Posts Tagged ‘justice’

Psalm 143:6
I stretch out my hands to You;
My soul longs for You, as a parched land. Selah.

Certainly, when it comes to scripture and to God, there is no greater thirst than the desire for God, to taste and see, to know and to be known. That is, if we recognize the source of our yearning. In discussion on this topic today, I was reminded of the fragility of our understanding. My friend said, in essence, that she believes longing for God is planted within all of us and that we are all, in one way or another, searching to return to who we are meant to be, in communion with God. How this resonated with me.

But what happens when we don’t know the source or true nature of what we are desiring or yearning to know? What if that longing is corrupted along the way? What if the idols of our world or the temporary “feel good” moments clamor to become the objects of our desire?

How many men and women have allowed sex to fill that void, or power, or success?

Longing is usually accompanied by vulnerability. In the language of faith, that is a good thing. Our hearts and spirits open to the Presence of God, we hear God’s “voice,” holy words are revealed in scripture, and we are willing to surrender–“Thy will be done.” But if our longing is misdirected and we are vulnerable as well, then we may find ourselves abused, physically or emotionally. We mistake sex for love, power for influence, and success for self-discovery.

In human psychology, longing is considered a “secondary” emotion, usually associated with the primary emotions of love and sadness. Often, longing is looking for a change. I love you, but I long for you to love me. I am sad, but I long for you to change so I won’t be sad anymore.

In my mind, the only truly safe place to put our longings is in God. When focus on other human beings, we move out of alignment. Like a car, we can still move forward, but with each mile, we become more and more damaged.

I long for a world where peace and justice and kindness reign. I long for understanding and trust and renewal. I long for unity. But my current ideas or thoughts about how our cultural losses can be undone, are misplaced. I have missed the point. No state of being can be mandated. No human law will change the course that is being set today through abused longings. Too many of us are looking for results before we look for the source of our fractures. We ignore our interdependence and play the “blame game.” We have become like two fans on separate sports teams “praying” to win. Whose prayers will God hear? Both and neither, because we are longing for the wrong result.

Let them give thanks to the Lord’s unfailing love
    and wonderful deeds for humankind,
for God satisfies the thirsty
    and fills the hungry with good things.
(Ps 109-8-9, NIV, pronoun edits my own)

Read Full Post »

I don’t have any trouble singing in church. In fact, in general I love choral singing as well. I’m not the best singer by far, but in a group setting, I feel bolstered by the voices around me and feel I can sing with the best of them. I am always a little sad when people around me don’t sing at all. My daughter rarely sings in church but she will sing along with the radio all the time. She says it’s the music she doesn’t particularly like, not her style and all that. But my real question is to God: why are we told to sing or even commanded? What is it about singing that is different from speaking?

Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre!
    Sing praises to him with the ten-stringed harp!
Sing to him a new song!
    Play your best with joyful shouts! [Psalm 33:2-3; CEB]

Some results from a cursory Internet search include:

  • Singing is the act of producing musical sounds with the voice, and augments regular speech by the use of both tonality and rhythm. Singing expresses emotion and united communities.
  • Back in 1588, William Byrd wrote that singing is delightful to Nature and preserves our health.
  • In a book entitled Music and the the Brain, there is evidence that singing is therapeutic.
  • There are even studies out there that claim people who sing live longer.
  • People who stutter often lose their stutter completely while singing the words (Anyone remember the film, The King’s Speech?)
  • A song can also help people to learn something or remember concepts.
  • Singing is a part of cultural identity.
  • Singing helps people understand who they are.
  • Singing helps people experience worship.
  • But it is also a way to bring people together for a cause, for a right, a touchpoint.

There are songs in the church that have the same power but it’s rarely embraced with the furor of social change, which is too bad. If our passion for God could be as rich as our passion for justice, lives would be changed.

And so I say: sing. Sing unto God. Sing together. Sing alone. Sing.

Read Full Post »

The Enliven Project (on sexual violence)

The Enliven Project (on sexual violence)

There’s a part of me that appreciates the anger and determination to make things right after the rape of Dinah. In today’s news, there was a report on the percentage of rapes reported out of a 1000 (5-25%), prosecuted (9 – not percent, but a number), and of the 9, only 5 become felony convictions. (See Enliven Project) And yet. . .

