Background work –
Listen to N.T.Wright lecture here:
1. In the New Testament, the word for righteousness and justice are essentially the same, sharing the same root. In an era of individualism, the word for ‘justice’ is generally translated ‘righteousness’. When most of us think of righteousness, we think of personal holiness in how we conduct our behaviour. So when we read “blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,” we tend to think of people who want to be good. Jesus’ first hearers, a downtrodden people, living under a hostile superpower that trampled all over the promised land, would have heard Jesus say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice.”
The biblical word for justice / rightousness includes the role we play alongside other human beings: our social, political, personal, relational, spiritual, practical, financial and economic hopes and dreams and models of behaviour. What do you believe God would say about these different aspects of your life?
2. People who feel they have been robbed of justice often feel like taking the matter into their own hands. Have you ever felt ‘justified’ in acting cruelly towards another? Do we feel injustice more when we suffer it that when we dish it out?
3. Which is more central to the character of God? Justice? Love? Does a different picture of God emerge from different answers to that question?
4. Does Christian faith have anything to do with the coffee we buy, the chocolate we eat, the petrol we burn, the clothes we wear, the holidays we enjoy? Does God expect us to take the trouble to learn how our lifestyle choices affect real people in the world today? If so, how?
5. Is there such a thing as justice that God himself must adhere to, or is it simply a word that describes the action of God upon the earth?
6. Work through some of your favourite passages of Scripture. How do they read differently when you replace the word “righteousness/ righteous” with “justice / just”?