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.

4 comments:

Deviant Ivan said...

Gosh! been doing some piper and sproul reading havent you?

Bryan Feil said...

exceptional piece my brother. the isaiah 58 and the matthew text are very similar and call out much more responsibility to be taken on behalf of those who choose to follow God.

To follow God would be to care about what he cares about and to figure out what he cares about. Maybe the problems is that we think he cares about us (which he does right) but we forget to get our eyes off of ourselves and to each other. our time is spent just trying to seek our own climb up the ladder (or maybe stairwell) and not look to those who need more than ourselves.

loving god=loving our neighbor. i think that from that should come acting on justice and a life of simplicity. keep our fists open w/ everything we own. so as to not clench them up w/ all of our s@#t. as nancy, ivan and myself's friend would say

jason said...

You guys got something going here...

It is refreshing to hear people talking about the role of Christians being more than a self-help personal piety checklist.

Reading those verses scare the crap out of me...

Keep writing and I will keep reading!!!

Kurt said...

This is a great Blog and I love hearing about brothers that are wrestling with some of the same stuff that i have! I think that you are on to something...

In my oppinion, Justice is the central theme of the narrative of Scripture. Our Christian hope is that of "New Heavens and New Earth" where their will be no pain or crying and where there will be the healing of the nations (check out Rev 21-22 and Romans 8.18ff).

For some more insights on framing this discussion theologically, i recommend lectures by NT Wright. If you want, i have links on my blog for some free downloads!

Anyways, i hope to join with you in this conversation during the upcoming months! Thanks for being a voice for justice and shalom!