I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the physical and the spiritual, especially in how they relate to the ministry of our lives. No matter what any sort of sci-fi nerd or palm reader tries to tell you, there are two realms to the world in which we live, the physical, and the spiritual. The physical realm is everything we see, hear, touch smell, and taste every single day. The spiritual realm is the unseen and often un-thought of workings of God through His Holy Spirit.
So, I began to think, if there is a physical realm and a spiritual realm, there are therefore two different forms of justice that God wishes to accomplish within these realms, physical justice, and spiritual justice. This is what I have been praying about, that God would accomplish both physical and spiritual justice through the ministries I am involved in this summer.
We live in a society where it is widely accepted to serve you’re the physical needs of your fellow man. Everyone would agree that giving food to the food pantry or clothes to the Salvation Army is a good thing. Physical justice, to provide a definition, is providing for the basic physical needs of those who lack the resources to provide for themselves. And the good news is, this sort of service is very much on the increase. Countless charities exist in the hopes of bringing food to the hungry, or medicine to the sick. Even for profit businesses like TOMS Shoes have integrated into the heart of their business model a way to serve the less fortunate. And while I say that there are countless organizations out there, there still aren’t enough. Thousands are still going hungry and dying from lack of clean drinking water. We have barely made a dent on bringing full physical justice to the globe, but we are well on our way.
I think, however, that the truly neglected realm is the spiritual realm. This makes sense because spiritual realm is unseen not everyone believes in God. But I find that Christians ignore the spiritual realm and spiritual justice just as much as non-Christians in our ministry work.
Now please do not hear me wrong on this. I believe in physical justice, I believe that we are called to serve our fellow brothers and sisters and to care for the sick and provide food for the hungry, no one can deny that is based in the Holy Scriptures.
But if we were to look at the narrative of the Bible, physical justice was only half the battle. The Israelites, for example, were slaves in Egypt, a completely unjust state of living, so God called Moses to set them free. Justice! Right? Not really. They were then stuck in the desert without food. So God provides Manna and quail from the heavens to feed them. Justice! Right? Sort of. They still have no place to call home, then God delivers the city of Jericho into their hands. Justice! Right? Not quite yet. Throughout the rest of the Old Testament we watch God’s people flow in and out of power and earthly prestige, no matter how many times God provides for their physical needs. They may have found food, and a home, but they were still hungry and lost.
This leads me to believe that God desires more then just physical justice for his sons and daughters. If we look at the ministry of Jesus, we see no doubt that physical service is important. Jesus healed countless people. He fed the 5,000. He provided a huge haul for Simon and the other fishermen. But what was Jesus really here to do? What was His main mission? What do we remember Him for? We remember His sacrificial death on the cross, where He took our sin punishment on Himself, then when He rose again three days later, thereby defeating death and sin, giving salvation and grace to all mankind. This was the largest act of spiritual justice the world has ever seen, and it changed the course of human history.
The point is this, God calls us to serve the physical needs of others. But unless we also give ourselves to serving their spiritual needs, our physical service means very little. Physical justice alone cannot satisfy a life long term. We can give a lost sheep food and dress them up in new clothes, but until you change the heart of the sheep, they are still lost.