The Quest for a Just Society

My Dear Friend,

Justice, sweet justice, has long been the elusive dream of the suffering masses and starry-eyed idealists alike. From poets to peasants, from philosophers to politicians, many have dreamed of a just society where every citizen is treated with dignity, where opportunity abounds for anyone willing to work, where the laws are fair and gladly obeyed, and where the happy citizens live in peace and prosperity, free from fear.

But what of this thing called justice? Is this utopian society even a possibility? And if so, what determines the law base, the economic system, the family structure, and the religious framework?

Many have contemplated these questions. Some have put forth their own theories. Karl Marx was one of these. He staked his life on the belief that history was intractably moving toward this utopian end, as if some invisible force was superintending human activity.

“The fall of the bourgeoisie and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable,” Marx boldly declared in his Communist Manifesto of 1846. Marx hated the injustice of his day, but unfortunately his solution, the theory of dialectic materialism, has proven to be quite wrong.

Today, in the wake of a sea of blood and countless shattered dreams, the ideas of this misguided individual have been widely discarded. Only a handful of countries still cling to the “Party line.” Our leaders in particular are facing the difficult dilemma of divorcing themselves from the failed policies of the past while at the same time refusing to relinquish any real power.

How ironic was the recent statement of Jiang Zemin, general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, when he concluded, “We must cleave to a spiritual pillar.“1 I’m sure none of us ever expected the leader of the Communist Party, which is predicated on atheism, to be implying we need God.

Karl Marx yearned for justice. Sadly he was unable to discover the laws and principles that would produce the just society he envisioned. His ideas regarding the “evil” of owning private property, the “evil” of commerce, and the “evil” of believing in a “non-existent” God have all proven false. He was right about one thing, however: History is moving toward a time where, as it says in the Bible, “Justice will roll down like a river” (Amos 5:24 NIV).

The reason that this course is intractable is that there is a God superintending human events, and He has guaranteed the triumph of justice on the earth by sacrificing His only Son, Jesus Christ. It is the job of each person to embrace this truth and then determine how his or her life can be given to help advance God’s purposes.

While man has again and again devised his own theories and pushed forward his own ideas of justice, we Chinese students would do well to study the Bible, inquiring of God what His ideas might be concerning justice. Since God is the Creator of all things, it only stands to reason that He would be our best possible consultant.

The Bible records these words of Jesus: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 NIV). This, of course, refers to the Bible, God’s Word revealed to us. In essence, Jesus was saying that there is only one standard, one set of instructions for all nations, for all times – the Word of God. Anything deviating from this pattern is doomed to failure.

The Bible, in fact, is an “instruction manual” for living. It has within it complete instructions not only for individuals, but for entire nations. It speaks not only to personal morals but to public policy as well. When its secrets are unlocked and applied to a nation, then peace, prosperity, and liberty are the result. As it says in Psalm 35:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (NIV).

We, the future leaders of China, must cleave to this truth as our own “spiritual pillar” if we are to do any better than our predecessors.

Passion for Justice, Hatred for Injustice

It is also cause for great hope to know that our Creator is passionate about justice. God’s hatred of injustice is a recurring theme throughout the Bible. He plainly states in Isaiah 61:8, “For I the Lord love justice” (NIV). Moreover, God the Father declared in Isaiah 42:1, 3-4, referring to His Son, Jesus:

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations … In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on the earth (NIV).

The prophet Isaiah spoke these words hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth in human form. It is one of many Scriptures that reveal God’s heart of compassion for the nations and His determination to bring an end to the vain ideas of men that do not follow His instructions and thus produce great suffering.

Elsewhere in this same book of the Bible we get a glimpse of God’s compassion, His determination, and His method, which is applying the Bible to every aspect of life:

Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation: The law [the Bible] will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations. My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation [the coming of Jesus] is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations (Isaiah 51:4-5 NIV).

So what is a just society? What does it look like? Are there universal guidelines?

Arriving at answers to these questions may seem overwhelming, when given the great breadth of human interaction, but thankfully God has broken down human existence into five basic areas or spheres of government, which make it much easier to comprehend. These five spheres of government are: (1) self government, (2) family government, (3) church government, (4) business government, and (5) civil government.

All human activity falls under the jurisdiction or guidelines of one of these five spheres. The Bible outlines very definite instructions and responsibilities for each sphere as well as definite limits of authority. When each sphere of government operates according to biblical principles in harmony with one another, justice results. When any sphere neglects its God-given responsibility or usurps responsibility from another sphere, injustice results.

Gaining an understanding of each of these jurisdictions and their interrelatedness is absolutely essential for anyone desiring to see justice prevail in China or anywhere else. We will be taking an in-depth look at each of these spheres in future letters, but a brief explanation of each at this time will help us to gain an overview of what constitutes a just society.

Self Government

The first sphere, and the most foundational, was the theme of the last issue of The Mandate. This sphere in one sense is the most important of the five. It refers to the ability of an individual to govern or control himself or herself in a moral and upright manner without being swayed or intimidated by external forces. Put another way, a self-governing individual is one who will not lie or steal even when there is no chance of being discovered; one who will not cheat or deceive others for personal gain; one who will seek to serve others as one’s greatest ambition; one who will keep a promise and remain loyal even when disappointed by other people.

