Currently it is in vogue to be a person who seeks to ‘do justice’ in the world – which is a very good thing. Beyond the cliche, however, there are a variety of motivations and justifications for one’s particular approach to doing justice. What then should be the motivation and procedure for the follower of Christ today? In this book, highly respected New York City pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, author, and theologian, Timothy Keller shines his thoughtful, gospel-centered light on the issue of justice.
The subtitle gives away the thesis of the book, as he argues that it is the grace of God that can and should transform redeemed followers of Christ into passionate doers of justice in this broken and fallen world. Keller starts his book by explaining what it means to do justice from a Biblical perspective, starting with the Old Testament, moving to the words and example of Christ, and culminating with a look at the parable of the Good Samaritan.
In the next section, Keller answers the “why” and “how” of doing justice. Here he points out that the most common calls for ‘doing justice’ go unheeded, mostly because they are neither truly compelling, nor are they grounded in the nature of God and creation. For example, typically we hear the, “you should give more to the poor because you’re a rich American, don’t you feel bad for the poor?” As Keller points out, the problem with this approach is that we already have built in defenses for such appeals… after all, compared to my socio-economic class circle, I’m pretty average, and there’s a lot of people who have a whole lot more than me – right?
Instead, Keller argues that we should think about God and ‘doing justice’ based off of the two motivations the Bible gives believers:
joyful awe before the goodness of God’s creation, and the experience of God’s grace in redemption (pg. 82).
As we think about God and His creation we begin to realize the inherent value of the imago Dei in the life of every human being. God has literally imprinted his image into the souls of everyone – therefore, as the Bible often says, to lend to the poor is to give to God, to mistreat the poor is to mistreat God. Furthermore, as we recognize God’s ultimate supremacy and ownership of all things, we see all people as His, and we see all our resources, talents, abilities, education, and opportunities as gift from Him for Him.
Next, Keller shows just how focusing on and understanding the gospel of Grace empowers and should motivate the believer to be a doer of justice in the world. When we understand our spiritual bankruptcy before God, and instead of receiving the justice our sins deserve, we receive grace, that should astonish us and transform us to become grace givers ourselves.
Keller is careful to point out the distinction and the relationship between evangelism and ‘doing justice’. In our day, some of the emergent types, or theological liberals have confused the two. Rather, as Keller points out:
Doing justice can indeed lead people to give the message of gospel grace a hearing, but to consider deeds of mercy and justice to be identical to gospel proclamation is a fatal confusion. I propose a different way to understand evangelism and social justice. They should exist in an asymmetrical, inseparable relationship (pg. 139).
Of course, Keller has much more to say and many other great and biblical insights on this important issue for our time, all of which would make the book worth its price in and of themselves. I highly encourage followers of Christ, and those interested in seeing a distinctly Christian approach and motivation for doing justice to read this book.