The Scriptures describe Jesus as “the chosen servant who brings justice to nations” (Isa. 42:1&2). The same scripture is referenced in Matt. 12:18-20. This brings the issue of justice to the core of Christlikeness, our spirituality and the faith. If this is the case, then Church needs to continue to look into this subject, in the midst of the many voices and perspectives that are circulating in this 21st century. The Scriptures are clear that we must “no longer conform to this world but we must be transformed by the renewing of the mind” (Rom. 12:2). We cannot advance the Kingdom by following narratives of this world. We do not fight with worldly weapons or worldly narratives, if we do, we will never win this battle (2 Cor. 10:4). We must not be deceived by the hollow and empty philosophy (knowledge systems) of this world (Col. 2:8). The knowledge of the world has an appearance of wisdom but it lacks any value in restraining sensual indulgence (Col. 2:23) or put differently, it cannot effect sustainable human transformation. We must not be tossed back and forth by the cunning and craftiness (skewed narratives) of this world (Eph. 4:14). This brings a demand upon us, to engage a pathway of revelation to develop our own kingdom focused narratives, thought and literature that form the basis for our Kingdom Worldview. We have to engage the pathway of revelation to unearth that which cannot be comprehended by “flesh and blood” (Matt. 16:17), the wisdom reserved for our glory (1 Cor. 2:6-16). We have to be students (disciples) of the narrative of Christ, the narrative of the Kingdom of God.
The fundamental problem of humanity is not in the skewed power relations between people groups – this is the fruit of the problem. The issue is the collective rebellion against the wisdom of God, by both the oppressor and the oppressed, the powerful and the weak, the rich and the poor, Black and White, male and female etc. The conspiracy against Christ spoken of in prophetic Scriptures is a project of all nations and people groups – of both hegemonic powers (people groups) and the weak nations (people groups) – “why do nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against His anointed…” (see Ps. 2.). The totality of the human condition reveals a humanity that collectively stands opposed to the systems of God, and yet within this context, there are efforts and activities to facilitate justice – this is futility! Humanity as a collective, is in a state of “protest” against the arrangement of human existence centered on the wisdom of God (which is Christ). We have all gone astray and have fallen short of the glory of God (1 Pet. 2:25, Rom. 3:23) – this is the condition of humanity as a collective. We are like two sons who have agreed to rebel against their father but who have then gone on to victimize each other. To be an arbiter in such a situation, you’d have to firstly point out the collective rebellion and therefore the collective fault of both sons, before seeking to help the victimized son. The Church is faulty if it only tries to help the victimized son without equally seeking to redefine the very framework and foundation of human existence.
The conspiracy against Christ referred to above (Psalm 2) was facilitated and implemented by the oppressed and colonized (the Pharisees, with the support of the poor masses) together with the oppressive, colonial authorities (the Romans). The weak in this equation, were as passionate and complicit in the crucifixion of Christ as the powerful were. The early Church recognised this reality and referred to Psalm 2 when they experienced persecution orchestrated by the collaboration of Herod (colonizing authority) and the Pharisees (a colonized people group), see Acts chapters 4 and 5. For this reason, a theology that projects Christ as the “bosom and darling” of the weak and poor is fundamentally flawed. After all, Christ was born in a manger but was declared king right from birth. For this reason, His birth threatened the authorities of the day. This means that the Identity of Christ actually brings together two different and often conflicting class dynamics and components – of royalty and peasantry, of strength and weakness, of privilege and marginalization – Christ is the “king-peasant”. The rich and powerful should go to Christ to learn how to handle power, in the same way that the poor and weak should go to Christ to learn how to deal with their vulnerability. This is what the Church must stand for in the midst of global humanity.
