The Law of God and Public Policy, Part 21

Just and Good
The Law of God and Public Policy (21)

A just society is a good society.

“You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land the LORD your God is giving you.” Deuteronomy 16:19, 20

The goal of public policy
We have said that the goal of public policy must be to ensure a just society, one in which the very character of God defines the parameters of moral and social conduct. God’s character is holy, and that holiness comes to express in goodness and love. The Law of God, as an expression of God’s character, is thus holy and righteous and good, and the way to show love for God and neighbors (Rom. 7:12; 1 Jn. 5:1-13; Matt. 22:34-40).

Justice, as an expression of God’s goodness, is a jewel with five facets, and the Law of God outlines the specific nature and practice of each of these forms of justice.

A just society is the “good” for which government has been instituted by God (Rom. 13:1-4). No government ever retained power for very long by announcing that it was opposed to justice and hostile to goodness. Attaining justice and goodness is the stated purpose of every politician, no matter his party or platform. In a free society such as ours, one cannot expect to be elected to office unless he is able to persuade the electorate that he and his policies are on the side of justice and goodness.

But unless we define each of these terms, we will always be persuaded that “justice” and “goodness” actually mean, in the end, something like “whatever is best for me.”

We have defined justice; but what is goodness? When justice is maintained, goodness should flourish. On the other hand, if we don’t have a clear conception of the good society, justice may be easily perverted, bent to fit the agenda of those whose aims are less than truly “good.”

“Justice” and “goodness” are like the near and far sights of a rifle. We must line them up together in order to create policies that are in line with God’s purposes.

It is important, therefore, that we articulate an idea of the good society, a society in which justice and only justice is being followed in every area of public policy and private life. And, from the Christian perspective, such an idea can only derive from considering the teaching of God’s Word.

In 1 Timothy 2:1-4 Paul wrote, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Here is an outline of a “good” social order, one that pleases God and benefits all people. When justice and only justice defines the policies and practices of a people, and a good society, such as Paul envisioned, is our aim, we will surely come closer to realizing God’s purpose for government and public policy.

A just and good society, from Paul’s perspective, will be guided and informed by the holy and righteous (just) and good Law of God. So whatever Paul envisions as a summary of the “good” society, we may take it as a goal of our Christian lives to strive to attain such an ideal by every means available to us, including, as here, prayer, and the Law of God.

So before we proceed further into the teaching of God’s Law with respect to public policy, we need to examine the various terms that Paul uses to outline the parameters of the good society: peaceful and quiet, godly and dignified in every way, characterized by truth, and friendly to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Understanding the good society will reinforce our determination to work for policies that are just, and that bring honor to God and benefit to all people.

Next steps: How do your unsaved friends and colleagues define the “good” society? Ask a few of them, and listen patiently as they reply.

For more insight to this topic, order Chuck Colson’s book, God & Government, from our online store. You can download a free PDF series by T. M. on the topic, “The Government We Seek,” seven studies outlining a Biblical view of good government. It’s available here at no charge.