Genesis 34: 13a, 15, 25

Because their sister Dinah had been defiled, Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully . . . We will enter into an agreement with you on one condition only: that you become like us by circumcising all your males. . . .  Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male.

And this is always the challenge when confronting our personal sense of betrayal with God’s. It’s not that God cannot work decisively in the face of evil (note Sodom and Gomorrah), but the point here is that God prefers having the vindication God’s way.

“But, but, but” I say, “Your way is so slow. I want to see the revenge. I want to feel it. I want to bathe in it. It’s my right. Isn’t it? Isn’t it? Is it?”

When humans take on the role of avenger, we tend to overdo it. After 9/11, we raped a country in the name of weapons of mass destruction. And in the end, more were lost, including our own. Evil is portrayed throughout history and every push back takes us one more step closer to annihilation. Soon, I’m sure, the next payback will be nuclear. And what then?

Whether it’s on a world scale or a personal exoneration, we will not handle it well. Even our court system has gotten all muddled up and in the name of fairness, the guilty go free because one lawyer was craftier than the other.

We are all still living Romeo and Juliet or the Hatfields and McCoys.

Yesterday, my pastor at Restore Church, talked about people being the “Sin Police.” We judge and demand, we compare and we condemn. All in the name of righteousness. It’s not a good plan.

Will God avenge the good? Is God sovereign? Can God operate even in this mucked up generation? I believe. But I have to make room for the ways of God.

“There is a way that seems right to a man [human], but in the end it leads to death.” [Proverbs 14:12]

Read Full Post »

Any change, any redirection, any assessment of the present requires a stop. Plain and simple.

Isaiah 1:16b-17
. . . stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

When our high energy Boston Terrier, Rocky, is over the top and we are trying to settle him down, it has to be cold turkey. We have to stop throwing the toy or stop engaging him in any way. That little dog is addicted to the high of chase and retrieve. He is not able to stop himself. He would probably keel over in exhaustion before he would stop if we didn’t make him stop.

There are stories in the human world that are not that different. They call it intervention.

So, based on this scripture, here’s the way it might work:

  1. Stop doing what you’re doing.
  2. Learn a better way.
  3. Seek justice.

It makes sense really because the process of learning a different way or better way to act, behave, operate in our world will reveal the injustices that proliferate in our society. The better way is littered with the shredded souls who tried and failed, who went back to the old way, who could not master themselves or the demands of change.

Everyone needs help after the stop. Just the learning alone is treacherous.

My daughter is an ESOL (English as a Second Language) learner. Even after 5 1/2 years in this country, she struggles with the nuance of the language and the vocabulary that is unique to a variety of subjects. But, she is determined all the same. She stopped the downhill pull in high school and decided she would attend community college. But the challenges did not stop. And as she plugs along, she has experienced unfair treatment and mockery by students and teachers alike. We are working together to remedy this, but it’s a slog.

In the bigger picture, Isaiah writes, once the path toward justice is found, then we are strengthened and we can take what we have learned about stopping, learning and seeking justice to reach out to others, those others oppressed by the powerful, the disengaged, the blind proud.

Orphans are at particular risk. Without love, how do they survive? What choices will they make to get what they can get, to show the world, to play the odds.

Jesus said the poor will always be with us [Matthew 26:11], but must the orphans be relegated to this statement as well?

If every family of moderate means or every single adult would adopt just one orphan, what would happen? Start there. We are without excuse in this country. Even if we don’t have the courage or interest in the orphans of the world, shouldn’t we, at the least, adopt our own?

In Old Testament times, the poor of the poor were the widows. So much depended on the willingness of families and children to care for them, but often, they could not. There was no legal provision for them. And although most widows fair much better in our society financially (unless there was nothing to begin with), they are still in need of emotional support. I know I have stumbled here as well, intending to reach out, but getting too caught up in my own world.

Isn’t that the way of it? My own world, my little sphere, my own boundaries.

Isn’t it time to just stop and take a breath, to look around myself, to assess the way, to learn something new?

Read Full Post »

Somehow it’s easier to hang on to the idea that God is love moreso than God is just. Every day I read a newspaper and my mind reels with the breadth of injustice. Narcissism is the norm and earth-bound justice lines up with the powerful.

II Thessalonians 1:6-7
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.

To hold tight to my belief that God is just all the time, no matter what I see, hear, feel, taste, I must be very conscious and very intentional. I must accept what I don’t understand. I must suspend my personal sense of “justice” and trust in the bigger picture.

