In a typical ancient Hebrew parallelism, the great truth about the inter-relationship of justice and peace is stated in these words, “Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.” (Psalm 85:10). The two concepts of Justice (i.e. Righteousness in the Bible) and Peace are intertwined in the Bible. There are multiple verses in the Bible telling this truth. As for instance Psalm 72:7, 85:11, Isaiah 48:18, 57:3, 60:17 and so on. They form basic Biblical themes and are inalienable from one another. The Hebrew words ‘Tsedeqah’ and ‘Shalom’; and in the New Testament Greek words ‘Eirene’ and ‘Diakaiosune’ mean both these concepts: Justice and Peace.
In the books of the Classical Prophets of the Old Testament, religion without justice has no value (Amos 5:7, 21-24; Isaiah 58:5-8). God is just, people are wicked. God wants that all leaders of His people should be just (2 Kings 8:15, Psalm 119:21). Not doing just is a sin. God’s moral law is for ensuring justice in society. God does not tolerate fraudulence and injustice. Man fall short of God’s moral law. In the 8th century B.C. Prophets prophesied about the coming of ‘the righteous Prince’, who would administer faultless justice (Isaiah 9:6, 11:4-5, 42:3).
The Biblical perspective of God’s justice does not make God aloof about injustice and passive about social justice as it is seen in the Western symbol of a blindfolded lady with a perfect balance. Biblical justice has a positive overtone and commitment to the cause of justice and order in society. Biblical justice is concerned with the poor, the oppressed, orphans, and the underprivileged in society. The oppressors are apathetic to the needs of the poor. The Bible teaches that justice must be in place for real peace to exist.
The word ‘Peace’ (Hebrew ‘Shalom’) occurs 236 times in the Old Testament. Peace is not just absence of war, of quarrel or fights. This refers to completeness or wholeness where the relationships between God and man, man and man, man and nature are harmonious. This implies struggle for justice and abhorrence to sin. The Bible says that there is no peace for the wicked (Isaiah 48:22, 57:21). Peace is the consequence of justice and just relationships. Peace is just peace; it is not something, which is trusted upon or forced upon. All the Prophets advocated for justice and the genuine rights of the poor. Many religious and political leaders trampled down the helpless and the weak ones. Their religious activities and sacrifices were mere lip-service to God. Prophet Amos called the rich and the unjust people in the society to execute justice and righteousness in all spheres of life. Through him, God asked his disobedient people to ensure that justice flows like water unhindered so that all can get the share of the blessings of good and gracious God: “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.” (Amos 5:24).
There must be active and pro-active concerns and commitments for establishing justice and equity in society. Lasting and just peace is enjoyed by everyone in the community.
In the Sermon on the Mountain, Jesus called people who work for or make peace happy or blessed. (Matthew 5:9). The original word in New Testament Greek for ‘Blessed or Happy’ is ‘makarioi’ meaning exceedingly happy or blessed. So, the great importance of making peace or working for peace is very praiseworthy. This implies that we should work for establishing peace. We all love and like peace perhaps. But very few would work for peace. The Greek root of the word for ‘peace’ is ‘eirene’ or ‘eiro’ means ‘to join’ or ‘to weave together’. Essentially, ‘eirene’ or peace or ‘Shalom’ implies a harmonious relationship, the right way of living for peaceful co-existence. God is the God of justice and peace. He is not a God of chaos and disorder. To be sure, according to the Bible ‘Shalom’ or peace and justice implies freedom from fear, injustice, disorder and any form of oppression in the family, society and the state and so on and so forth.
Righteousness and justice are the either sides of the same coin. God is righteous because he is just and vice versa. There cannot be true peace without justice. Jesus’ teaching on ‘Peace’ is not an easygoing matter because of the fact that it is not easy to establish just because of the sinful nature of the human beings.
The Epistles of Paul begin with both Semitic and Greek styles of greetings of peace (Shalom) and grace. They refer to comprehensive or holistic peace or well-being. We know God of peace and also the peace of God from the Bible. But we need to put into practice what we learn from the Holy Scriptures. This is a great challenge for all believers so that they can work for peace, not only talk about peace. Some people have researched and found that the world has lived one year in peace for thirteen years in wars on an average. Peace being the work for justice and justice is the cause of peace (Isaiah 32:17). God’s holy will for mankind and for all his creations must prevail. This requires our upright living, faithfulness, love for truth and the practice of fighting for what is right. For this, we need to have peace within our own hearts and minds, a transformation of our attitude towards God and the people. This article is merely a humble attempt to say few words on the great Biblical themes of justice and peace for establishing which we need not only to believe theoretically or theologically but also to be committed wholeheartedly.
Whatever amount of religious activities we may take part in unless we maintain the right and just relationship with other people in society, our religious practice or observance of rituals will avail nothing. It is a positive attitude towards life, towards God’s creations and towards the fellow human beings. This can change the world for the better; for a just and peaceful society for all. No peace without justice!