HUNGER & THIRST FAQs
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The word (and concept) of justice is deeply embedded in the Scripture—indeed in our Lord’s own teaching. This theme, of course, echoes Jesus’ own words, famously captured in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:6). From the days of the King James (Authorized) Version of the English Bible, Jesus has often been translated (from the original Greek) to say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness….” However, in an increasing number of newer English translations (e.g., the New Living Translation) the Greek has been translated as, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after justice….”
This variance in English highlights the nuance of language generally, but specifically leads us to a study of the original Hebrew (as in the Old Testament) and Greek (as in the New Testament) of the common etymology of the ideas of righteousness and justice. Indeed, throughout the Scriptures, the root Hebrew and Greek words are translated into English almost interchangeably. What does God, the Author of the Word, actually have in mind? How do we best understand the Lord’s thinking (and charge to us) on this fundamental area of life?
The Good News Translation renders Matthew 5:6 this way: “Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires….” This understanding of the original Greek homes in on the seamless union between God’s divine character and the idea of righteousness and justice. And, it leads us to the seminal proclamation found in Micah 6:8: “…what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice….” The Scripture is a deep well from which to drink, and with which to cross reference.
The sequence of ideas in the Convention theme is intended to elevate Jesus. The placement of words (ideas/truth) for which we are hungry and thirsty was not intended to imply an order of rank, but quite the opposite. Jesus is the foundation, the center, the grounding of all things. People may long for justice. They may long for righteousness. But, neither can be had without Jesus, the last stop for all things good, heavenly, and framing the kingdom.
Considering Jesus to be less-than because he appears third in the line-up might lead me to imagine that the Holy Spirit is a less-than, when we speak of our Triune God as “the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” We believe them to be co-equal persona mysteriously woven together as our sovereign, one God. In the Convention theme, Jesus at the end of the phrasing is even more than that—he is the key to the rest.
Convention 2021 will take us deep into the Word, helping us together pursue Jesus and his calling, as evidenced in his teaching. In these days when so many claim biblical ideas and seize them for their own ends, it is, perhaps, more important now than ever, that the people of God be sure-footed in their understanding of God’s definitions. As the Ministries Council concluded, we cannot walk away from biblical words and ideas because other voices in this world have appropriated them; we cannot surrender something as core to the supernaturally-breathed Scripture as justice simply because the term has been dressed by some in political cloth.
The word justice (among others) has been thrown about on many edges of public controversies, embraced by many individuals and organizations with whom many of us would disagree. It is understood differently by different communities within our Church of God family in the United States and Canada.
It is also an important concept in our broader Church of God family, globally. Many of our Church of God brothers and sisters in Myanmar, China, and India, to name a few right now, are in very worrisome conditions consequent to appalling injustices perpetrated against them; they hunger and thirst for justice today, pleading with the Lord for deliverance and protection in ways hard for us to imagine. Ours is a Movement on six continents; how words are used and experienced throughout our church family must always be considered, too, not just how we understand them in our local context.
Church of God Convention 2021 will be a fresh and dynamic scrub of timeless truth made all the more relevant by the present-day demands and tumult. Especially given the tenor of our time, we will stare the challenges down together, just as Jesus did when he walked among us so long ago. It will be a dare for personal change, to become instruments of change. Hunger and thirst can be uncomfortable, but they are certainly necessary. So, come hungry. Come thirsty. This Spirit is in this, so be prepared to be filled. Satisfied. Charged up! And, renewed. On purpose.