christ paid the price for our sins. In Western modern rationalism, the theology of the cross does not properly convey the principle. Western satisfaction theology has been misunderstood as Jesus soothed the maddened Heavenly Father through His death. That’s just what’s revealed superficially in the Bible, but in fact, it’s a little different from that. In the mysterious and deep meaning of the Trinity, the sacrifice was not only made by Jesus. Because God is one, the Triune God endured all that suffering together. God’s forgiveness is not a mere change of mind. Instead, it is a profound expression of justice, requiring the ultimate price – the very life of Jesus-the triune God. Through this sacrifice, justice was established, and we are reminded of the depth of God’s love and the extent to which He values righteousness. This act of forgiveness holds a powerful lesson for us – it teaches us about the weight of responsibility that accompanies true forgiveness. Forgiveness comes at a cost. Applying this to our lives, when our actions harm others, we must take responsibility for the damage caused, for it is just and right to do so.
When we underestimate the value of justice on the cross, we will abuse the teaching of forgiveness in our lives. Let us practice forgiveness with justice. As an example, parents who have lost their children to gun violence cannot end cases simply by personally forgiving the murderer. We should not be satisfied with punishing an individual perpetrator in a legal process. Systems that have this recurring problem need to be fixed. A gun accident is just one example. Let’s be aware of the injustice that is happening everywhere in our society, including racial problems, poverty inequality, and gender discrimination.
There is a concept known as “worm theology,” which is intended to criticize the belief that humans are inherently weak and incapable of any positive action. While it is true that we cannot attain holiness solely through our own efforts, it is God’s grace that ultimately saves us. However, we should not misuse God’s forgiveness as an indulgence. The shedding of Jesus’ blood reminds us of our accountability for our actions today. The love of Christ calls us to genuine repentance, encouraging us to turn away from our wrongdoings. Additionally, the law of God guides us to be responsible for our actions and their impact on others. For instance, if we cause harm to someone else’s property, it is our responsibility to compensate our neighbors. Furthermore, when we identify social structural problems, we should take action to address and correct them.
In conclusion, why should we spread a message of social justice? Why should we listen to that message during Sunday worship? The answer is that the blood of Christ calls us to a life of justice. The Church is the light and salt of the world. If society moves to a place where it is not right, we must reveal the injustice with the law of God. I hope that our church will become a safe and mature community that can talk about what is right. God has declared that we are His kingdom. Let’s help each other so that this community can become a healthy kingdom and healthy priests. At Skyway, let’s explore together the law of the sky (heaven), the pursuit of justice, and the power of love. May God’s holy and love-filled kingdom find its full expression within us!