Wednesday, September 03, 2008

"Climbing - justice" from L.L. Barkat

From Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places

Through a social issues reading club started by L.L., which met at her house, L.L. and some friends began to enter into some of the hurt and wrong of the world. This opened up not only the stories of those who have been wronged and neglected. But made them aware of their own sense of responsibility and inadequacy in doing much about it. But this is where the climbing comes in. Quoting Karangathe, "a worker in Kenya's green belt movement", the endeavor to see justice done on earth is taken one step at a time. The destination may be far, and may even seem inaccessible, but steps in the right direction, beginning with what one can do themselves, are taken.

One of the keys is to see how we ourselves are culprits or accomplices in the plight of those suffering injustice in the world. This is not an easy road to travel. But following in the path of Jesus, "the awaited tsaddiq...a straight-on justice incarnate person," through receiving "his tsedaqah when we turn to [God] and are saved" we are thus "little Christs, little tsaddiqim, little straight-on justice incarnates..." We must get beyond any sense of hopelessness in view of the scope of the problems, and beyond our own imprisonment in pain as those being healed in Jesus if we're to bring the needed justice and freedom in Jesus to others.

Justice itself is not that hard to understand. It has the sense of righting all wrongs against others. In the biblical sense, bringing shalom, God's blessing of prosperity to those in need in our world. This is nothing less than what is prayed in the "our Father prayer": "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." So in that sense it is an endeavor we must take on not just by ourselves, who neither have the vision nor the strength for it. But together, in hand with God through Christ, so that it is helping others not only to bread, but the Bread of life, Jesus himself.

Again, just like chapter after chapter, really the entire book, this was more than just a fine read for me. It really plumbed my own shallowness on this subject, and challenged me. I have to admit, I've been confused over the past many months not so much over the meaning of justice itself, but how we apply it in the world. It seems like the common answer that the really rich are contributing to the injustice of the world in systemic ways has some truth and error. So at this point justice is a bit muzzled in me over such issues. I have plenty to learn.

But we see injustice, such as through a couple we know, the wife not even yet fifty having had two silent and one normal heart attack, her husband let go from a job because he had hurt his back- even though he was still working, now in alot of back pain and working a minimum wage job at a gas station along with delivering papers, having the big expense in gasoline. And he has had to pay around $100 per week for health insurance which ended up covering only one of four required medications for his wife. So he dropped the insurance, thinking he can do better paying for her medical needs out of his own pocket. And he gets only a few hours of sleep here and there. There are no easy answers here, and what can we do as Christians in this? To our shame, we don't seem well versed in knowing what we can or should do. And the church has helped this couple. Add to that, the rising health care cost, and needed insurance is a national issue. It would be nice if private enterprises worked together to help the some 50 million Americans to be able to purchase affordable health care coverage, which now they don't have, and doesn't seem forthcoming. This is one major item on my mind right now in regard to justice, and weighs heavily in my thinking on the upcoming November election.

And we must not only prophetically critique and speak into the wrongs of our world, but we must be part of the solution in Jesus. We must begin the steps towards God's shalom by becoming informed and praying for the problems both as to God's solution, and our part in that. Not that we'll arrive to shalom in perfection before Jesus returns. But I believe in Jesus we're called to show the compassion of God to those in need.

Let's follow the true Jesus, who was not the meek and mild "just is" as commonly portrayed, but the straight-on justice incarnate person, who in passion and compassion acted for others. This chapter was a needed spur to make me think and pray again that I would be a part of God's work of justice in Jesus in a world so in need of God's healing and shalom.

How do you see this and the part we're to play in it?

1. Stepping Stones - conversion
2. Christmas Coal - shame
3. Tossed Treasures - messiness
4. Heron Road - suffering
5. Sword in the Stone - resistance
6. Howe's Cave - baptism
7. Palisade Cliffs - doubt
8. Holding Pfaltzgraff - inclusion
9. Indiana Jones - fear
10. Old Stone Church - love
11. Goldworthy's Wall - sacrifice
12. Clefts of the Rock - responsibility
13. Olive Press - gratitude
14. Forest Star - humility
15. Seedstone - healing
16. Sugar Face - forgiveness
17. Lava Rock - witness

Next week: Roxaboxen - heaven


L.L. Barkat said...

Ted, thanks for this post. Justice is also a topic that has stymied me. I think we get caught up thinking we have to change the whole world, we feel a lot of guilt, we do nothing for fear we can't do enough or the right thing. It's refreshing for me to think about just beginning... right where I am, with who I touch and what I care about.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks. Yes, that came through in your chapter. I also tend to think of the Matthew 25 sheep and goats passage, sooner or later, but so much in Scripture on justice and caring about because of God and his kingdom, and actually because we have a sense of that on our hearts from God.

Wonderful chapter. I at least hope this post was read by some. But above all that people will get the book.