Making Wrong Things Right

It is hard to make sense of chaos. That is because chaos, by definition, is non-sensical. Disorder and confusion, anger and fear, anxiety and despair—these are the fruits of chaos. Too much chaos and the always-tentative ordering of a society shows fractures opening ever wider. Could it all lead to collapse? That is unthinkable, but history says otherwise.

The asphyxiation of a man lying in a street held down by someone’s knee—that is chaos. Young people with hammers and bats breaking shop windows and then running off with as much loot as their arms can carry until a siren sends them scurrying like rats—that is chaos. And then there are people who have a commitment to chaos. Anarchy is their stated aim. Nihilism their philosophy. They want things to fall apart.

There is a way out. It is the way of justice. We know this. Justice is not merely a good deal for me. Justice is what is objectively and fairly right. Justice pushes back against racism. It elevates people above poverty. It judges violence.

But it takes work. Chaos begins in the heart…

The vocabulary of faith in Scripture includes these fundamental ideals: righteousness and justice. These are not separate realities; they are bound to each other. Righteousness is when things are “right”; justice is how things get set “right.” It is all about being right, or getting right while living in a world that is wrong. So wrong. In so many ways wrong. It is also about being wise enough to realize the problem is not “out there,” but resides in and emanates from human nature.

A London newspaper one day posed a philosophical question to its readers: “What is wrong with the world?” The brilliant writer G. K. Chesterton sent a letter to the editor:

Dear Sirs:
I am.
Sincerely yours,
G. K. Chesterton

“Righteous” people are simply people who are “right” with God. They were estranged from God, sometimes hostile toward God, other times indifferent toward God, and now—by God’s grace alone—they have a restored relationship with God. Our broken friendship has been restored (reconciliation). Like convicted criminals we have been acquitted in a courtroom (justification). Like slaves we have been given freedom (redemption). We are like orphans who have been taken in by a loving family (adoption). We are sinners who need the kind of forgiveness that can only be won by a sacrifice of ultimate value (atonement).

Righteousness is not a halo that appears over our heads because we have cultivated virtue or are simply behaving ourselves. Righteousness, according to most biblical scholars, is not a personal attribute at all—it is the spiritual state of a real relationship with God.

And in this is a most amazing spiritual power. People who become right with God have the desire, the calling, and the power to make things right with other people. This is the spiritual logic of justice. God’s act of restoring rightness in human beings carries through to acts of righteousness and justice between human beings. This is true spiritual influence—righteousness flows to us, and then it can flow from us.

The mandate to make things right is repeated many times in the Old Testament.
This is what the Lord Almighty said: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.”—Zechariah 7:9–10

This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.—Jeremiah 22:3

The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.—Psalm 33:5

Just pause and let that single verse from Psalm 33 sink in. The earth is full of God’s unfailing love. This world—this broken, diseased, corrupted, inequitable, uncertain, catastrophe-prone world—is loved by God. The way he loves it is by loving and promoting righteousness and justice. God knows it is not too late for the world. Berlin may smolder—until it is rebuilt. A girl in India may be held as a sexual slave—until someone rescues her. Malaria may kill children—until generous people purchase mosquito netting for a whole nation in sub-Saharan Africa. A socially awkward teenager may be bullied at school—until parents and school administrators take a stand against it. A drug addict may get released from jail one more time, vulnerable to the same pattern of addiction and crime—until he finds an effective recovery program that includes a loving community.

Injustice corrodes our humanity wherever we experience it. This is not the way things were supposed to be. Adam and Eve weren’t supposed to disobey God. Cain wasn’t supposed to kill his brother Abel. One out of seven people in the world should not go to bed hungry tonight because of problems of politics and distribution. We have to be indignant about injustice in order to be champions of justice.

Across history human beings have shown just how many ways the crooked and darkened soul can mess things up. And so the call of God comes. He has shown us what is good and what he requires. Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly. Make things right—whenever you can, wherever you can.

If we have the potential to make things right (in any measure), one would think that we would clamor for the opportunity. But rightness and justice cut against human nature because they come with a cost. Making things right is always right but never easy.

The law of the jungle seems to be the natural way of the world. Eat or be eaten. Kill or be killed. Might makes right. Grab before someone else takes. Hoard because you don’t know if your supply will run low. Follow the inverted golden rule (he who has the gold, rules).

It is telling that we have so many ways of expressing this fatalistic view of life. Frighteningly, this fatalistic view neither remembers nor respects righteousness. Shame on us when we acquiesce to it in the name of being “realists.”

4 thoughts on “Making Wrong Things Right”

  1. I believe that it is one of the most difficult things for us as Christians to get our head around. We do actually have the power to effect change made available to us, right along with the responsibility to be engaged. When the Spirit takes up residence within us, he’s not expecting a fence post that never goes anywhere. He’s looking for the RV lifestyle. He expects to go places with us and do things with us and reach others through us and to grow and sanctify us in every step along the way. Life abundant, not life redundant.

  2. Rosalía Moros de Borregales

    I complete agree with this point of view! We cannot wait until we have been perfected: Every day is an opportunity for both: On one hand, to achieve holiness which comes from the perseverance in living according to Jesus’s gospel. On the other hand, our main purpose in life is to make wrong things to be right being light of this world and salt of the Earth. And these are tasks that cannot be waived by christians.

  3. Thanks Pastor Mel for the great piece on Making things Right…I now begin to understand the first bit of the Lord’s prayer..’thy kingdom come, thy WILL be done on earth as it is in heaven’ I would assume that things being right means the will of God being done, when Jesus suggests that this should be at the top of our prayer list it means it should also be our priority in our day to day life. Mathew 6:33…seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His RIGHTEOUSNESS[things being right] …again Jesus here instructs that we should make the pursuit of making things right our FIRST priority…not our comfort, not our peace, not our happiness…..if the mission our churches is just about better facilities and more people then it is incomplete we must have a mission and vision for a RIGHT SOCIETY!

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