The Justice of God
In a sermon preached after Christmas in 1985, Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh said these words about the effect of the Incarnation:
And then a new justice was introduced, or rather proclaimed by Him, not the distributive and retributive justice of the law, another justice. When Christ says to us, ‘let your justice be beyond that of the Scribes and Pharisees,’ He speaks of the way in which God treats each of us. He accepts each of us as we are. He accepts good and evil, He rejoices in the good, and He dies because of and for the sake of what is evil. And that is what God calls us to remember, and how He calls us to be and to behave - not only within our Christian circle but in the whole world, to look at every person with that kind of justice; not judging and condemning, but seeing in each person the beauty which God has impressed upon it and which we call ‘the image of God in man’. Venerate this beauty, work for this beauty to shine in all glory, dispelling what is evil and dark and making it possible, by the recognition of beauty in each other, for this beauty to become reality and to conquer.
It is this beauty, this glory in the human person that has been lost in the horror and distortion of sin, and it is precisely this beauty that has been restored through the gift of Christ to the world. The Church in this season proclaims the living presence of Christ through its worship, but Christians must do more than proclaim in their churches the message of the Gospel: they must embody it. This means the end of “systems” whose purpose is to force humans into neat boxes that deny their true identity before God. All ideologies, all economies, all “ground-breaking” theologies, all academies…they all must be challenged by this simple idea: that we must see in each person the beauty which God has impressed there – venerating that beauty, work for that beauty to shine in all its glory, and dispelling the evil and dark that holds back that beauty’s fullness. If that person’s beauty is illusive to us, we are being called by Christ to look deeper, to let the Holy Light of God illuminate our own darkened vision.
Because this is a struggle, we want turn away from this vision and flee to an ideology, an “-ism,” or an intellectual certainty requiring no humility, no dependence on God. When we do, our justice becomes only that “of the Scribes and Pharisees.” Some “system” of human devising becomes our joy, the power of the Gospel is diminished in us, and we are the same as the World. The real challenge of this season may be to hold on to the gift of the Christ given at Christmas, recognizing that we have only begun to comprehend the magnitude of the freedom He brings for us and the world.