The God of Justice
“The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert, his righteousness live in the fertile field.” Isaiah 32:16
The God of Disruptive Justice
The balance of scripture shows us that the God of justice always moves in history and that this often comes with disruption.
The Old Testament prophets spoke to, amidst, or remembered God’s disruption. They spoke resoundingly about injustice in society and were seen as political agitators (disruptors themselves) in Judah and the Northern Kingdom.
Jesus disrupted the Temple—the center of religious life and commerce.
And, in Paul’s trial before the governor Felix, it was said, “We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world.” (Acts 24:5) As a leader in the Nazarene sect, Paul had upset cities and disturbed economies (cf. Acts 19:23-31).
God’s movement for reconciling all things often comes with disruption or significant change.
We are in a moment of disruption now. This is a moment that has been long coming and prayed for in communities in our nation and around the world. A moment to try to carry to the finish line unaddressed aspects of racism in pursuit of a more just society.
It is also a moment that comes with a great deal of fear for many. Disruption, in this case, creates a natural human response to want to re-stabilize life—to keep things constant. In trying to push away, however, we can sometimes come against God, others, or even ourselves. We cry out in frustration to God for allowing things to happen—for standing by while we suffer pain, confusion, or loss. We can attack or speak against others for pushing an agenda that scares us or makes us feel threatened. Paul counsels us here with these hope filled words, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge in the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:13-15)
A Spirit of Despair
Lastly, we can turn on ourselves with a spirit of despair, hopelessness, or, sometimes worse, powerlessness. The Christian call, however, is to fight hard for faith even when we don’t know outcomes, to stand with others even at a cost, and to see that we do have power to fight for God’s righteousness and deep change even while experiencing upheaval and uncertainty.
Along those lines, we shared in the sermon this past Sunday that this is a moment where we are specifically listening to the voices of our African American brothers and sisters in recognition of the biblical truth that black lives matter.
In a thought-provoking post, New Testament scholar, Dr. Esau McCaulley, recently wrote, “Can you imagine scrolling past hundreds of thousands of black Christians saying the same thing to find the one or two black Christians who say what you want to hear the way you want to hear it and thinking, finally somebody gets it? We are not a monolith, but consensus matters. I’m not mad at those black Christians who come to disagree honestly. I’m frustrated at how they are weaponized against the 97% to justify continued apathy.”
It’s a powerful statement about patterns in this nation’s history and how we have often engaged in dialogue with the African American community.
Can we listen to the chorus of what we’re hearing and not give way to fear of disruption? Can we hear the voices of our brothers and sisters in Christ in churches and cities around the country speaking to a vision of the beloved community never fully realized? This moment is about more than any one protest, it is about the momentum of history and reconciling our past, present, and future racially.
Our Moment of Racial Justice
It is a watershed moment in the church, as well, that will determine if the next generation will trust us to carry through with love of neighbor—even when costly or involving deep systemic change. It is a moment that will turn people on or off to the gospel. Because a message of Good News that cares only for the soul of man, but disregards his body, pain, community or the injustice patterned against it, does not resemble the ministry of Jesus or reflect his message about a different kind of kingdom characterized by love.
Let’s sit with and trust God with disruption. Let’s remember the God of justice. Let’s look for where he is moving and the long-term systemic change he might be bringing. Let’s remember one of the most important things right now is that we listen to one another’s history. Let’s ask questions. Let’s join in rather than watch. Let’s open our hearts and see where the change might need to happen in us. God is at work in the world; so, with the words of the prophets and echoed by Jesus, let’s have eyes to see and ears to hear how the Spirit is moving and what the Spirit is saying.
History of Racism in Oregon: http://www.pbs.org/black-culture/shows/list/local-color/
Premeditated Uniformity by Kip Jones