Saturday, July 30, 2011

What Is More Important Than Justice?

I am continuing my little exposé on our resistance to making hard choices as followers of Jesus. Many Christians would agree that social justice is important but I ask, important to who? Sometimes we take things into our own hands and make a mess of it instead of waiting for God to work it out. Yes, it can be frustrating waiting for God but when we wait for him it is always better than what we could have done. Let me use two examples from history.

The people of the United States grew tired of the injustices the suffered at the hands of England and so entered into a rebellion to fight for their independence. It was hard fought and many lives were lost. It also caused hard feelings for a long time. They won their independence which they are willing to defend with their lives. In contrast we have countries like Canada and Australia who also received independence but they did it through political means. It took a bit longer but not a single drop of blood was spilled.

Using the States as an example again we can look at the abolishing of slavery, long over due. To free the slaves of the southern States the Americans entered into a civil war that tore the country to pieces. I realize that this is an oversimplification of the situation but it was at least the excuse at the time. Eventually the North was victorious and the slaves were set free. In contrast we have the English Empire. Here slavery was brought to an end with a hard fought political battle as a brave group of men would not relent until is was dealt with. It took a little longer but not a single life was lost.

Sometimes we find ourselves facing a situation that we feel we could overcome with force but we need to remember who we belong to and that God has his way of changing hearts. It doesn't mean that we give up, instead we should prepare ourselves for a long and determined battle. In the apostle Paul's day slavery was rampant. Anyone could find themselves turned into a slave. But instead of telling them to rise up against their oppressors Paul, inspired by the Spirit, told them that the message of Jesus was even more important than their freedom:

All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. (1 Timothy 6:1)

Sometimes we think that justice, social or otherwise, is always the priority. However, the consistent teaching of the Word and of the Spirit is that love must trump all other things, including our needs. This love provokes mercy and grace in us, not for ourselves but toward others.

This passage is easily translated to any situation you are facing where someone has an upper hand over you; where you are under someone else's authority. Perhaps it is with a parent who seems to treat you unfairly. Perhaps it is with a boss or a teacher . Maybe they are too demanding, overbearing, perhaps even unfair. This world would say to rise up because you have the right but Christian responsibility does not work that way. Responsibility outweighs any rights we may feel we have in this world. Our responsibility is to love because only in love can we manage to respect those who mistreat us. You think this is hard as a student? You should try it as a slave, which is what the Word of God teaches.

No kidding, our flesh wants to walk in our rights, to fight injustices and social evils. We want everyone, including ourselves, to live a life of liberty where they can do what they want. But this is often not God's way. Rebellion is never his will. Love and respect are his choice and with these tools we can bring about change in the most awesome way, without damaging anyone. It just takes time. Remember the priority in everything we do, that God's name will not be slandered. How many times have we heard, "I thought you were a Christian", when we took things in our own hands? Even the world knows how we should be acting. Our struggle, the real problem, is that we don't know how to make the tough choices. I am glad Jesus knew how to make the tough choices and followed the Father's will and plan instead of his own. I am glad he chose the cross instead of a rebellious uprising like so many wanted him to. He told us we have to make the same choice. After all, what do you think he was telling us when he said that we had to take up our cross and follow him? We are called to a life of sacrificial service for the sake of other people, putting ourselves last for the sake of salvation for others.

This may not seem like much but I encourage you to think about it today. Often we bear the name of Jesus but we still react and respond according to the methods of this world, through rebellion and hatred. The world is confused by what we say and then what we do. Are we followers of Jesus? Then we need to follow in word and deed. We need to make the hard decisions and fight the battles according to God's direction instead of our strength. Whatever we do needs to be done with love and respect. That is when we will see things changed for eternity. 

No comments: