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Justice: Healing Wrong v2

I first published this post over a year ago. Given the current climate I believe it is good to republish with some edits.

The common view of justice is one of punishment. Someone does wrong and they receive a ‘just reward’ for their wrong deeds. This is, at best, an incomplete and warped view of justice compared to the biblical view.

Justice is: make something wrong, right. It is making something bent or crooked straight again. As all injustice and evil is a perversion of the just and good.

Punishment in and of itself does nothing to correct the root causes of pain and suffering. Punishment that focuses on restitution and correction of wrongs brings justice to its fullness in the area of law and government.  However, in the social sphere, we must also look at the root cause in the human condition.

The human heart which is shaped by the environment needs healing beyond punishment. Individuals need a relationship with someone who will mentor them, guide them, and show them goodness. From a relationship, individuals can really begin to change. More on the dichotomy of individual and civil justice later.

Next, justice as “making wrong right” expands justice to include active good. Some things in life are just broken. People will lose their jobs. Parents will fail. People die. Although facts of life they are also ills, like getting a cold. True justice reaches out and attempts to heal the sickness.

Justice feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, is a father to the fatherless, and a husband to the widows. It does the good that fills the void left by brokenness.

We are just when we assist a woman who is abuse in escaping that abuse. The abuse is part of our broken world. It is a wrong in this world and is evil. It must be made right.

We make her life more ‘right’ when we remove the abuse. Counseling can help make her internal world more right. For the right world is the one with goodness, gentleness, kindness, love, joy and all such good things.

The same can be said for feeding the hungry, providing shelter for those who have lost homes, consoling a loved one and any other action that causes a move towards what is right, good, and beautiful. A shattered ceramic in Japan is repaired with silver and gold along the cracks. The one that is made right is not without marks, but it has been made right again for its intended purpose and is beautiful.

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The Christian in Two Cities – Provide What You Cannot Keep

                The Christian lives in two cities. We are part of this world. It was built by God and is good. It is also the place where we get to live like Christ through trials. This is the only chance we get to be like Him in struggles and suffering.

                We also live for eternity with Christ. Our final hope is eternal. All the riches and opportunities of this world have no weight when compared to eternity. Neither do the sufferings or pain. No matter the consequences we are to do good and respond with good.

We are responsible travelers walking with a the message of the gospel in  a world that is not our own.

                Because of these two things the Christian should be both aloof and engaged in this world. We are to be aloof in that changing governments, policies, laws, wrongdoers, sinning, is expected and nothing to be concerned with. Christ is in control. So why get upset, bothered or worried? The only concern one should have is compassion and care for our loved ones that it affects.

                Love for those whom policy affects is the primary motive for being involved in politics. If a law prevents the Church from doing good that is an issue. For example: let us say that there is a ruling that no outside person is allowed in a prison to meet with or teach inmates. This would prevent Christians from helping them make connections to get back on their feet once freed and prevent an avenue for sharing the gospel. A petition or lobby to change this policy would be a good endeavor for the church.

However, even in the absence of being able to pass laws that make it easier to share the gospel, the church must be willing to fill the gap where needed. Even more importantly, regarding the removal of ‘free’ benefits from the government  for the those in need,  the church must step up and provide what they are asking the state to withhold.

More on this in the next post.

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Christians and Politics: Asking Questions?

Where is our hope? Where is our allegiance?

I do not believe the Christian Church in America has figured out how to live politically involved and serve Christ first. As I said to my mother the other day, I do not believe the best book on engaging politics as a Christian has been written yet. Nor do I believe that the church as a whole has ever truly ‘figured it out’.

                This is not an indictment against the church, but an example of Christ faithfulness to his people despite their flaws. Regardless of the church as a whole, or societies stereotype of the church, Christ remains faithful. This is true even in my own writings, thoughts, opinions, and life choices. I hope that I speak with the grace of truth and may contribute well to the conversation of, “How should we then live?”

                Generally, the Christian should be aloof in politics. That does not mean un-involved, it means involved with a disconnect of hope or belief in governing bodies. The Christian faith and call transcends cultural, political, or socio economic standings. Regardless of whether you live in South Africa, Communist China, the USSR or the USA your job is the same: Follow Christ. Be kind, put others before yourself, feed the homeless, take care of the widow, be a father to the fatherless.

                In the USA it doesn’t matter if the president is democratic, republican, or has purple skin: Follow Christ. The question is, what does following him look like in these contexts? In Africa one who is trained in Nursing may need to provide free medical services. The same nurse living in Orange County, CA may choose to not “work off the clock” especially for those who have insurance. A refusal to help in one case would be a failure to put others first. The failure to say no in another may be a foolish use of time.

