Monday, July 17, 2006

a distorted sense of justice

When I was a young person, and I would hear scripture on justice, in my mind the justice it was always talking about was the justice that would be dished out concerning the so-called “persecution” of the church. Bare in mind that I saw things like taking prayer out of schools as just the kind of injustice that the Bible was speaking of. But as I read more and more of the Bible, I’m coming to see the simplicity of the message, and the warning that it brings.

Take the story of the good Samaritan for example. The Samaritans weren’t just another race and culture of people, they were pagans. The Jews had tried to turn them into Jews, but it hadn’t worked and the Samaritans remained a people dedicated to the worship of many gods. Yet when Jesus decided to explain the definition of a “neighbour” in an attempt to expand on just who it was that we should love (Luke 10:25-37), he opted to use a Samaritan as, not only the neighbour, but as the one setting the example of how we, as children of God, should act. In fact, and I don’t think I’m stretching here, this passage seems to suggest that, if we’re going to choose between the path of being super spiritual but not helping people, or helping people but not being all that spiritual, that we should choose the latter. Can this be true?

We’ve attached so many amendments to what it means to “love God”, I wonder why we haven’t done the same when it comes to “loving our neighbour”. Depending on the church, loving God can mean everything from women not cutting their hair (incidentally, this always seems to lead to a really bad perm) abstaining from alcohol or dancing, fulfilling any number of attendance requirements, dress codes (in a number of denominations), marriage, birth control, schooling for your children, patriotism, capitalism, women taking a back seat, different versions of baptism, different versions of communion, different versions of the Bible, different versions of worship, and the list goes on and on. But what does it mean to love your neighbour? Where are the amendments on this topic?

A friend of mine wrote a song a few years back called Single Minded. In it, he sings…

All of life comes down to just one thing
That’s to know you, Oh Jesus
And make You known.

I used to listen to that song, and even lead it from time to time, and think, “Dude, that’s two things. To know you and make you known. That’s two things!” But, for whatever reason, Charlie didn’t see it that way.

And when Jesus was asked to narrow all of the commandments in the Old Testament down to one, He listed what is, in my mind, two. Love God and love your neighbour. That sounds like two commandments to me. But to Jesus it was just one. What do you think that means?

In His first public sermon, Jesus read the following words from Isaiah.
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Luke 4:16-19

Justice and the fight against injustice. Maybe it’s not about us and our needs. Maybe it’s about the needs of others. Maybe it’s about courage. Maybe it’s about selflessness. Maybe it’s about a holy anger rather than a self centred one. Maybe it’s about the needs of others.

What are you doing?

I took this picture a couple of years ago, shortly after moving to England. We went on a hike with some friends and their little boy made a friend. It continues to be one of my all time favourite photos.

Comments on "a distorted sense of justice"


Blogger My2BoysNMe said ... (3:41 AM) : 

You know, I watch Life Church on the internet every week ( (you should check it out - LIVE from Oklahoma!) and this week's sermon was on this very passage - this very subject. The three points to this week's message were 1. Who is your neighbor? (Who has God put in your life that you're uniquely prepared to love?) 2. What is God leading you to do that you haven't done? 3. What major life adjustment(s) do you need to make? Ending with the Mary/Martha story in Luke 10:38-42 And Matthew 6:33-34 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."


Blogger stonefaith said ... (9:43 PM) : 

George Fox the founder of the Society of Friends never saw the difference between loving God and loving others. He said that one should roam the earth seeking that of God in everyone. While that idea can be interpreted in ways that may be sound theologically, I like the idea of seeking God in the people he has made, loving Him by loving them. Thanks for reminding me of how important justice is to Jesus and should be prime in my interactions with others. Somehow it seems that seeking to bring justice, more than just love, is more powerful, more focused.


Blogger Larry said ... (1:41 PM) : 

Not only did Fox see love as all encompassing, but so did our beloved John Wesley. He was a proponent of social justice. In fact Wesley gave most of his money away to the poor and gave great amounts of time to their cause.

I have looked through the Gospel and it seems that Jesus never sticks up for His rights. He always sticks up for the rights of others. Does that tell us someting?

The OT also is all about this type of living, especially the book of Isaiah. Scripture in its context then is promoting a lifestyle where we love justice and mercy. Justice is not judgemental in my reading of the scripture. But then again, I have been known to be wrong.


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