Do Justice

Sometimes, we pray for God to “show us the way,” to help us know how best to please Him. We are faced with choices that seem right or good, but other choices seem equally good. In fact, sometimes, “God’s ways–” His laws and commands– seem awkward, outdated, harsh, even “wrong” in light of circumstances.

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But the prophet Micah points out the God has shown us how to please Him. He even spells out three things God requires of us: to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8) Later, Jesus confirmed that the two greatest commandments are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-40) I want to explore this in greater detail, beginning with Micah’s first requirement– Do Justice.

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On its surface, this seems sensible and self-evident– Justice is good; injustice is bad, and a good God would always want us to be on the side of justice. But this is not a statement of thought or sentiment. God’s requirement is not that we prefer justice, or agree that justice is a good thing, or even denounce injustice. Instead, it is an action statement– DO justice (some versions use the phrase “act justly”). Those of us nodding our heads, or pointing our fingers, or arguing about past injustices miss the requirement entirely. We are to love mercy (more about this in another post), but to do justice– act justly–behave in accordance with justice.

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DO. JUSTICE. Tell the truth; honor commitments; pay debts; actively share with the needy around us; actively defend our neighbors against threats; actively confront and seek punishment for those who are doing harm; honor and respect those in authority over us; accept the limits and limitations of our circumstances; obey the law, even when others don’t. There is nothing easy or self-evident about doing justice in a fallen and unjust world.

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This is not a “social justice” or social media activity; not a matter of “being on the right side of history” about a specific political agenda, or a moral crusade. It is a personal matter– personal choices to take action toward individuals for the sake of justice. It may involve personal sacrifice of time or money. It may involve confronting family members or close friends who are lying, cheating, or breaking the law, rather than turning a blind eye or excusing their actions. It may mean saying “no” to an opportunity that involves sketchy practices.

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We like to think of JUSTICE–in big letters, stretching across decades–as an ideal to which we aspire. We don’t like to see it as a discipline that imposes on us a set of actions and reactions.

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Our current political situation in America is a great example of this. As a Christian– someone who wants to follow Christ’s example and please God in every area of my life– I’ve had to confess to being very unjust in my words and attitudes toward political candidates, media personalities, even neighbors and family members. I am constantly bombarded with photos, news stories, FB posts, memes, and more expressing criticism, sarcasm, innuendo, half-truths, exaggerations, and out-right lies. When I pass them on, comment on them, rejoice in (or proudly dismiss) their messages, am I acting justly? Am I doing justice to the people involved when I pass instant judgment or give instant approval? When I impute motives before I even know the full extent of actions taken? When I ignore uncomfortable truths, or insist on “my” truth? Can I do justice if I refuse to seek the truth, refuse to get involved or be inconvenienced?

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It is easy to point out hypocrisy in others, but if I want to please God– to do justice– I have to begin with me. I have to begin with the small acts I do every day. Am I doing justice to my spouse if I complain about her/his habits? Am I doing justice to my boss if I “call in sick” to go shopping or go to the beach? Am I doing justice when I keep the extra change because the cashier made a mistake at the store? Am I doing justice when I pretend that my stances on abortion or marriage or the minimum wage give me the right to silence, or harass, or destroy my neighbor?

I have to stop just talking about justice, or demanding justice for past wrongs, or making an idol of “Justice”– I need to pray for the wisdom and strength to act justly.

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Lord, help me to seek justice. But even more, give me the wisdom to discern what is just, and the power to do it whenever and wherever I have the opportunity. For the glory of Your Name. Amen.

The Politics of Prayer

I have been bombarded lately with political ads–and that takes some doing, since I don’t have television and don’t listen to the radio– still two major sources of “coverage” used by most candidates.  And many of the political ads are deceptive, in that they don’t seem to be “for” or “against” a particular candidate– rather they are trying to encourage me to see a particular issue (healthcare, abortion, gun control, education, taxes, etc.) in a particular way, or vote based on a single polarizing issue.  I get very frustrated with the intense saturation and obvious propaganda, but overall, I am thankful that we have the freedom to state our political preferences and encourage everyone to vote– hopefully based on thoughtfully looking at the issues, policies, and consequences of the actions proposed by the candidates.

One thing that frustrates me is the conflation of politics with religion and Christianity in particular.  God is apolitical…He is not a Republican or Democrat, a Socialist, Fascist, Capitalist, or even monarchist.  He is not American, Canadian, British, Honduran, Somalian, Laotian, Korean, German, Bolivian, Syrian, New Zealander, Nigerian, Greek, or Pole.  His Kingdom is a Theocracy– He is the sovereign and absolute ruler.  He does not consult with a Senate, or Assembly, or Cabinet, or Ministry.  He cannot be “voted” in or out, succeeded, or supplanted.  He allows for and even institutes worldly governments– He raised up priests and prophets in Israel and founded their Monarchy–but He also tears down corrupt governments and destroys empires.

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So when we pray for government officials, we are not doing so based on their merits in God’s eyes.  When we pray for upcoming elections, we do not pray for the “best” result, based on our personal political preferences..or we shouldn’t.  We should be praying that God will be honored by our vote; that our nation (and its leaders) will recognize God’s sovereignty and act in obedience to His will; and that we will be prepared for God’s blessings or corrective punishments as He sees fit to bring them..that we will learn from those in authority, pray for them with sincerity and good will, and use our vote as stewards of Grace, and not as power-hungry, politically rabid puppets trying to create a substitute Kingdom of God within our own state or nation.

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Consider King David– God had anointed him King of Israel to succeed King Saul, who had fallen out of favor with God.  David was hunted down as a traitor by Saul, his own father-in-law, and forced into exile.  Yet he continued to faithfully pray for and speak kindly of Saul.  When given the opportunity to kill his tormentor and take the crown, he refused– even though God had promised him the kingdom BECAUSE Saul had become corrupt. (see 1 Samuel, chapters 16, 19, 23 and 24)  David still prepared to become King–he learned many lessons during his exile that made him an excellent king– diplomacy, warfare, economics, and listening to his future subjects.  Most importantly, he learned from the bad example of King Saul that he should not second-guess God’s purposes and timing.

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Prayer isn’t about asking God to give us what we want– not on a personal level and not politically.  It is about asking God to help us want what He gives!

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