When I was a younger Christian (both in years as well as experience), I was often stymied by those well-worn attacks on my God. If God is just, why do babies die? If God is just, why is their disease and suffering. If God is just, why are their orphans, widows, and abuse? If God is just, why are their wars and bigotry and extremism?

Gotta stand. That’s all I can do. Stand.

I have no answer except that God is just. God is merciful. God is love.

If God was none of these things, then there would be no justice anywhere, no love, no families, no births, no hope. There would be no joy, no laughter, no beauty and no faith. And yet, these all exist along side the pain.

I cannot know about the macrocosm of justice.

In daily life, there isn’t a parent who hasn’t heard the same attack: “That’s not fair!” My parent view of fairness and righteousness and justice will always be different from the child. We live the microcosm of justice vs. injustice in families. It’s not an easy road and rarely straight. There are too many obstacles in the road, too many unknowns. If I, in my little world, cannot mete out justice in such a way to please those nearest and dearest to my heart, what of those who work in ever-widening circles of responsibility.

Read Full Post »

2000 years ago, mediation was advocated and encouraged, particularly among believers. And yet, where are we today? Courts are filled, lawyers plea bargain, guilty people go free, innocent people are executed, and those who should be a light in a dark place are silent and dull.

I Corinthians 6:5b
Can it be that there really is not one man among you who [in action is governed by piety and integrity and] is wise and competent enough to decide [the private grievances, disputes, and quarrels] between members of the brotherhood . . .

Where is the accumulated wisdom of the years? Why are believers of today seemingly less capable to handle disputes?

Part of the problem is that we are in too many silos (a business and information management term that refers to systems that cannot speak to each other). Our churches are silos. We are primarily divided by our denominational preferences. It is next to impossible to cross these arbitrary boundaries to create a trusted body of authority. Our efforts to date include organizations like the World Council of Churches which is disdained by most conservatives. In fact, as soon as the word “ecumenical” is brought up in conservative circles, the eyes glaze over. In many minds, ecumenical might as well be another word for “non-believer.” I know, I’ve been in that circle for your years (but no longer feeling quite so comfortable there).

Oh, there’s the National Council of Churches USA. While American churches don’t participate much in the World Council, denominationally, they are well represented at the NCC. Here they work in broad strokes: advocacy, resource building, communication, education initiatives, and academic research.

But nothing is really here for the resolution of disputes and grievances, nothing for mediation. That kind of authority would have to be given by the people. That kind of authority would require trust.

In our contemporary church, the doling out of “justice” has been handed over to Pilate. We are no different from the Jews of Jesus’s time.

Mediation is becoming more popular in the secular world. People are being trained in this process. Believers have a real opportunity to step up and embrace this trend and use it within the body. This is not necessarily a role for pastors, although it could be. More importantly, it’s a role for the faithful, those committed to truth, to God, to the Christ, to prayer, and to the Holy Spirit: these could build a forum for justice.

Read Full Post »

Mercy is the best thing ever, particularly when we’re on the receiving end. But, it gets a little dicey when we see some other “undeserving” soul get the good stuff.

Romans 9:14-15
What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” [Exodus 33:19]

God is at the bottom line and no matter how hard we try to understand God’s distribution of suffering and mercy, we will never be able to get it. What often appears “unfair” is not for us to judge. Scripture promises that God is just; our understanding is not required in God’s dimension.

My essential characteristics, my natural abilities, my intelligence, my body, my mind, my spirit: these were the ingredients God put together to make me into “me.” These, along with the circumstances and environments out of my control (where and how I grew up) including my parents and genealogy, all come together as my life’s infrastructure. Upon these, I can add building blocks while others can add to the structure as well. I grow, I become, I change. . . or not.

God’s mercy has kept me alive these many years. There were roads I supernaturally avoided that would have led to my early death. There were dangerous people that I fortunately bypassed. There were places I never had to visit. I wasn’t just lucky, I was under grace.

But there was still my willfulness and it narrowed my journey and brought me to turning points that I chose; many of those choices were not wisely considered. For good or ill, they brought me to this day, this hour, this life.

I cannot go back and relive or choose differently. I cannot project who I will be tomorrow. I can only walk out today, being mindful of the gifts, the mercy, the presence of God, the possibilities.

Oh Lord, what will we make of this day together?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: