Reflection by Waldensian minister Paolo Ricca
Deuteronomy 18, 18-20
And thou shalt appoint thee judges and scribes in all the cities which the Lord thy God giveth thee, tribe by tribe: and they shall judge the people with just judgments. 19 Thou shalt not infringe upon the right, nor have any personal concern, nor shallst thou accept gifts: for the gift blindeth the eyes of the wise, and corrupteth the words of the righteous. 20Justice and only righteousness shall thou follow, that thou mayest live and possess the land which the Lord thy God is about to give thee.
Dear brothers and sisters,
We are celebrating, in almost all the Churches of the world, the week of prayer for Christian unity, so I thought I would return with you to the word of the Bible that the Churches of Indonesia have chosen and proposed to all the Churches of the world. That it is precisely this word from the book of Deuteronomy, which has certainly already been explained to you, but on which I would like to return also because, unfortunately, in Italy it has been diffused in a translation, that of the interfaith Bible, which is a fine translation but sometimes betrays instead of translating. And this happened precisely with this verse that, in the Hebrew text, says: Justice, only justice will you follow. That is to say, you will pursue, you will try to achieve it. This word is translated into the interchurch Bible in this way: Try to be truly just.
As you can see, this translation shifts the emphasis from justice, which we must achieve, which must be achieved in the world, to our justice. As if, precisely, God, who speaks here through the prophet, as if God were inviting us to be just, while He is inviting us to practice God's justice in the world.
And so I would like to comment on this word, precisely, for its radicality, for its exclusivity. Because it says: Justice, only justice will follow. That is to say, you will not be concerned with anything else. You will not do anything else until there is justice in the world. What justice? God's justice.
God loves justice. He does not only love justice, of course, he also loves mercy, he loves compassion, he loves forgiveness, he loves life, he loves joy, he loves holiness, he loves truth. What does our God who is love not love? But first of all he loves justice. That is, everything else comes afterwards. First there must be justice and then everything else. This is the meaning of the word: justice, only justice will you follow. Not that you don't have to follow other things, but first you have to follow justice. Not that God loves only justice, God loves many things, but the first thing he loves, the first thing he wants to see done, done in the world is justice.
But what is this justice that takes precedence over all the others? Think, even in our society civil justice is very important, that of the courts, criminal justice, administrative justice, social justice is very important. All of these justices are important but that of God is not one of these justices. The one that God loves more than cults, more than liturgies, more than prayers, even more than ours, certainly I believe, I hope, God loves our prayer but He loves justice more. He loves our song, certainly, but he loves justice more.
What is this justice? But you know it, it is said a thousand times in the Bible: it is justice in favor of someone, that is, it is the opposite of our justice, which is depicted as a blindfolded woman holding a scale with the two plates in perfect balance. This is our image of justice. That of God is not so. God's justice is unbalanced, radically unbalanced. Why? Because the world is unbalanced. And God's justice is unbalanced backwards.
It is unbalanced to combat the imbalances of the world. It must be unbalanced, it must be partisan, it must be partial. This is God's justice. The justice of the orphan. Why? Because no one defends it, God defends it. Of the widow, why? Because no one protects the widow, God protects her. Of the foreigner, why? Because no one loves the stranger, God loves him. Of the poor, why? Because the poor cannot pay for their lawyers, God is the poor man's lawyer.
This is God's justice, partisan justice. Partisan justice in favor of someone and not others, partial. God does not have his eyes blindfolded, the dishes are not in balance in God's justice.
And we are at the service of this justice of God for the orphan, for the widow, for the poor, for the foreigner. We are at the service. We could say: we are the partisans of God's partisan justice. This is the meaning of this word.
Not that this makes us righteous: there is no righteous, not even one, says the Apostle Paul. But with all our limitations and all our defects we are at the service of God's partisan justice. Which is so partisan that it is not only in favor of the orphan, the widow, the stranger and the poor, but it is also in favor of me, the poor sinner unworthy of his love
This is the full measure of God's righteousness, that he is in favor of me sinner. He does not reject me, he does not condemn me, he does not punish me, but on the contrary he embraces me, he welcomes me, he forgives me, he covers me with the mantle of the justice of Christ, he makes me just in Christ. So, yes, I can also say about myself, even about me, I can say: I am truly just in Christ. In Christ but not without Christ.
As you can see, there are two justices of God: the one for the orphan, the widow, the stranger, the poor is the justice that God demands from his community, he demands of the Christian Church that it be at the service of this partisan justice of God. But then there is another justice, not the justice that God demands, but the justice that God gives, gives, and gives to me as a sinner. The justice that I must not do but must receive. Here is the double justice of God: the one he demands and the one he gives.
In Christ we are truly just. So he grasps Christ and his justice to be just in him. He is your justice before God and before men. It is no coincidence that Jesus said: Blessed are the hungry and thirsty for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are you if you are hungry and thirsty for the justice of Christ, for you shall be satisfied. Amen