Monday, April 21, 2008

Missional Living & Justice

Wow the Bible is powerful and relevant. The following verses come from a sermon (The Village - Matt Chandler) that I listened to today while spraying weeds on the farm. I was reading over and thinking about these verses and their application and thought they definitely belonged on the justice blog. So here goes.

We all know the story of Sodom and Gomorrah right? Lot and his wife... overt sexual deviance which resulted in the punishment of fire and brimstone... right... well according to Ezekiel this was not the root cause...

Ezekiel 16:49 - Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.

Oh how familar this sounds to me as an American. Pride, Provision, Prosperity. Pride = The pride of being American. Provision = Right now (an soon to get worse and worse) the third world cannot get its hands on rice/wheat/necessities. Prosperity = I worry about whether I should get the iPhone as I go to The Well. Wow. The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was they ignored those that had nothing. Lust/sexual sin was a part of this, but this is happens once we turn from God (Romans 1). Continuing on with Sodom...

Isaiah 1: 10-17 10 - Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of, Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! 11“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. 12“When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? 13Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. 14Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. 16Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.

One of my favorite OT texts. Slap in the face/heart. Isaiah refers to Israel as Sodom and Gomorrah... why? Because they go thru the motions. They are doing the things that the Lord has commanded. They are going to church, they are giving their tithe, they are showing up to prayer meetings and serving on boards... but what do they need to do? They need to put their faith into action. Their faith needs to affect their calendar and their pocket book. In sum they need to seek justice. They need to take care of those who have no one to protect them. Our faith must move us to justice.

A point Chandler makes, and I think is well made, is that we move from creation to sin to redemption very well. But we stay on redemption. We focus on us and God. We focus and direct our time and attention to developing and softening our present life and the redemption we experience, but the fourth step is restoration. We must move on to restoration because of redemption. We seek justice because we have redemption. Continuing...

Isaiah 58:1-11 - 1“Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins. 2Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God. 3‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,1 and oppress all your workers. 4Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. 5Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD? 6“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? 8Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. 9Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 10if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. 11And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

They sought the Lord, they were righteous, shoot they even fasted! We are righteous in our own eyes. We seek the Lord, but how are we seeking the Lord. Is it for us? Is it without others in mind? Do we hide from our own flesh (our own brothers/sisters who have been created out of the same flesh)? Are we better than others? Is it an us vs. them mentality? Are we just giving chump change. True justice calls us to give of our time, money and heart to love and care for all.

Finally a little NT for us... just as deep cutting...

Matthew 23:23-28 - 23 - “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! 25j“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27n“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and pall uncleanness. 28So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

These guys were tithing out of their spice rack!!! They were faithful to the letter of the law, but what did they neglect... "justice and mercy and faithfulness." These verses fall right on the heals of Isaiah. The church was going thru the motion. Oh how good they looked to the outside world, but inside they were rooting tombs. They went thru the hoops of religiousity, but neglected "the weighter matters." We have captured the idea of our redemption well in the US and we need to continue to put our redemption into action via restoration. As my brother would say, Let the kingdom come now.

Lord burn my heart with a passion for those around me. Burn my heart with a passion for justice. Justice now. May I never be satisfied with myself or outward appearances. Clean me from the inside out that I may glorify you and spread your love in this world. Amen.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Justice :: Hunger

Justice is feeding those who don't have food ::

From the one campaign. Do it.


The world hunger crisis is all over the news this week. In just three years, the price of staple foods like wheat, corn and rice has almost doubled. If we don't do something soon, hundreds of thousands of people face starvation and a hundred million more could fall into extreme poverty.

I just took action with the ONE Campaign and you can too, here:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Something New

This is in regards to the idea that all of the words that were used in Jesus ministry such as; gospel, faith, throne, Lord, Kingdom, Savior, banner, Messiah were all used to define something according to Rome's powers and Caesars that ruled in that era. When Jesus came and used the same words, it was heretical to the government of the time.

Shane states "He didn't want to climb Caesar's throne. This political language doesn't harmonize with the contemporary church project of "reclaiming America for God." Precisely the opposite: Jesus was urging his followers to be the unique, peculiar, and set apart people that began w/ Abraham. He didn't pray for the world in order to make gov'ts more religious: he called Israel to be the light of the world-- to abandon the way of the world and cultivate an alternative society in the shell of the old, not merely to be a better version of the kingdom of this world."
Jesus for President pg 71.

what do you think?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Justice, The State, and The Church

I said before that it is necessary to define justice before actually discussing or theorizing about applications or manifestations of it. I gave a two-fold, even paradoxical, definition for justice in a previous comment. The definition covered two aspects of justice- retribution (punishment or reward) and restoration (reconstruction and equality). To define justice with one of the aspects at the expense of the other is only a half definition; and subsequently to apply only one of these forms of justice to a given situation is half justice, or incomplete justice, and may even, logically, lead to non-justice or injustice.