                How do we discern what to do? That is the subject of my next several blog posts. But think on these questions:

                Am I afraid of the current political climate? If so, where does that leave my faith in Christ as King?

                What do I spend most of my time thinking about, talking about, or doing?

                Is the political position regarding a policy or leader going to help or hinder a life lived for others?                 Is my obsession with politics preventing me from seeing the good deeds that are set before me?

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The Church and Covid-19

              California has recently reclosed religious services. Churches are left with the option of defying ‘government’ orders and potentially blamed for the spread of Covid-19 and associated deaths or following orders and ceasing to be the church as we have known it. The Christian, and the church at large must decide when to disobey government orders and ignore all social opinions  in service of the Lord and when to submit to the government and be aware of the image of Christ (for the only stumbling block should be Christ and not us).

              The answer is simple. If church is simply an event to attend to receive teaching on scripture and enjoy a spiritual high in music, then quite honestly, there was never truly a compelling reason to value church in person above online lessons and worship music. If that is all church has been, then one should not go, and the church should not meet. We should live at peace and submit to the government.

But — if Church is a place where God works through his people, where God changes lives despite any flaws in the way we do worship in its emotional focus, the sermon in its disproportional length and emphases, and often marginal involvement in others’ lives; if communion is more than just remembrance like Thanksgiving and is something that the Holy Spirit shows up for; if it is the place that God calls all Christians to show up, fully present, in obedience to him just as much as feeding the homeless, doing good and avoiding sin; if going to church is where we obey the command to love one another and is the place through which we learn, focus, and fixate on this love for another – then, and only then we must… we absolutely must continue to meet regardless of the consequences.

              This church is worth showing up for even if the consequence is death.

Love Despite Flaws

I recently listened to a lecture regarding writing on family. He continually qualified everything he said with, “I love my family.” “I want to make it very clear that I do love my family.” “People often ask me how I can love my family”.

              I found this repeated declaration odd. It rarely occurs to me that some irritating trait or negative experience would cause me to question my affection for those I love. People are annoying. Relationships are difficult. People are flawed.

              The idea that we don’t love someone because we are open about their flaws, or that we don’t love someone despite any number of major blunders I find problematic. This can breed fear of losing a friend for even petty things.

The Individual vs the Masses

“The more I love humanity in general the less I love man in particular. In my dreams, I often make plans for the service of humanity, and perhaps I might actually face crucifixion if it were suddenly necessary. Yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone for two days together. … But it has always happened that the more I hate men individually the more I love humanity.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

I dream of being the spark that changes the world. The speaker that moves the masses. The writer that moves a nation. I love political discussion and the advancement of civil thought that fixes what is broken. The problem is that given limited resources energy put towards social justice and government policies replace our energies towards those directly in front of us.

I love public speaking and if I ever have the opportunity to speak in front of groups for the intent of specific, researched, thought out policy changes, then I will. However, day to day experience allows me far more time to care for a hurting friend, supply food for a homeless person, loan money to someone in need, buy gas for someone who has run out, help a young kid with homework, or even just smile at a stranger.

The more I see first hand the plight of the unfortunate, the bullied, the poor, fatherless, and widow the more I desire to see individual care and support. Do not stop voting for policy changes. Don’t stop making those around aware of evils. But, do not cease to be aware of the needs directly in front of you. If we vote in to provide more government support for the homeless, in whatever fashion that is, but do not stop to talk with them, feed them, cut their hair etc. then do we really care about them? Or do we just want to feel good about ‘making a difference’?

If I say I care about the cause of anti sex trafficking, but do not support and pressure my friends to cease viewing pornography that supports the evil institution, then I do not care about stopping sex trafficking. I care about policy. I must choose people over policy.

I love my friends

I originally had written a much longer post, but as I wrote it turned into the substance of three or four. So finally, a short one.

I recently listened to a writers lecture regarding writing on family. He continually qualified everything he said with, “I love my family.” “I want to make it very clear that I do love my family.” “People often ask me how I can love my family”

                I found this repeated declaration odd. It rarely occurs to me that some irritating trait or negative experience would cause me to question my affection for those I love. People are annoying. Relationships are difficult. People are flawed.

                I would hate for my friends to question my devotion to them even when I may be telling them how annoying they are. I am saddened for people constantly qualifying devotion towards friends. I wish for honesty in love and confidence in loves commitment

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Average Joe

“There is no room here [the Christian life] for such contemporary ideas as the looking-glass self, and no consideration here for trivial contemporary obsessions such as one’s legacy” Os Guiness – Fools Talk      

Today I recount the story of the Christian called average Joe. He works as a routing and process engineer at a waste management company, is married to a wonderful girl Cindy and has three kids, Julie, Aaron, and Victor.

