For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.
Just because things are quiet in my household doesn’t mean that there is peace in the house.
Believe me, some of the biggest fights my wife Leah and I have ever had began as silent wars. I will confess that I have used silence as a weapon. And Leah has used icy stares as a counter-weapon.
As Dr. King reminded us, “True peace is not merely the absence of conflict; it is the presence of justice.”
That’s why the passages about shalom in the Bible are linked to the words sedeq and mispat, which are translated in the above passage as “justice” and “righteousness.” These words in the Old Testament are intricately linked, and are often used as synonyms. They mean simply justness, fairness, and right behavior.
The reason that the Messiah figure was so eagerly anticipated by readers of the Hebrew Scriptures is because they longed to be treated fairly. They demanded justice in very practical matters — in their economy, which was increasingly becoming dominated by rich landowners; in their land, which was under occupation by the Romans; in their religion, which had become corrupted by elitist priests and scribes.
Wherever you look in our world, it is clear that injustice is the root cause of violence. Every hot spot on the globe can be traced back to origins in some kind of injustice. In Egypt and Syria, people are struggling to emerge from dictatorship into democracy. In Gaza, Palestinians launch missile strikes because their land was forcibly taken from them sixty years ago.
Injustice fuels conflict, which usually erupts in violent acts. The injustice is compounded when lives are taken and property is destroyed, and then fresh unjust acts are piled on top of older ones.
The implication of the passage from Isaiah is that true peace can only be ushered in by justice. The reason the child is called Prince of Peace is because he grows up to establish true justice in the land. This means that every family receives a fair piece of land, resources with which to prosper, stability of place. Children are safe and healthy, and grow up to fulfill their potential, because nobody prevents them. Women are allowed to flourish in their vocation alongside men.
It is this kind of justice which would radically reduce the amount of violence in the world. It is this kind of justice that we look forward to during Advent.
Because we know that Jesus comes to help bring justice. Even in our war-torn world. Even in our crime-cracked neighborhoods.
Even when we are the ones responsible for the injustice.
Link of the day: Two weeks ago, a fire ravaged a garment factory in Bangladesh, killing 112 workers. This disaster came on the heels of a blaze in Kirachi in September which killed 262. In both instances, employees worked in dangerous and miserable conditions. It appears that, at least in the case of the Bangladeshi fire, the clothes being manufactured are sold by Wal-Mart and global clothing brands like Tommy Hilfiger and the Gap. Justice would seem to require that consumers demand that working conditions be improved in places where there clothes are produced. One such organization doing exactly that is cleanclothes.org.
Prayer: God, justice seems so elusive. We want to see things put right, but we are also aware that we are responsible for so much of the injustice. So put our hearts right. Amen.