Please introduce yourself, share a little about your background and why you took this course.
My name is Bryan Franklin. I grew up in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado. After graduating from undergrad, I spent four years in various roles living in the midst of and learning about the economic disparities in our country and world. It was during this time that I first began to ask what God had to say about justice. My calling is to pursue reconciliation and justice, and I jumped at the chance to take this course to deepen my understanding of justice.
Before taking the course In Search of Biblical Justice, how would you have defined justice?
Entering this course, I defined justice as the Hebrew word shalom, or rightness or right relationship. In Genesis, Adam and Eve lived in right relationship on four different levels: with God, with self, with one another, and with the rest of creation. Sin fractured this relationship. A return to right relationship across all four of these levels would bring about justice.
Tell us about one or two lectures that most impacted your perception of justice during the semester. How was justice as recognized in Scripture defined? What biblical texts did the professor use as support?
In February, Dr. William Smith, joined us to deliver a lecture titled “The Story of Israel: Justice as a Community of Equals.” He described the justice in which Israel participated through four interrelated pillars:
- Worship – Justice began and ended with Worship. Israel worshipped a Holy God and attempted to point towards that Holy God through their lives. “[Y]ou [Israel] shall be holy, for I am holy.” (Lev 11:45).
- Law – Israel’s Covenant with God, the law, was Israel’s ‘how to live a holy life guide.’ A just, fair, and reliable court system is essential to any nation’s justice system.
- Righteousness – Righteousness has its foundation in right relationship. It is possible to follow the law but do so in a way that is not loving God and loving neighbor (Deut 24:10-23; Matt 23:26). Christians are called to live into God’s standard of righteousness, a standard beyond the laws of the land, and at times, stand against said laws.
- Loving Kindness – God’s loving mercy is the roadmap we are to follow in our lives. Israel instituted laws such as atonement (Exod 22) and the year of jubilee (Lev 25:1-10). These laws were meant to be acts performed in love and called Israel to practice humility, forgiveness, to seek reconciliation by confessing sin, and to make right past wrongs.
How have these points and the course in general changed or advanced what you think about or how you define justice?
This course has both advanced my thinking and opened up a variety of new questions to explore. One key takeaway is the importance of understanding the Hebrew culture in comparison to 21st-century culture.
Western thought is often linear and problem-solving focused, while Hebraic culture values the journey and shies away from dualistic, ‘right/wrong’ answers Hebraic culture also placed emphasis on the importance of community. It was not a small set of individuals’ jobs to seek justice (i.e. lawyers, law enforcement, nonprofits), but the responsibility of every single individual and the community as a whole.
These cultural differences are key to describing my updated thoughts on justice. Justice starts and ends with Worship. Left to our devices, humans cannot and will not achieve justice. The Christian life is meant to be a life that points towards what is to come and recognizes that it is only through lives of Worship, that justice will come to Earth. Justice includes seeking just social and political systems. For a just society is one grounded in a reliable governing system or set of laws. Shalom — or a world of right relationship, the world as it was created to be — gives us a roadmap of the only true way to right those systems, by living inside of God’s standard for life (Righteousness). Finally, this work must be grounded in love. Love is the interconnectedness that binds justice and we as humans together. Love calls each individual and us as a community to practices such as restitution, forgiveness, provisions for the poor, and the resetting of unjust systems.
How will these learnings and reflections impact your ministry going forward?
This course has deepened my commitment to reconciliation and justice. I hope over the long term to start an initiative that creates space for Christians to come together across cultural, political, and socio-economic divides to learn to ‘love one another as Christ loved us.’ From this place, we as a group of diverse believers would pursue justice together. I am a firm believer that the division across the Christian spectrum here in the United States and globally will continue to hamper the church’s witness to the world and our ability to seek justice.
This course challenged me to start and end my pursuit of justice with Worship. This is challenging for me because without Worship (prayer, lament, confession, etc.) I often either 1) try to carry the burden of hurt and injustice myself and/or 2) develop a “I’m right and God is on my side” mindset. Neither of these mindsets or burdens encourage reconciliation or a pursuit of justice.