              In the future his grandkids call him ‘Pops’. His great grand kids know nothing about him, except the story of how he met his wife. He ran into her car on her way to a date. Her car was inoperable, so he gave her a ride. The man stood her up and Joe bought her dinner. They got married six months later. Aaron and Victors kids tell the story in jest and scold their deceased grandma as foolish for getting into cars with strangers. Julie tells the story in reference to God’s mysterious work and taking chances leads to a worthwhile life.

              Nothing else will be remembered of Joe. He did well at work and shared the gospel with several coworkers, four of whom eventually followed Christ. He stops to buy food for the homeless and plays with the children at church. When told he has done well for himself, he simply responds, “Well, my wife still loves me and all my kids are making wise choices. So, I guess I have.”

              He was saving money to take his wife on a surprise trip to Cancun. He loaned the money to someone in need at the church. They took the two-thousand dollars and left. He never told anyone. He lamented later that he hadn’t told his wife out of embarrassment rather than because he was turning the other cheek. In a later incident he was wronged much worse. No one knows but the offender, Joe’s best friend Greg, and the pastor who helped him through the situation. The incident died with them and I will not repeat it here.

              Joe struggled with pornography up until he was married. He had 4 relapses during his marriage. Each time he came forward to his close friends confessed and turned from his sin. He also struggled with a short tempter up until he was in his forties. The early death of his son changed his heart to always be compassionate.

              When his best friend, Greg, got terminal cancer he spent three nights a week for five months helping Greg’s family with needs. Joe cared for his parents in law as well when they were aging. He never got the big promotion due to these choices that took up his time.

He joined the water board on recommendation by his colleagues and helped secure more fair water policies for their town. NPR would eventually do a short documentary on the change, but his name was never mentioned.

              This is average Joe. He tried to be kind to whoever he met. He never failed to share the gospel when given the chance. He spoke almost every night with his wife regarding the good deeds laid before them. You will never read of him in a book. You will never see him on television.

When we get to heaven and we see everyone as they are, but just before we are healed of comparing others, we may notice that his crown is just a little larger, and his robes a little brighter than the pastors we see on television or book covers. Joe followed Christ in humility, he put others first, he did the good things that he came across, and he daily sought Christ for answers and forgiveness.

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Friendship and The Lord of the Rings

              I have been in 7 weddings as a groomsman or best man (I regret it not being 8 as I declined once to be a best man due to travel difficulties). The last three weddings I have been in I always give the same speech. Below is a piece of it.

              In the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring we follow the characters Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin as they are caught up in a journey to destroy the Ring of Power.

              Frodo is elected to take the Ring because of his relationship with Bilbo, the one who found the Ring and left it to him. Sam is found outside Frodo’s window when Gandalf is discussing with Frodo the journey and is tasked to go with him (though also with a full commitment of loyalty). The two of them run into Merry and Pippin stealing from farmer Maggots crop and are then caught up in the adventure as they are chased by the Nazgul.

              They sort of get caught up in this adventure by circumstance. JRR Tolkien tells a different story in the book. Frodo leaves the Shire with the ring under the guise of looking for Bilbo. Merry, Sam, and Pippin all choose to go. They all encounter the Nazgul together and find themselves at Brandyhall. Here Frodo had made up his mind to leave them and was figuring out how to tell them.

              Frodo is shocked to find they have ponies ready, everything packed and all are determined to go with. They knew he was leaving on some long journey. He is shocked again when they can tell him details of his journey about the ring he had kept hidden. His friends commend him that he had been careful. But they, being his close friends were with him and new him so well they saw all the little changes and hints that let them put it all together.

              Finally Merry speaks for all of them,

“It all depends on what you want,’ put in Merry. “You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin – to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours – closer than you can keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo”

              The theme of friendship continues through the rest of the series. When I give a speech at weddings I add in bits bout a fellowship and “I can’t carry your burden but we can carry you” and so on and so forth with emotional things and strong analogies.

              But here we see a picture of friendship that we do not see very often anymore. Friends choose to give up their lives, their rest and good comfort, to help someone else in their specific journey. They knowingly face danger to help one carry a burden or finish a task. When I read the LOTR I don’t desire to be a Frodo, or Gandalf, or Aragorn – I wish to be a Merry, a Pippin, or a Sam.