Chapter 4 of Gary Haugen’s Just Courage deals with the “The God of Justice.”
Beginning with his approach to teaching children math skills–give them disproportionate amounts of candy, Haugen points to a basic “hard-wiring” in humanity–fairness and justice: “As any parent of small children will tell you, children have an amazingly acute sense of justice.” (p. 62) This virtually universal innate sense of fairness comes from our basic resonance with the divine seed of justice that lives within humanity, if only as a signpost pointing us to the reality of an origin for that sense of Justice.
Haugen, as he does well throughout the book, offers a simple definition for injustice: “the abuse of power by taking from others what God has given to them.” (p. 63) And, he points to the clarity concerning God’s response to injustice in the Bible. “God’s position is straightforward. God hates [injustice] and wants it to stop.” (p. 63) Clarifying further God’s character as it relates to justice and injustice, Haugen offers a three-part answer to the question, “What does it mean to say that God is a God of justice?” (p. 63)
- God is a God of compassion (Psalm 116:5), which derives from Latin, meaning “to suffer with.”
- God is a God of wrath. God’s wrath is something of a controversial subject for some. No doubt part of the reason is the uneasiness many have with working out the amount of violence in parts of the Old Testament on the one hand with the teaching and witness of Jesus in the New Testament. Regarding injustice, Haugen keeps it straight-forward: God responds with righteous anger in the face of injustice, cruelty, and evil. When people endure torture and abuse, when a woman or girl is raped, when persons are enslaved, God gets angry. But God’s anger “is not the same as human anger–anger that is often disproportionate or of mixed motives.” Any anger on God’s part is righteous and warranted. This reminds me of a John Ortberg sermon I once heard that touched on justice in which he shared this thinking (which I think Ortberg attributed to CS Lewis): “Anger is what love bleeds when it is cut.” This is the way to understand God’s righteous anger at injustice.
- God is a God of rescue. God doesn’t sit passively by with all of his compassion and wrath building up inside. He acts. He is a God of rescue (Psalm 35:10). The obvious and difficult question, however, is “What’s God’s plan for rescue?” Haugen’s answer in Just Courage is one of my favorite lines from his Leadership Summit talk: “The answer to this question is clear in God’s Word, and yet the answer is also surprising. It turns out that we are the plan” (p. 65, emphasis original). Then, in his Leadership Summit talk, he added, “…and there is no back-up plan!” This is indeed staggering because we can all think of times we failed to hear and/or act on God’s call for us to be his agents of rescue in the world. But we can hear and act on that call in the present.
“seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17, NRSV)