Posted by: David
To question authority we use our minds, knowledge, consciousness and common sense as a litmus test of justice in a particular social system and the authority in power. But is this really necessary since injustice is found in all societies? There seems to exist systemic injustice.
All human systems of society are unjust in different ways. The authority of that system simply reflects the relative justice of that system. When you question authority, you’re questioning the relative justice of the system as a whole since the system is closely integrated. The leadership is not separate from the rest of social system. They are one. If the body is just, the head will be just. If the body is unjust, the head will be unjust. I don’t think there’s a middle ground. Something is either just or unjust. There’s no sorta-just social system.
But “if your enemy is hungry, feed him. For if he is thirsty, give him a drink. If you do this, you will pile burning coals on his head.” Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good. Every person must be subject to the governing authorities, for no authority exists except by God’s permission.
The reason these sentences were all blended together by Paul in the sequence he used is no coincidence. He recognized that by submitting in goodness to the governing authorities (potential enemies), you pile burning coals on their heads. The reason for this has to do with the nature of justice and how perfect that justice is (i.e., there’s no sorta-just system). If only a fragment of justice comes in contact with an unjust system, the unjust system will be burned and/or transformed so that it can handle being in contact with the just system. Because justice is either just or unjust, that which is unjust cannot exist in the presence of that which is just. The two are like oil and water. Justice is that perfect; it cannot be tainted with injustice.
Counterintuitively, the way to restore justice in an unjust system (in which I’m including all social systems) is not to rebel. It’s to inject it with true justice. The initial injection was Christ. Practically-speaking for us, restoring justice involves: humility, mercy, love, justice, hope, submission.
Yes, all current authoritative social systems are corrupt. In a sense, there’s no real need to question them, because they are all corrupt and unjust in different ways. However, if one rebels and takes over an unjust system, it always takes unjust means. Just one innocent life cut short, just one shout in anger, and just one contemptuous thought makes the rebel unjust. This same type of rebellious take-over was completed in 1776, 1865, 1945, and 2003—not to mention any other seemingly-good historical changing of the guard.
That may sound hopeless, but it’s really not. I may not have faith in socially-conceived systems of justice, but I certainly believe that the universe is run by a just God. Thus, there actually is a deep justice in this world, deeper than any socially-conceived justice system. And that system of justice is not only available in some heavenly realm in the future. That system of justice is available right now.