What comes to mind when you think of the image of God and justice? How are these concepts related to one another? Genesis 1:27 tells us that all humankind was created in the image of God. God has formed every human being in His image. A part of each and every one of us looks like God. Incredible! The God of the universe, above all things, Creator of all things, Lord over all, decided to imprint humans with His image. Why? In this one simple, complex, and extraordinary moment, God gave every human the greatest amount of dignity imaginable when He made us in His image. Each gender, young and old, all races, all backgrounds, and all cultures—all are represented. We live our lives—sleep, eat, breathe, work, and have relationships—all with the imprint of God upon us in each and every moment, wherever we go, in whatever we are doing. This is the truest form of dignity.
When we treat people or are treated in a way that does not reflect this God-given dignity, injustice occurs. What is justice? Webster’s dictionary defines justice or just as “conformity to truth, fact or reason,” and “treating people in a way that is considered morally right.” When we conform to the truth that all humans have dignity because of the image of God, we have a greater ability to act justly. When we understand the great amount of worth, value, and dignity that all humans have because of the image of God, the concept of treating people in a morally right way is now connected to the supernatural.
In the original Hebrew and Greek languages of the Bible, the word for justice is the same as righteousness. Righteousness means freedom and treating people justly, as in viewing them as perfectly upright with nothing against them and restoring to this status. As His children, God treats us in a righteous manner and has called us to treat others the same way.
Justice matters because God is just within His character. He is the creator of justice. It runs through Him and overflows out of Him. And when that dignity, the very image of the most-high God, is taken away from one of His own, He cares deeply.
For this study, we are partnering with International Justice Mission (IJM) to highlight the just heart of God, the injustices happening throughout our world, the biblical call to be a champion of justice, and the hope for justice found only in Jesus. IJM is a global organization that protects the poor from violence in the developing world. Through the study of Scripture and real life stories from IJM, we will discuss injustices such as human trafficking, forced labor, and gender and race inequalities. All these topics can be uncomfortable and are not always easy to discuss for many reasons: because the stories are so difficult to hear, because we don’t want to “rock the boat,” or because we would rather not know. We want to encourage you to sit in this tension. Let yourself be uncomfortable. Be willing to learn, let yourself feel all the emotions that come with this, and listen to God as He might call you to action, convict you, and encourage you. The uncomfortableness, the tension, the difficulty, it’s all worth it because justice is central to the heart of God. And as bearers of His image, we should consider what this means for us too.
For this six-week study, we will cover biblical content each week on days 1 to 4. For day 5 of each week, we will hear a story of injustice made right from IJM. The first week of the study lays a foundation by discussing God’s just character. The second week covers stories about justice from the Old Testament. The third week is about Jesus’ heart for justice. The fourth week sheds light on those who are more susceptible to injustices and how Jesus interacted with these people. The fifth week takes a look at how our brokenness contributes to injustices and yet how the gospel overcomes. The sixth week calls us to action.
Seeking justice for all of humanity is gospel work and therefore, it matters. It’s not social, political, or trendy work but gospel work. The concept of justice is not new, but has been around forever because it is embodied in the character of the eternal God. Because it matters to God, it matters to us, His followers.
Remember when Jesus taught us how to pray in Matthew 6:9–13? Think about verse 10, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s kingdom is just. As followers of Christ, we strive to help build God’s just kingdom here on earth. To care as Jesus did for the marginalized, the poor, the discriminated against, and the outcast. It matters now and for all eternity.