Our world is full of mess. Over 200,000 children live in poverty in my state. Over 885,000 children are oprhaned in South Africa (with only under 400 available for adoption). The combined wealth of the world's poorest 2.5 billion people is equal to the combined wealth of the world's 225 richest (= $1 trillion)… and our government is $16 trillion in debt.
I am by no means an expert on promoting justice on our planet. But I'm convinced I'd better become a quicker learner. And so I begin with a question that all followers of Jesus should ask: What should I do, Lord?
All I can determine today stems from what God has already shown. Micah 6:8 says: He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.
God has shown us what is good. We already should now what we should do because God has already shown us what is good. As God created the earth, at the end of each day he
would pause and see that what he had made (except maybe the platypus) was good. And after creating humans,
God looked out at all he had made and declared it “very good” – Genesis 1:31. God also showed us that it is good for humans to be together, to have relationship, to
walk with one another through life. In contrast, God declared that it is not
good for humans to be alone – Genesis 2:18. It is not good for humans to be
independent, isolated, on their own for survival, deprived of community. Humans
were made to walk with God and with one another. That was the created order—and
it was very, very good– holistic, covenantal relationship.
So, with what is good in
mind, what does the Lord require of us? He requires pure, holistic, covenantal
relationship. We already know this! The 1st commandment is
to love the LORD with all your heart, soul and mind. The 2nd commandment is to
love your neighbor as yourself. We all know this. But do we pause to think
about the how good is the relationship between these two commands?
The 1st cannot
be fulfilled without the 2nd.
Nor can the 2nd be fulfilled without the 1st.
Right theology (Loving
the Lord your God) is correlative to right behavior (loving your neighbor) &
right behavior (loving your neighbor) is correlative to right theology (loving
the Lord your God). A Christian who does not love God is certainly not a
believing Christian. And a Christian who does not love his neighbor is
certainly not a practicing one. True doctrine is evidenced in the praxis of
true behavior and true behavior is instrumental in true doctrine. A Christian without love for God is a white
washed tomb and a
Christian without love for neighbor is a resounding gong. Both versions of
Christianity, in any era, are eerie and annoying to God and to the people of
Somewhere along the way many Christians started struggling to hold a love for God together with a love for
neighbor. It's as if we found it difficult to do both. In this country, to speak generally and in oversimplified terms, Christians split down the
middle, with some holding on to true doctrine (a deep love for Scripture and a
deep protection of orthodoxy and systematic theology– good for them!) and others holding on to
a true behavior (a deep love for others and a deep protection of the oppressed
and outcast- good for them!). The first became known as fundamentalism and the second became known as liberalism– and it is with liberalism that social justice has often been tagged. The problem is that both groups were in the right, and both
groups were in the error. Neither was perfect, as their heavenly Father is
perfect (Matthew 5:48). Each version falls short of the glory of God and
becomes a twisted representation of what is good. Both end up going down
off-shoot alleys of the road that God walks. And division and controversy is the result.
But the Good News is this:
since the Fall of mankind when we decided to walk our own way, God has demonstrated
what is good… and, therefore, what is required of us. For example, in Isaiah 1:17, the
prophet declares that if we learn to do good, we will seek justice and help the
oppressed, defend the orphan and fight for the rights of widows. Amos 5:14-15
declares that as true followers of God we should hate evil and do what is Good,
remodel our courts into true halls of justice—the result, Amos declares, is
that perhaps, the Lord would have mercy even on us.
Justice and Mercy. Held
together. Not apart. Justice is active doctrine. Mercy is theological behavior.
Both are bound within covenantal relationship with God and others. Christians
are people who uphold justice on this earth and who act with mercy—stemming
from an intimate relationship with a very good God. As Christians we are to serve
and praise our King with whom we humbly walk.
—-Part 2 tomorrow!—-