As a prophetic people, we must not take sides in this conundrum and complexity of power relations between people groups. If we do, then we are essentially condoning the fundamental problem of rebellion against the creation wisdom of God by humanity. Jesus never took sides, for example, He confronted those who wanted to stone a woman found committing adultery (the Pharisees, who in this story represent Power). Jesus challenged the moral basis of the Pharisee’s authority, but equally instructed the adulterous woman to ‘sin no more’ (John 8:1-11). So that both sides walked away with a demand from God. Prophets would rebuke powerful nations like Babylon and Assyria as well as weaker nations like Israel. This means that as a prophetic people, we have to speak against the weak and the powerless when they err with the same passion with which we address hegemonic powers and privileged people groups in their faults. The prophet Jeremiah spoke against weaker Israel in the day of Babylonian invasion, in what looked like favour towards an ungodly Babylonian empire, but later rebuked Babylonians over issues of sin and idolatry. The prophet who declared against Israel, “disaster is coming from the north” equally declared, “Babylon will be captured”. Israel was not handed to the Babylonians because of Babylonians’ righteousness, but because of Israel’s sin against God. Equally, when Babylon was found to be full of pride, injustice, idolatry and wickedness, they too were judged by the Lord. In this context, we have to look into historical interaction of nations even during the Colonial Era and seek to understand how the Kingdom sees this reality. Colonialism came with gross evils and racism, and yet it facilitated the opening of the world and brought interaction of cultures. So, was God judging Africa for idolatry through colonialism? Was the “success” of colonialism God’s way of condoning Europe’s moral “Christian” foundations? This is far from the truth! In the day of colonialism, Europe (just like Babylon) was as guilty of idolatry and immorality as Africa was (and just as Israel had been). The meaning of Colonialism is neither in the “morality” of Europe nor in the “wickedness” of Africa. All humans, Europeans and Africans, have gone astray and fallen short of the glory of God. To solve the problem of colonialism, we have to focus on what God was doing in the midst of evil, just as we continue to solve the generational effects colonialism brought to the world. This is the Joseph principle – his brothers acted wickedly by selling him as a slave but God used the same situation to save many lives. Joseph himself recognized this (firstly the evil of his brothers and secondly, the righteous and sovereign intent of God in the midst of the evil situation) and his acknowledgment of this divine truth resolved the matter in his heart – Gen. 50:20. This captures the essence of what it means to be prophetic – it’s the ability to track God in the midst of the chaos of the world. Prophets don’t simply analyze evil, they decode the light of God. Habakkuk had to learn this functionality of the prophet from God, of not simply outlining evil but of defining vision. Justice cannot be declared from a heart of bitterness and vengeance. This (principle of Joseph) is also the principle of Christ – “evil men put Him to death by nailing Him to the Cross BUT Christ was actually handed over to these evil men by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge (Acts 2:23) – with a bigger plan than the painful Cross, the salvation of mankind. Colonialism refers to the very evil of the human heart to expand territory by conquest and yet we cannot deny the fact that God (as He always does) was able to use that evil project of man to spread the gospel and mix cultures to produce a cosmopolitan world upon which we can establish the Civilization of the Kingdom of God today. In the same way that the gospel reached the corridors of Europe and parts of Africa through Greco-Roman colonization. This is the context that allowed the apostle Paul space and freedom to move around and to write letters that could be understood in different regions. And yet that does not mean that Rome was a righteous empire, on the contrary, it persecuted the Church. Our kingdom narrative on colonialism cannot end in colonialism itself, in the same way that the story of Jesus does not end in death but in resurrection – the Scripture in Acts ch. 2 continues to say “but God raised Him from the dead” (Acts 2:24). This is the philosophical framework that informs the basis of our prophetic analysis and Kingdom narrative of the socio-political conditions around us (ie. the divine sequence of death and resurrection). In this post Colonial Era, do we see God raising a global cosmopolitan society that can lay a foundation for the establishment of One New Man (Eph. 2: 11-22)? The answer is yes!
Therefore, any cause for justice in favour of the “marginalized”, within the general human conditions of the 21st century eg. Blacks, women, nations of the South etc. must be met with the same passion in addressing structural and moral issues that these same marginalized people groups are guilty of. Like Jesus, we must be able to both confront Power and also tell the marginalized ‘to go and sin no more’. We are not speaking on behalf of God when we become partial in our narratives and advocacy. A prophetic people have to continue to call all humanity (the powerful and the weak) back to God’s framework, arrangement and wisdom of human existence whilst they continue to confront the secondary systemic problems that have been produced by humanity’s collective act of rebellion against God.
In the Bible, the question of Justice is never discussed outside of the context of Righteousness. These (righteousness and justice) are inseparable spiritual twins that we cannot conduct a surgical operation on in order to separate. These are two sides of the same coin – they are the two sides of the same nature of God – and they both form the foundation for God’s throne (Ps. 89:14). When studied together, they bring the two elements of Equity and Morality in one equation. Equity in terms of dealing justly with fellow humans. Morality in terms of conforming to the Nature of God. We are acting in error when we demonstrate passion for Justice without equally passionately calling humanity to God’s demand for Righteousness. In this context, the Israelites were freed from Egyptian oppression by God’s power but were later rebuked and judged for their immorality, even though they were regarded as forming the “weak class” in the league of nations (Jude 1:5).
Since Jesus was a “king-peasant” and since He interacted with all people groups, the powerful and the weak, Church must be a place of purification of narratives and establishment of truth – we are the Pillar and the Foundation of Truth. She must be a place where different people groups are brought together and integrated in Christ. A place where we pursue Kingdom Humanity together – our shared humanity in Christ. And as the world becomes more unjust, Church has to stand with a scepter of justice undefiled by the prevailing narratives. This requires that we put away our own wisdom and allow Christ to disciple us.