Justice and Trust

“Creative Commons The Escape to the Unknown" by Andre Bohrer, used under CC BY 2.0
“Creative Commons Justice Gavel” by Tori Rector, used under CC BY 2.0

How does justice (God’s restorative justice) depend on trust?

16 I’m not ashamed of the gospel: it is God’s own power for salvation to all who have faith in God, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 God’s righteousness is being revealed in the gospel, from faithfulness for faith, as it is written, The righteous person will live by faith (CEB)

[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

16 For I am not ashamed of the Good News, since it is God’s powerful means of bringing salvation to everyone who keeps on trusting, to the Jew especially, but equally to the Gentile. 17 For in it is revealed how God makes people righteous in his sight; and from beginning to end it is through trust — as the Tanakh puts it, “But the person who is righteous will live his life by trust.” (CJB)

[Taken from the Complete Jewish Bible by David H. Stern. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Messianic Jewish Publishers, 6120 Day Long Lane, Clarksville, MD 21029. www.messianicjewish.net.]



I have just struggled through 25 pages of commentary (Waetjen’s The Letter to the Romans) on Romans 1:17. I won’t attempt to track through his argument; instead I will share a few nuggets that I gleaned and a conclusion (or two) which I have drawn.

Two definitions are crucial to gain a fresh understanding of Paul’s letter to the Romans – the Greek word dikaiosyne is usually translated as “righteousness.” Unfortunately, too much of Christian thought has tended toward understanding righteousness as a high moral character imputed to believers by God. Waetjen reminds us that dikaiosyne can also be translated as “justice” – that is, the restorative justice that is attributed to God.

The second New Testament word is pistis – usually translated as “faith” (noun) or “believe” (verb). Waetjen again reminds us that the alternate translation is “trust.” Colloquially, faith / belief is something that we possess while trust is something we do. Trust implies mutuality and interdependence. Belief is a cognitive function of the individual while trust only becomes actualized in a relationship of mutuality.

Restorative justice describes the very character of that which we name as God; trust describes the very character of human beings. There is no question about the focus of divine restorative justice – its locus is the whole of creation and, in particular, human community. The big question, however, is about the focus of our trust. Do we trust in ourselves?… in power and privilege?… in social status?… in ideological platforms?… in divine restorative justice?

As a person of religious/spiritual trust, I live on the knife-edge of promise and fulfillment – in the tension of the impossible possibility. The enigmatic phrase of Romans :17 (“out of trust, into trust”) is a challenge. What does it mean for me to live from trust into trust. My answer comes with a little assistance from John Caputo and Mark’s depiction of Jesus’ journey. I am grounded in an insistence / a calling (in the name of God) which comes as an unheard inner voice that trusts me as a discerning recipient. I measure my response to that calling by reference to the Way lived and taught by Jesus – namely the way of divine restorative justice which I deem to be trustworthy. 

In conclusion, I offer my re-working of Romans 1:16-17 –

16 I am not ashamed of the Good News which announces the powerful way that wholeness comes to those who build their lives on trust – to everyone, both Jew and Gentile. 17 It reveals that human beings who trust themselves to divine justice will live lives which actualize that justice, as it is written, “The person who is righteous and just will live his/her life by trust.”

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