In view of these very lofty standards that God exemplifies in His own character, we can see why the Bible teaches very plainly that it is utterly impossible for an individual to be self-governing without the inner power of Jesus Christ.

We Chinese students – who have grown up under such great pressure to succeed academically and have now to a large extent succeeded – find it so easy to criticize the enormous social problems in America as well as back home in China. How many of us, though, can look into our own hearts and examine our secret thought lives without embarrassment? Can we escape the selfish ambition that drives so many of us? Where are those who have been given so much who are willing to leave the comfort of America to return to China as servants that our nation may one day be what God intended it to be?

My dear friend, none of us can measure up to what God expects without the supernatural inner transformation of Jesus Christ. Christianity is not another religion or intellectual pursuit, but rather it is the story of God the creator coming down to a world full of selfish people and dying on a wooden cross in our place that we might exchange our dark selfishness for His glorious love.

Without this inner transformation on a personal level, it is an exercise in hypocrisy and futility to consider bringing justice to society at large. Changing public policy alone will have only a temporary benefit at best if there is not enough character within individuals to support new responsibilities previously held by the state.

Fortunately, China today – although not widely reported – is undergoing a spiritual transformation that is unprecedented in 2,000 years of church history. As thousands of Chinese each day turn to Jesus Christ, they are receiving the power to be the kind of self-governed people our country needs. This gives us cause for great hope for our beloved homeland.

Family Government

The second sphere of jurisdictional government is family government and is God’s primary building block for society. The Bible gives fathers, mothers, and children their own definite instructions and parameters in which to operate. When these are followed, strong healthy families result, which in turn produce new strong and healthy families.

Thus, the single most important function of the family is the care and training of children. The state, according to God, does not own the children! It has no biblical authority to indoctrinate them or even to determine their fate through abortion.

This subject will be addressed in depth in our next issue, but for now suffice it to say that when the state assumes the role of God and claims ultimate ownership of the children, we open ourselves up to huge problems. This usurpation of power is more commonly known as tyranny, and will always produce devastating results. Although Chairman Mao may have meant well, his Cultural Revolution was a failure for many reasons, not the least of which was its open assault on the biblical framework of the family.

Church Government

The third sphere of jurisdictional government is church government. This sphere is unique among the other four in that it is the primary function of the institutional church to train individuals to function in their daily lives within the other four spheres (Ephesians 4:11-16 NIV) as well as to reproduce church leaders.

For example, the church is responsible for training individuals to be self-governing citizens able to communicate and demonstrate Christ’s love to their fellow citizens. Second, the church is responsible for providing training for families, including among other things marriage and child-rearing counseling.

Third, the church is responsible for training individuals regarding the biblical principles of finance and business. Karl Marx observed the great injustices taking place in early 19th-century England and jumped to the false conclusion that “business” was inherently wicked. What he didn’t realize was that it was a cold and cowardly church primarily responsible for not confronting the moral decadence of Marx’s “bourgeoisie.” In other words, the church was doing a terrible job of teaching the people biblical standards for business.

Finally, the church is responsible for training statesmen who love God and understand how to apply the Bible to public policy. This is considered by some to be the area of the church’s greatest failure of the modern era.

While the church as an institution is not to rule over society or dominate civil government, it is to be the primary training ground for communicating God’s love and His plan for the nations in every sphere of government.

Business Government

The world of finance – and more basically, the ownership of private property – is a predominant theme of the Bible. Most of Jesus’ teachings and parables dealt in one way or another with this issue.

When the individuals within a nation learn how to handle God’s resources according to the biblical pattern, great wealth will always result. Conversely, when the biblical pattern is ignored, poverty and suffering will always result.

This applies both to the individual just beginning a small business as well as to corporate giants such as IBM and General Motors.

This particular sphere should be of vital concern to us as we move toward a market economy, and we will explore it in more depth in a future letter in this series later this year.

Civil Government

Finally, God has very definite instructions about how civil government should operate, the most noteworthy quality being that its responsibilities are very limited. These limited responsibilities are mentioned on page 6 and will be discussed at length later in this series.

Civil government, according to the Bible, is to be a servant of the people (hence the term “public servant”), not a dictator. It is not to control business or own industry. It is not to infringe in any way on the sovereignty of the family, and is not to control what people say, think, or believe.

The moment civil government infringes upon any of the other spheres, the wheels are put into motion that produce death, destruction, poverty, and misery – every time.

Cause for Hope

Justice, sweet justice. Just a poet’s dream or a coming reality? Jesus declared it was the latter with His last words before going to be with His Father. He said, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth; go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18 NIV). Jesus would not have delivered such a command if He did not fully expect it to be carried out. He also would not have commanded it without giving us the power to carry it out.

The prospect of achieving this kind of change for China seems impossible to the natural mind. Without God’s power, it is indeed impossible, but with His power you and I have cause for great hope. Will you, my dear friend, surrender your life as I have to this great God who gave His life for our country and join us in our efforts to honor Him by bringing His justice to China?

For, “this is the plan determined for the whole world; this is the hand stretched out over all nations. For the Lord almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out and who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:26-27 NIV).

Your friend,

Wang Jiapu

1 From a speech relating to the dangers of a market economy.

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