Advent 1 – Sunday, December 2, 2018

December 2, 2018  

Jeremiah 33:14-16

I have been thinking about “justice.”
And I have been thinking about “righteousness.”

The New Revised Standard Version of the bible (which we use in worship) ends our reading from Jeremiah with the words “And this is the name by which it will be called: The Lord is our righteousness” (Jeremiah 33:16b).

The New American Bible ends the same Jeremiah reading by saying “And this is the name by which it will be called: The Lord is our Justice.”

Now, in verse 15 of the New Revised Standard Bible it is written “In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness…” So we aren’t presented with an either or in the text, the writer isn’t saying we have one or the other, justice or righteousness.
I found myself wondering about the different translations, if the different translators had different agendas for what the new community of faith will become.

According to Bing.com
Justice: just behavior or treatment.
When I was teaching I never allowed my students to define a word with the same word—so Bing.com fails. To say “justice” is “just behavior” really tells us nothing.
But—they do have a secondary definition:
Justice: the quality of being fair and reasonable.
I hate the word “fair.” “Fair” is too fuzzy. “Fair” is too subjective.

“Reasonable” as a definition of “justice” starts to move in the right direction. To be reasonable is to use reason—at least according to me. And reason means logic. And logic means we are working with facts and arguments that can be defended.

According to Bing.com
Righteousness: the quality of being morally right or justifiable.
Here again we have righteousness and right… which tells us nothing.
But “morally right” gives us a clue. When we talk about morality we are talking about knowing how we ought to live, which tells us what the right thing to do is (at least according to Aristotle).
Defining “Righteousness” as “justifiable” is interesting. Because it takes us right back to an understanding of “justice.”

So let’s look at synonyms for each word.
A synonym is a word having the same meaning or roughly the same meaning.
According to Bing.com some synonyms for “justice” are validity and soundness.
That’s perfect because again, for a moral argument to be sound it has to be valid. It has to be true. It has to be logical.
Synonyms for “righteousness” are goodness and virtuous.
All of this that I have been thinking dwells in the land of ethics… we’re talking about morality.
Which is exactly what we ought to be discussing as we imagine a community of faith living according to the promises God has made to God’s people.

“In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: The Lord is our righteousness.” Or, “The Lord is our Justice” (Jeremiah 33:15-16).

 

We, as Christians, believe Jesus fulfills this prophecy. We believe, as Christians, that Jesus, as our leader, brought to the world Justice and Righteousness. We believe Jesus brought goodness to our world. We believe Jesus exemplified virtue.

We, as Christians, are called to live in a community of faith founded on the principles and teachings of Jesus, calling ourselves “The Lord is our Justice” or “The Lord is our Righteousness.”

And so we become servants of Justice—people who have a moral code rooted in truth. Our arguments aren’t subjective—they aren’t based on feelings of anger or sadness or pain or joy—our arguments for peace, our arguments for love– our arguments are logically developed, rooted in the principles Jesus brought to the world. Principles of love and compassion and concern for those who suffer.

And so we become servants of Righteousness—people who have a moral code rooted in truth. Our truths root themselves in our virtues—in those character traits that are manifest in habitual action that are good to have. Meaning being loving and being compassionate and being peace-makers, and being honest are all things we do without even thinking. They simply are who we are because we follow Jesus. Because we live in the community that claims “The Lord is our Righteousness.” “The Lord is our Justice.”

Our 2nd reading today includes a hope:
“…may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all…” (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

May those hopes live in and through us, today and always.
Amen.