God's justice is always complete. He punishes or rewards when it is required and necessary; but he doesn't end there. He then restores. Perhaps this illustration would help: Let's say that in a relatively stable and clean neighborhood stands one house or building that is ridiculously ugly, falling apart, and is covered with graffitti; to top it off, one can not see the widows because the grass, that is older than you, is in the way. Worst of all, the house is so completely exhausted with its condition that it is ready to fall. This house is an abomination to the neighborhood, and according to the "broken-window theory," this house's presence will attract more corruption that would eventually affect the whole neighboorhood. What is the best thing to do? The stains of this house's depravity, so to speak, has made it impossible to be reformed in that condition! "Let us destroy," says one, "and bring this disgraceful house to ruins!" So it happens. The house is destroyed for its disgrace and for the violation of the neighborhood's code of real estate values. Retribution, or punishment, was executed and satisfied the community who indirectly fell victim to the building's shame. Shouts of joy followed by the clapping of the crowds encouraged the city officials to bow in their grattitude for the honor. The only problem? There is a pile of rubble. Furthermore, lets say for some unexplainable reason, the buildings in this community had a tendency to become degraded; some slowly, some quickly. Eventually, due to this form of justice, the whole neighborhood would be demolished.

Throughout the Bible, namely the OT, we see that God is engaged in justice. He does punish (sorry Mennonites and extreme Liberals); this is clear. But he doesn't just leave the house destroyed. In his love and compassion, as well as in his creativity, he rebuilds! That is, he restores, not to the old condition but with a better one; one that is free and has a purpose for this neighborhood. This is God's justice- deconstructing subjects of corruption because of their corruption, in the light of divine law; and reconstructing them into objects of love and grace, who in turn will function as subjects reflecting the same type of justice.

The state has been faithful to its calling for justice (retribution), for God has definitely set them in place for that reason. Government is a part and result of human nature as a consequence to civilization. I don't doubt that. But I believe that the church, as restored individuals and as a reconstructed community, should be faithful to our calling of justice, namely, restoration. We must counterbalance society's concept of justice in order to make it fully justice, at the same time keeping an eye for their misuse of retribution, for there is a tendency for the state to abuse this privelege. The state is responsible to apply the dirty work of retribution, which they would do gladly since they don't understand the grace of restoration. But the church is responsible to apply to those who need restoration, which, spiritually, is everyone, but, socially, it's those who have suffered the consequences of errors- whether it's imprisonment or poverty as a result of many factors. We don't need another institution that is primarily focused on punishment, the state is enough. What our society needs is to understand and experience the other aspect of justice which, like God, has been forgotten.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Piper on Justice

I am going to read/listen/watch these two sermons from John Piper on public justice. There is no one that I respect (from the pulpit) more than John Piper. I believe he has one the most God glorifying, Christ exalting views of what we as Christians are called to be. So I am going to listen to these today as I fix sprinklers in the front/back yard and I will get back to them and post my thoughts.
Sermon 1
Sermon 2

1 Peter 2:13-26 (is better)

Context. Context. Context.
When we take verses we have to place them in context. Looking at 1st Peter 2:13-26 we can see that this is addressed to slaves. Peter is answering questions to a slave who is under a master. The now Christian slave says, "well if I am free in Christ I should be free in this life." Peters response. Nope, you need to serve and follow the example of Jesus (as the suffering servant).

Since we are looking at justice right now we see it in several places here... verse 13&14... "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good." What do we see... God has ordained governments to enforce justice. God calls us to be submissive to these governments. The Lord loves justice and government is appointed to enforce this justice on this earth. What does this mean? This means cops, prison, courts, and death penalty (in our modern context). These are appointed by God. Now they may have some wrongs that we can correct, but they are instituted by God.

The second place I see justice and a misuse of justice is in 20-21... "For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps." Peter says in 20 there that you get what you deserve when you are beaten because of sin. True justice is paying for your sin. Whether this is in this present life or in the life to come justice requires punishment. (Thank God that he sent Jesus to take the punishment for my sin). However, when you are beaten for doing good then you are blessed when you endure. So in context he is talking to slaves, but I think it can still apply to us. We are told time and time again throughout the Bible that we will be persecuted. If they persecuted Christ they will persecute us. We must endure this with the example of Christ.

I do not think however that this passage is really referring to living out present day justice in the sense of a life of pacifism. This passage readily acknowledges that us as Christians must be subject to a government that enforces justice and that justice needs to be carried out thru physical and present means.

I will post a passage soon. But would love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, March 28, 2008

1 Peter

1 Peter 2: 19,23

19For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. 23When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

I think that this might be a good passage to maybe get our feet wet. we can deconstruct it or something. i find it interesting that most of the passage is discussing a type of enduring w/ the authorities and not to, i guess overthrow but allow God to partake. i will add more later.