Friday, 16 December 2011

Human Rights or Justice?

In our modern or post-modern Western cultures we tend to view human rights as the highest value, which means we like to fight for our rights, even though we mostly live in countries that are very free, and where there is little real poverty. This is not the case elsewhere in the world, and it is worth taking a moment to ask how the Bible addresses issues like the woman who was imprisoned as a result of having been raped:

Rather than talking about human rights, the Bible discusses such issues in terms of justice. God is righteous (has right actions) and just (fair) and expects us to behave in the same way. "Always judge your neighbors fairly, neither favoring the poor nor showing deference to the rich' (Lev 19:15). In the Psalms it is common for the oppressed to cry out to God for vindication:

They gape at me and say, "Aha! Aha! With our own eyes we have seen it."  O LORD, you have seen this; be not silent. Do not be far from me, O Lord.  Awake, and rise to my defence! Contend for me, my God and Lord.  Vindicate me in your righteousness, O LORD my God; do not let them gloat over me.
Psalm 35:21-24  

In Isaiah justice is emphasised in a new way:

When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood;  wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong,  learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
Isaiah 1:15-17  

What we need today is not human rights, but a fear of God who is just, and who carries out his just judgments against oppressors of the poor and weak and needy.