“The church lives in the midst of history as a sign, instrument, and foretaste of the reign of God. But this does not mean that in the life of the church there can be at any point in time a simple identification of the justice of God with the justice of a particular political cause. The church has too often fallen into that trap. To refuse the identification is not to fall into some kind of idealist or spiritualist illusion. It is not to detach the interior life of the soul from the business of doing justice and mercy in the life of society. It is simply to acknowledge that all human causes are ambiguous and all human actions are involved in the illusions that are the product of our egotism. It is to confess that final judgment belongs to God, and that when people usurp that prerogative they fall into self-destructive blindness.
The issue may be put in another way. If we acknowledge the God of the Bible, we are committed to struggle for justice in society. Justice means giving to each his or her due. Our problem (as seen in the light of the gospel) is that each of us overestimates what is due to us as compared with what is due to our neighbors. Consequently, justice cannot be done, for everyone will judge in his or her own favor. Justice is done only when we all acknowledge a judge with authority over us, in relation to whose judgment we must relativize our own. It is the business of an earthly judge to represent that higher judgment. Because the judge is also a sinful human being, his or her judgment will also be corrupted by self-interest, and the judge may have to be overthrown in the name of the justice of God. A just society can flourish only when its members acknowledge the justice of God, which is the justice manifested and enacted in the cross. If I do not acknowledge a justice that judges the justice for which I fight, I am an agent not of justice, but of lawless tyranny.
At this point the Christian has to be aware of the trap set by Marxism. I am not here questioning the Marxist analysis of the nature of capitalism, which I find very convincing; I am speaking of the Marxist understanding of human nature. The most obvious feature of the dedicated Marxist is extreme moralism. For the Marxist, evil is always something external to oneself. It is the ‘class enemy’ that constitutes the locus of evil against which one has to fight. Consequently there can be no thought of forgiveness and reconciliation. There are only two realities–the oppressor and the oppressed, the exploiter and the exploited. The oppressed and exploited are the exclusive bearers of truth and righteousness. There is no truth or righteousness over them, so to speak, that is able to judge and forgive them. Two things follow from this: (1) When the ‘oppressed’ acquire power, absolutely no check exists upon their use of that power. There is no righteousness over them that can judge them. The result is the kind of ruthless tyranny that we have seen under Stalin and his lesser imitators. Those who identify themselves as the representatives of the ‘oppressed’ are in a position to combine unlimited self-righteousness in respect of themselves with unlimited moral indignation in respect of their opponents. This is the most characteristic feature of the dedicated Marxist. Since there is no transcendent righteousness that can judge and forgive both the oppressor and the oppressed, the way is open for unlimited self-righteousness.
The church can only represent the righteousness of God in history in the way that Jesus did. It is enabled to do this by being constantly reincorporated into Jesus’ saving action through baptism and Eucharist and through the preaching and hearing of the Word, which explains these and applies their meaning to the actual situation. The heart of the matter is reached in the celebration of the Eucharist. Here the ultimate horizon of grace and judgment touches the present moment. Here the church has to learn to live by the grace that forgives but does not condone sin and under the judgment that exposes sin and yet keeps open the way of repentance.”
Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1995), 110-112 (my highlighting)