The Rule of Law: First Things (34)
“You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the LORDyour God is giving you.” Deuteronomy 16.20
Love and respect for our parents, learned at home, fits us for practicing justice in all our neighborly activities. Justice is only the Law of God, faithfully practiced in all human relations and interactions. Justice is closely related to righteousness, and is another way of thinking about the love for our neighbors to which the Law points us in all its parts. Thus, justice is the particular form neighbor-love takes in any situation.
The Law of God describes five different aspects of justice. In any particular situation requiring a just response, one or more of these facets of the gem of justice may come into play.
Preventive justice includes those things we do in order to ensure that our actions do not endanger our neighbor – such as building a railing around our roof or deck, or preventing our animals from doing harm to our neighbors’ property. Preventive just requires love aforethought.
Obligatory justice begins with seeing others as image-bearers of God, and involves us carrying out the commitments we have made – keeping a vow, fulfilling a contract or promise, or using just weights and balances, for example. Above all, as Paul reminds us, we are obliged to show love to our neighbors (Rom. 13.8).
Restorative justice comes into play when some action on our part has harmed or injured another, incurring some cost or damage, which it is then our obligation to make good.
Retributive justice requires punishment for offenses against intentionally perpetrated against others – in the form of financial damages or physical retribution.
And distributive justice – such as the tithe and gleaning, as well as paying wages in a fair and timely manner – makes it possible for us to meet the needs of those who serve us and those who cannot sustain themselves, with the wealth God entrusts to us.
The Law of God establishes a ground from which we may cultivate the fruit of justice in every area of our lives, thus ensuring that our community flourishes in the wisdom, goodness, and love of God for His people. The more we read and meditate in the Law, and come to delight in and love it, the more the requirements of justice will become stamped on our consciences.
Learning the requirements of justice for all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities must be a high priority in the conscience, so that, whatever situation arises, only whatever is altogether just is what we will follow in all our ways.
T. M. Moore
The Law of God is the soil which, fertilized by the rest of God’s Word and watered by His Spirit, brings forth the fruit of the Christian life. If you’d like to understand this process better, and how to make best use of the Law in your walk with and work for the Lord, order the book, The Ground for Christian Ethics, from our online store.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.