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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?

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.

Muslims, Fear, and the Church

My passion is helping to connect the church to the world. Unfortunately the church has stood with many parts of culture that are fundamentally against Christ. These are often subtle and we miss them. I am thankful for several of my good friends outside of the Church to remind me of how we are, or are not, portraying Christ.

The gospel and Christ’ calling is more about what we are supposed to ‘do’ than it is about what we are ‘not to do’. My next several postings will be on the church as they can more effectively live out the gospel as a positive endeavor, rather than a negative calling out against something.

I was outside of a church recently when I was approached by a young-ish man. He loudly pronounced that he was not a threat and he dramatically emptied his pockets of his cell phone, wallet, and keys. Threw off what could be called a jacket and tossed down his hat and proclaimed that he was harmless to everyone minus an upside down cross tattooed on his neck. I ignored the gesture, ended my phone call and introduced myself. His name is Jason. He was drunk and coming off of a meth high.

He felt the need to proclaim that he was not a threat because he had been called an ‘Arab’ ‘terrorist’ or ‘Muslim’ before. Normally I would have glossed over this. But recently I read an article by Aziz Ansari giving a brief overview of his experience with racial and religious tensions. Although he himself is often greeted in the street by individuals wanting an autograph (he plays tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation). His immediate family on the other hand has experienced a much different response. They are often called terrorists, immigrants, told to go ‘home’ and other rude or fear inducing public remarks. Specifically he details the fear he had for his mother’s safety just after the attacks in Miami.

He specifically details in his article that Donald Trump’s campaign has increased the fear and tensions he has perceived. Whether it has increased or just brought to the surface what is already there is irrelevant. There is a systemic problem as it relates to the church. This hyped up fear of terrorism and Muslim extremists is pushed mostly by right wing conservatives. A vast majority of whom are Christians. What I want to focus on, and I pray that my reader can readily listen, is the Churches response to Muslims and Arabs in our country.

Here is my central point: Christians should never in any form be a part of spreading fear. There is no Scriptural basis for fear within ourselves or spreading fear to others. Specifically, we are called to only fear God, and to be a neighbor to all we come across.

Muslims should never reasonably fear for their safety from Christians. Even if a terrorist is a terrorist that claims to be a Muslim, what have we to fear? We have Christ who conquered death. Should we spread the fear of God? No. We preach Christ, him crucified and risen again. Fear is not of faith. Christians live by faith. If we perish in the process of spreading Christ’ love, then so be it.

The same is true of homosexuals, transgendered, hippies, pot heads, metal heads, nymphomaniacs, strippers, gang members, prostitutes, pimps, etc.

The Church as God’s voice to the world needs to be a place of safety for all others, with self-sacrificing reasonable caution. Should a twelve year old girl have spoken with Jason? Of course not. But any other college or high school male could have. If I become a victim of a very small pool of people intending violence at a church, then so be it. Christ calls us to fear him alone, so let it be far from the church to cause people to fear anyone but God.

Anger and Politics

                With the new health care plan[1] coming into effect this coming month many are going to be in full political indignation. The angry speeches, 21 hour long ‘filibusters’ (Ted Cruz), rallies, and heated family discussions are revving up for the start of Fall. Much of this anger comes from the conservative Christian Republicans and Libertarians. 

                Unfortunately anger and indignation is the last response that Christians should have to a universal health care system, or any political decision that is not legislating evil. Though many may claim that universal health care is evil, I challenge those that think so to show me from Scripture.

                The response of anger to political policy is problematic on two levels. First, as followers of Christ, Christians do not have their hope in this world. This world is broken and so are the people in leadership, whether biblically minded or not. No one will fashion a perfect system. All governments are fallen and no government will work perfectly with imperfect people. Therefore to much indignation, especially indignation that is usually not fully thought through, shows to much hope in this world. Usually the reason for anger is because those that are angry believe that laws or legislation are messing up the U.S.A. Why be angry over the breaking of a broken system?

                Second, and I say this carefully, those that look carefully will hopefully see that there are people who have more education, lived longer and had more experience than us and believe differently. As those seeking after truth we should humbly admit that we can’t know everything and that some differing positions may very well be right, and not ours. Humility does not give rise to anger.

                Also, being angry over what other people think is a good way to help people is not a good witness to the gospel of Christ.

                However, I do think there is a place for anger, but it is not when we are face to face with others. We may show indignation in writing, or show irritation in speeches, but this emotion must always be tempered with humility and civility. The goal is to win people to your side, not say your point as loudly as possible.

We should be angry over what God is angry about. We see this example in Scriptures. God is angry when the Israelites did not help the poor, the widows and the orphans. He was angry when they tested his goodness. He is angry when governments punish good and praise bad. But actual bad, not just the bad that is contrary to our opinion.

If we do not learn to speak softly, then this fall will be a double entendre.

               


[1] (I refuse to call it Obama Care as that would imply he wrote it or had significant input. I cannot believe he had significant input on a 2000 page document that was written the night before).