The question comes to me as to why I think it is that we so often see sin most systemically in the urban context. Good question. Here are my thoughts:

Because the operative word for defining systemic sin is “social justice.”

Because, when we define “justice” in general terms and “social justice” in sociological terms, we bifurcate the two and see the biggest problems in the urban context. This is a mistake.

Here’s why: the word “justice” is no different than “social justice” in biblical categories — just run your eyes quickly through Exodus or Deuteronomy or the prophets (and don’t just go to Micah’s famous text). There you learn that “justice” refers to “what is right” (say, tsedeqah or mishpat) and what is right is determined by “what God says” (Torah) and behind what God says is “who God is” (the perichoretic splendor of love and holiness and beauty). So, in biblical categories “justice” is indistinguishable from “social” justice because it is the Nature of God that determines — we are talking ontology here — what is right because God is What is Right.

So, when we define “social” justice as the cracks into which the poor fall and the marginalized can be found, we most often are operating now with a meaning of justice that comes from Mill and Hume and those sorts, in other words, from what gives us individual freedom and protection of rights and personal happiness. But, this is not biblical at all: Christian justice is anything that conforms to God’s perichoretic splendor — in other words, Love. As Jonathan Edwards said it, “heaven is a world of love.”

When we define justice as “social” justice, instead of God’s justice, we find its biggest glaring problems in the City and so we focus the terms on those problems. But, friends, think about it, urbanites and suburbanites each struggle with the glory of God.

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