Mandate for Justice: Inside and Outside
Just As Jesus Was
By James Taneti, Director of the Syngman Rhee Global Mission Center for Christian Education and Assistant Professor of World Christianity
Relevant Scripture Passages to Consider:
- Luke 4:16-30
- Matthew 6:5-15
- Matthew 25:31-46
Hunger, disease, malnutrition, economic disparity, untimely deaths, political violence, mass incarceration, and anxiety were not alien to first-century Palestine and the regions beyond. A careful scan of the New Testament will attest to this. Walking with Jesus, watching his interventions, and listening to his sermons and parables, we see all of these things taking place. We only need to see through his eyes. The evangelists Luke and Matthew, writing almost five decades after the death and resurrection of Jesus, addressed these issues and recalled Jesus’s response.
One of Jesus’s disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. In response, Jesus summarized the gospel in the form of a prayer. The prayer calls for justice—ecological (Sabbath), economic (remission of debts), and food (daily bread). In memorizing and reciting the Lord’s Prayer in their personal and public worship, saints from all ages and every continent have been calling for and continue to call for and commit to justice.
Luke placed Jesus’s manifesto right at the beginning of his public ministry. In the text, Jesus returns home after ministering in Galilee. At the synagogue, Jesus reads a passage from the book of Isaiah. In reading, Jesus declares the Spirit’s mission of bringing good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and Sabbath to the life-giving land and labor. Jesus was on his father’s mission. We are invited to join.
Matthew 25:31-46 is a vision for a just society. In this parable of heavenly judgment, the victim becomes the judge. Having experienced lack of access to food, drinking water, housing, clothes, healthcare, and a fair trial, the victim-judge understands the needs of other victims and establishes justice. These texts attest to Jesus’s commitment to justice and the commitment of those who followed the Way.
- What contemporary issues of justice come to mind when you recite the Lord’s Prayer?
- Read the recommended verses in Luke 4, identify the changing responses of the crowd, and probe the reasons for the change.
- Think of the various forms of injustice in your neighborhood or country and ask yourself what the victim-judge in Matthew 25:31-46 would demand of us.
John Dominic Crossan, The Greatest Prayer: Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message of the Lord’s Prayer (New York: HarperCollins, 2010)
William H. Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas, Lord, Teach Us: The Lord’s Prayer & the Christian Life (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1996)
James Taneti is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Earlier, he had ministered in church, classroom, clinical, and correctional settings. After completing his theological education at the United Theological College, India, James pursued and received a master’s degree at Princeton Theological Seminary and a doctoral degree from Union Presbyterian Seminary. His area of expertise is on Christianity outside the western hemisphere. In addition to numerous essays and book reviews, James has authored three books about Christianity in South Asia