Justice was this month's theme. It is both a classical and a biblical virtue. Plato, the Greek philosopher who taught 300 years before Christ, talked about justice as both an individual and a political virtue. He explained that in a just system, each part plays its role properly and does not interfere with the other parts. St. Augustine, writing 300 years after Christ, synthesized the Platonic virtue of justice with Hebraic and Christian ideas. Justice according to Augustine is found when the soul rules the body and when humans love and obey God.
In the Pentateuch God gave Moses laws for the nation of Israel. Many of the laws enjoin justice towards one’s neighbors and fellow man. For example, there are laws that prevent the rich from exploiting the poor and laws commanding provision to be made for widows and orphans. Hundreds of years later, the Old Testament prophets foretold the doom that would come to Jerusalem because the people did not follow those laws. The only way to stop punishment from the Lord was to start doing justice:
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
Plead the case of the widow.
I sat with the 3rd Grade class today discussing Hammurabi’s 4000 year old Babylonian code of law from ancient Mesopotamia, well-known for “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” We discussed what justice is like without mercy. What an amazing conversation to have with 8-year old students, who have a strong sense of justice! Ambivalence lies in the fact that we like justice and fairness when others around us aren’t following the rules. But when the rules apply to us, we want to be excused from the consequence and desire mercy. Mercy is forgiveness and compassion shown towards an offender who deserves justice.
Understanding justice and God’s mercy, which we don’t deserve but is given to us, helps us understand God’s unimaginable love for us and others. With this knowledge, we know what is right and good: to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.
With gratitude for coming together so strongly this week,
Mrs. Polly J. Friess