Justice and Mercy
The recent death of Brennan Manning had me revisit one of the most influential books in my early walk with Jesus, Abba's Child. If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it. After rereading it again this past week, here are some thoughts on why I'm sold out on serving the poor, Muslims, and Palestinians.
I believe scripture is clear. If I say I love and believe Jesus, if I do, in fact, believe he paved a way for my redemption and a right relationship with the Father I must obey his teachings. There are not fluffy little Sunday-school-Jesus-loves-me-and-is-surrounded-by-lambs teachings. His teaching are hard and challenging, there is nothing soft and easy about them. Now, it is true that Jesus does love me and my entire being is defined as a beloved child of God. Nothing else, not what I do, how I look, my accomplishments, nothing else truly defines who I am. As Manning states in the book, "Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the the true self. Every other identity is illusion."
Back to these hard teachings, the Sermon on the Mount somehow, this have been watered down...maybe to diminish the power of it. Take all of Matthew 5-7. For me, these chapters go against my culture, my pride, and my comfort. Forgive people who hurt you, love your enemies, you are blessed when you mourn, and you are a child of God when you work towards peace and not towards your own means. If I am to take the scripture seriously and ti ingest the very words of I read as if they were food for my soul, I cannot deny the command to love others. Over and over again throughout the Old and New Testaments, it refers to love and justice for others. Over and over, love for the orphan, widow, and outside. Over and over again God asks for us to act justly and love mercy (Micah 6:8). The Bible even goes so far to say you are cursed for withholding justice for the foreigner. (Deut 27:19) Job even uses his protection of the stranger, rescue of the poor, and a fatherhood of the poor as his defense that he walked in God's ways. The Old Testament also states that the true fasting God requires is to set the oppressed free. (Isaiah 58)
Clearly I am called to serve the poor, the stranger, the foreigner, Muslims, and Palestinians. I cannot deny or hide from this, to do so would mean denying Jesus. By refusing to sit down with a homeless person or a Muslim or a Jew or *insert other here*. (Any other person who doesn't share my same social class, religion, political view, sexual orientation, etc.) I refuse to see Jesus in another. And yet, if I could, I would run.
Why run? To sit face-to-face with a homeless person I am reminded of my own innter poverty, my endless neediness, my own ugliness, my self-righteousness, my utter lack of significance accomplishment. To sit face-to-face with a Muslim woman, I am reminded of how misogyny has impacted my life, my own limits and loneliness, my inability to help her, and my very own wobbly belief system based on my American culture.
To sit with the other reminds me that I am not the glittering image I put forth, but just another human being who struggles with the rest of humanity. Except that I have hope, I know I am dearly loved and accepted, warts and all. That is why I must work towards freeing the oppressed and helping the needy, it keeps me one with the Father. It's not about my glittering image; it's about being of God on earth, for all to see. And to recognize God's belovedness in my fellow human beings.
I believe that lease to justice and mercy, to give the other dignity and value regardless if they receive it or how they treat me. That is what I believe the gospel is and its; free for all.
I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences
and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your
pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your
noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—
rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want.
– Amos 5: 21-24 (MSG)