A Missing Component in Our Discussions About Doing Justice
Some common ways God reveals himself in a dynamic way are through prayer and Scripture reading, but there’s also a connection between our ethical actions (doing justice, for example) and our knowledge of God. We gain an even better understanding of God as we participate with him in his mission, a part of which is justice. We go from knowing about God to knowing God. From static to dynamic.
A few years back, my church went through A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy. That book, perhaps more than any other, taught me about who God is—his attributes and desires, his likes and dislikes, his view of his creation, including man.
That book had such a profound effect on me, I read it once a year. As good a book as it is, though, Tozer would never think his book is a substitute for living a life in relationship with God.
Here’s what I mean by that: Knowing about someone is not the same as knowing that person. We would never claim to know Abraham Lincoln after reading a few biographies about him. In the same way, we shouldn’t equate knowing God with simply gaining knowledge about him from books, church, or Bible studies.
To know someone, we must spend time with that person and participate in life with him. It’s often easy to mistake knowledge about God for knowing God. Why do I bring this up? Because the idea of knowing God has been a missing component in our discussion about doing justice.
Justice flows from the very character of God. In fact, Dietrich Bonhoeffer—one of the German Christians who resisted Hitler—pointed out that there’s a connection between justice and our ability to know God. When we participate with God in seeking justice for the vulnerable, seeking their good, and living out biblical justice in all areas of our lives, we are, at the same time, participating with God and building our relationship with him.
In his book Pursuing Justice, Ken Wytsma uses static and dynamic art as a way to describe the difference between knowing about God and the knowledge that comes from being in a relationship with God.
A painting is static. It doesn’t move. You can learn a lot about the painter by looking at it, but you never know the painter in a personal way simply by looking at his art.