Parasha Shoftim 5779
Throughout scripture we can see a link between the concepts of love and justice.
Justice is the biblical term for the expectations and rights that should govern how we interact with each other, and especially for how we prioritize responding to the diverse needs within our community.
Love motivates us to respond to the needs we see, justice guides our response through the cloudy waters of fairness, equality of all persons, and competing interests.
As Jews and the Body of Messiah, we are commanded to love others and therefore compelled to take seriously the needs we see around us. Yeshua told the story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) to illustrate how love for others crosses cultural boundaries and deals with real needs. But what if we complicate the story by wondering what it also means to love the robbers or the people who walked on by? Love motivates us, but justice gives us an idea of how to respond and balance God’s love for everybody with His specific concern for the powerless.
“In the Tanakh, God’s attitude toward the weak is revealed as well as what is correspondingly expected of the strong. The Apostolic Writings presuppose this revelation and reinforce it.” In Devarim 10, love and justice are connected to who God is. It says: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords…He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.” The Mitzvot mirrored God’s example by expecting those who had power in society to use that power to benefit others, especially the powerless.
Yeshua, who always did what he saw the Father doing, also mirrored God’s example for us throughout His life on Earth. Defending the defenseless, healing the crippled, feeding the hungry, and so on. He challenged the cultural and societal barriers of His day, speaking with Samaritans, eating with tax collectors, and treating women with dignity and equality.
We are expected to do no less, as the community of B’nai Yisrael, as the Body of Messiah, and as individuals. You and I.
I want to go back and repeat something.
As Jews, as Christians, as Messianic Jews, as Righteous Gentiles, as whatever title you want to use, we are commanded to love Adonai our God, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Love should motivate us to respond to the needs we see. Our response, must be guided by justice. “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof – Justice, justice you shall pursue.” Justice guides our response as seek to right wrongs, pursue fairness, demand equality, heal the wounded, and restore relationships all through haze of modern life and competing interests.
As a synagogue, we can easily promote individual acts of tzedakah while forgetting the powerful witness of a congregation united in pursuing God-reflecting justice for the marginalized.
To love others is to take their needs seriously—people’s need for a savior, as well as their need for food, shelter, dignity, work, health, or freedom from unjust and dehumanizing systems.
The more we do as individuals, the more we do as a community, the more we do as Jews and as the Body of Messiah to openly demonstrate God’s love through the restoration of justice, then we are truly helping bring down the Kingdom of God.
In this month of Elul as we prepare our hearts and minds and begin the tasks of confession and Teshuvah, let us truly turn to the path of HaShem and seek to walk in the footsteps of our Messiah.
B’shem Yeshua HaMashiach.