God’s Passion for Justice

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 — Week of Proper 28, Year One

Francis Asbury and George Whitefield, Evangelists, 1816, 1770

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 992)

Psalms 97, 99, [100] (morning) // 94, [95] (evening)

1 Maccabees 3:25-41* *found in the Apocrypha

Revelation 2:1-8

Matthew 17:14-21

See, the home of God is among mortals.

He will dwell with them;

they will be his peoples,

and God himself will be with them;

he will wipe every tear from their eyes.

Death will be no more;

mourning and crying and pain will be no more,

for the first things have passed away.

(Revelation 3b-4)

As we near the end of the Revelation of John, we see a vision of the union of heaven and earth in a new creation. God gives to the thirsty water from the spring of the water of life. The effect of God’s presence is justice, healing and peace.

We read of a similar vision from the psalms. Psalm 97 declares that the foundations of God’s reign are righteousness and justice. God upholds the truehearted and delivers the saints from those who do wrong. Psalm 99 praises God directly, saying, “O mighty Ruler, lover of justice, you have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.”

Justice is at the heart of the vision of God’s reign. God is love. Justice is the social form of love.

The opposite of justice is human injustice. It is human injustice that brings the oppression and tears that need divine healing and peace. There is something fundamentally egalitarian about justice. Justice and equity are deeply related. When justice reigns, righteousness is upheld and human injustice is inhibited.

Those who would live in right relationship with God, which is what righteousness means, are those who uphold God’s values, those who strive alongside God for God’s purposes. God promises ultimate vindication of the righteous.

Equity, peace, healing, and justice — these are the cornerstones of righteousness. Inequality, violence, discord, and injustice — these are the fruits of unrighteousness. Insofar as our power is exercised in ways consistent with the values of God, we are participating in God’s reign. But scripture promises that God’s judgment reaches out to frustrate the false ways of pride, greed, oppression and violence.

These Biblical words have social, economic and political consequences. Unjust political, economic and social systems create systemic injustice and human suffering. From the time of Moses, God has called us to oppose systemic injustice and to work to create systemic justice. The prophets of every age speak truth to power and call us to a high calling on behalf of God’s justice.

From the Biblical perspective, the focus of justice is always on the poor. If you want to know what God wants, ask from the perspective of the poor. “Forgive us our debts” and “give us today our daily bread” are petitions from the poor.

Our political and economic system in this nation tends to be structured from the perspective of the wealthy. Here’s a simple example In our state, it is not a criminal act if an employer withholds payment from a worker. But if that same worker, denied a paycheck, writes a hot check to buy groceries for his family, that’s a crime. Stealing labor from a worker is a regulatory offense that rarely is prosecuted and results in a slap on the wrist. A hot check provokes quick police action, and not infrequently, jail. That’s a system structured to favor the wealthy, those who can afford to employ others.

Equity and justice. The social form of love. Viewed from the perspective of the poor. “Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” These are the things we talk about every day in our headlines. Will health care be available to all? Will everyone have the material essentials of life? Will our systems defend the poor or simply be manipulated by the most powerful and wealthy?

Christians have a vision of God’s reign. We are to live by the values of that vision now. God’s judgment will be based on those values. Will we be on the side of righteousness or on the side of injustice?

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