24 January, 2011

A Heart that Beats for Justice

Inscribed over a period of two thousand years, the greatest curiosity of the Bible lies not simply in its antiquity but in the notion that a library so perfectly cohesive could have been produced by such a variety of individuals, over a period of time which staggers the imagination. Composed in times of war and in days of peace – by kings, physicians, tax collectors, farmers, fishermen, singers, and shepherds – such diversity is only eclipsed by a single prevailing discourse.


Beginning with the creation of time and space the Bible is quick to declare that man is made in the image God; an assertion which is almost immediately followed by the fall. This magnificent juxtaposition isn’t simply a compelling narrative device but brilliantly highlights humanities two greatest inheritances. The first, that we are each a reflection of our creator, representing His glory and righteousness on earth. And the second, that we are each condemned to our fractured states as a consequence of sin. Put simply: when we peel back the layers of culture, class, religion, political affiliation, race, gender and football team we find that at the very core of our humanity, we are fundamentally the same. We are each special, yet depraved. When our theology is grounded in such an understanding of equality, the intrinsic message of the Bible becomes considerably simpler to comprehend. Love God, Love People.

Choosing not to wash His hands of that which He created God ever so faithfully invites humanity into relationship with Himself… again. He offers a covenant, first to the Patriarchs of Israel and then to the burgeoning nation itself. The terms of this divine contract were simple: immeasurable blessing in exchange for unwavering devotion. To help these fallen and fractured individuals hold up their end of the bargain God even graced them with a rulebook; the guide for living a good life. What Israel failed to understand however, is that the purpose of the Law was not legalism but compassion. God understood all too well the depth of humanities greatest flaws and thus sought not to oppress Israel with punitive regulation but to liberate His people with a message of justice. The fundamental theme of the Law was simple; Love God, Love People.

Israel however, missed the point completely. There were those who caged the Law in bureaucracy for fear of breaking a single command, while others would simply disregard its authority completely. As a consequence, this mighty nation eventually fell from power and was condemned to centuries without peace. Though even in the hands of foreign kings, God’s enduring fidelity did not abandon Israel. In the midst of war and exile, God poured out His spirit on remarkable individuals who would challenge culture and bring a gospel of hope. Their message was a simple reiteration of the Law; to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly before God. Over and over again, these incredible characters would sacrifice their reputations, their aspirations, and eventually their lives to reaffirm the very purpose of our existence; to love God, and love people.

It quickly became clear however, that humanity was incapable of maintaining the righteousness bestowed upon them by their covenant with God. The Creator would therefore wrap Himself in the fabric of His own creation and accomplish that which we could not. So over two thousand years ago, in the most humble yet precise of circumstances, Jesus was born into the world bearing a gospel of hope. This message was not prolific or innovative, it was present at the moment of creation, and yet it was so radically transforming that it literally tore history in two.

The message was simple: Love God, Love People.

The difference: Jesus lived it, perfectly and indelibly.

His remarkable existence and subsequent sacrifice, not only fulfilled the Law, but afforded all of humanity a personal and intimate relationship with God. No longer was our righteousness a product of deed or preservation, for it was now a gift of grace. All we have to do is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength… and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Hey, now that sounds familiar!)

The story of the Bible is shaped by a prevailing sense of justice; its pages are littered with two great loves. When we as God’s people can truly comprehend this extraordinary gospel, when we actually understand its implications and are prepared for the cost, when we then affirm it through our actions, then we begin to live as God intended. Because to truly love God and to truly love others… well now that’s justice.

"I can't stand your religious meetings.
I'm fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
your pretentious slogans and goals.
I'm sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making.
I've had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That's what I want. That's all I want.”
Amos 5:21-24


Anonymous said...
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Eva Burrows, General (r) said...

This is an insightful, beautiful piece on JUSTICE.
It interprets meaningfully God's will and purpose for humankind in sending Christ Jesus, who lived a life that revealed love and justice in understandable ways - for he is the epitome of the Micah challenge: to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.
The incarnation of Christ has been described in many different ways, but the writer expresses it in these compelling words, that God accomplished his purpose of justice and salvation when "The Creator would wrap himself in the fabric of his own creation, and accomplish that which we could not."
That thought, and indeed the whole article, is an inspiration.
Christ's was a heart that beat for justice, and this article should quicken our hearts to beat more passionately for him.
General Eva Burrows

Frances said...

Thanks for this beautifully scripted article. It is all to easy to become blinded by the illusion that we are living as Christ intended. The greatest challenge of my life is to love God and love people - it seems to cost so much. Yet his love towards me costs nothing! I am humbled by this truth and feel the need to bow down before him.


Gerry said...

What a wonderful and yet so simple a message: Love God, Love People.

In these few words we see the road map that we all should follow. Thank you for these words of encouragement.