Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 51; 148, Isaiah 42:(1-9) 10-17, Ephesians 3:1-13, Mark 2:13-22
“Justice.” To twenty-first century, Western sensibility, that word implies a certain type of order: punishment for wrongdoing, restitution for injury, recovery of one’s property. We use it in an almost exclusively legal sense. Phrases like “economic justice” spark debate about wealth redistribution, entitlements, and merit. We want justice to be blind, orderly, and swift.
God doesn’t always do “orderly.” When Isaiah describes the arrival of God’s justice, the scene he paints is chaotic. God’s justice lays waste to mountains, cries out like a woman in labor, and turns rivers into islands. Yet his servant doesn’t raise his voice, break a bruised reed, or even snuff a faint wick. As the representative of God’s justice, Christ upends the Pharisees expectations about the messiah. He tells crazy stories about patched-up wineskins. He dines with tax collectors and other “undesirables.” He eats and drinks more than they think he should. When challenged about the company he keeps, Christ tells them straight up he is here for the sinners, not the righteous.
If we broaden our understanding of justice to building a world where the most vulnerable are taken care of, do we see justice reflected in our modern world? Often it requires acts of civil disobedience outside the realm of the strictly legal. Susan B. Anthony, Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi each participated in non-violent protest in the name of justice. Each nudged their corner of the world into slightly better alignment with the kingdom of God, where the last are first and no distinctions are made on gender, social status, or ethnicity.
We tend to think of blessed lives as quiet and orderly, but God’s justice scrambles our carefully crafted plans and lives. Followers of Christ spend time on the margins of society, living with and working on behalf of the disenfranchised. According to each of our means and talents, we work for the type of justice that seeks to include rather than exclude, to practice mercy rather than revenge, and to raise to messy life systems that were orderly but soulless. Justice does not lock things down; it cracks them open.
Comfort: We don’t have to crack skulls to open hearts.
Challenge: Read some biographical material about people who have engaged in non-violent resistance.
Prayer: God of peace, teach me to serve with love. Amen.
Discussion: Many Christians have differing perspectives on pacifism and non-violence. What’s yours?
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