I was just listening to a lecture by Walter Brueggemann on the Old Testament Law, and he mentioned something and one of the questions asked him by the audience mentioned something that finally shaped a more complete concept in my mind of the role of holiness and justice in Christian life.
Brueggemann doesn’t hesitate to use specific examples in contemporary U.S. American society, specifically addressing the animosity between the largely homogenized polar opposite groups of conservative/Republican/evangelicals and liberal/Democratic/secularists. His specificity in addressing these two camps, and this particular comment about Old Testament Law, helped “unite the two so long divided” in my mind. Psychologically speaking, another epiphany moment where a long-held division of dissonance was resolved to unite my experience, beliefs, and behavioral values in a way that is really rather exhilerating.
Something was mentioned about the Old Testament’s call toward two innate attributes of God. Both these attributes are supported by the Old Testament law, by the narratives told and retold throughout Jewish history, and the teachings of Jesus. From all these founts of wisdom come a testiment to God’s holiness, and a testament to his justice. These are inseparable in our one true God – he is completely Holy and calls us to that same holiness. And he acts on behalf of the poor, oppressed, and enslaved – he is justice, and he calls us to that as well.
These two paths are inseparable – justice and holiness bond and reinforce each other in chemical-reactionary type way. Without holiness, the pursuit of justice is pretentious, pejorative, non-sustainable, and exhausting. Without justice, holiness is divisive, self-absorbed, incomplete, and numbing. These two must go together, as we learn they do in the Bible. The Law is given to create a holy people, one set apart from the other nations in their obedience to God. Holiness. The Law also details protection for the widow, the orphan, and the illegal alien, and how a society can live together peacefully by ensuring all its members are cared for. Justice.
The recipe for a whole-hearted pursuit of God is one that is rooted in love, love for him and his holiness, and love for others in a compassionate response of justice.
Brueggemann also makes a critical generalization about U.S. American society that I feel holds true across party lines. Consumerism and materialism is a plague, or at least an ungodly cultural pressure, that infects everything about our daily lives. To perpetuate its momentum and keep consumerism running, our society is kept in a state of fear instead of hope. We see this technique used across party lines.