There is a thing called justice.
Being Open has led me to grow clear on something inside of me. Part of what became clear was that the thing inside of me was there all along. It makes sense because I am a creation of God, the offspring of a very loving Parent. A loving Parent.
The thing that was there inside of me all along is that God has no commitment to or interest in retributive justice. I imagine God thinks retributive justice is boring. Retributive justice is plain and simple: You mess up, God gets the rod; You straighten up, God embraces, while keeping a close watch on you; Ready with the rod when you mess up again. God has no commitment to or interest in retributive justice. I think it’s stoopid.
That’s not to say, You mess up enough times, there’s no consequences. As we tell our children, “Look, you don’t study, you just can’t expect high marks on Gradespeed.” When I taught humanities at Milligan College, I told my students something. Here they were first year, right out of high school, away from home for the first time, some of them palpably scared to death. (It was my first time teaching on a college level; I was way more scared than they were … but I didn’t tell them that.) I can remember the moment in the beginning of my first class when I saw that fear on half their faces. And I told them, “Look, this is all built for you to succeed. Show up for class. Read your material. Participate in the discussions. Ask questions. It’s all built for you to succeed.” But we all know what’s on the other side of that, don’t we? You don’t participate in class, or read the material, or just show up, you’re going to fail. This can’t be all one way. You’d never learn anything. But, Jeez!, that’s a far, far distance from retributive justice that puts the rod in the hand of God, a loving Parent!
What was inside of me that was there all along is distributive justice. Distributive justice is just as plain and simple as retributive, just way more interesting. I imagine God thinks distributive justice is pretty cool. Distributive justice is simply the freely chosen desire to distribute resources so that all people, all living creatures have what they need. Read that again, and think globally.
One of the distinctive marks of the early church described in Acts is captured in chapter four. Take this one slowly:
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. [I bet they did!] And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all [I bet it was!] that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. (Acts 4:32-35)
This is really amazing, when you give it some thought. It’d be amazing for a person to sell property and give it away. That’s pretty amazing, in and of itself. But what is really, really amazing – as in awe-inspiring – would be a person who sold a piece of property and gave it to the church to distribute. I mean think about that for a moment. That says a lot about the church described in Acts. Can you imagine the level of trust and deep relationship required for someone to turn over a bunch of proceeds to the church, a church who must have also been in deep communion together with God and the Spirit. That’s a community I’d be a part of.
That’s anything but boring!