(Click here for a video of John reading this Catch.)
What word appears 130 times in the Old Testament and15 times in the New (used mostly by Jesus) but hardly ever shows up in the language of evangelical Christians? What word has such political overtones that it galvanizes the polarization of believers when it should be a simple quality of the heart for all believers that flows from the heart of God? What word was high on the list of the secular culture of the ‘60s but hardly ever mentioned among most of the Jesus Freaks? What word shows up consistently in black inner-city churches but not proportionately in white suburban ones? Give up?
Justice — treating everyone with equal worth and opportunity and setting straight the inequalities of society — is so much a part of the heart of God that it is second only to love in God’s hierarchy. God sees to it that His economy equalizes the social order. He raises up the lowly and brings down the proud. He blesses the poor and warns the rich. In His kingdom, He promises that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices — mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former” (Matthew 23:23). And James berates the early Christians for showing favoritism to the rich while ignoring the poor, and described true religion as taking care of widows and orphans.
Why is it that churches that emphasize the scriptures and the gospel are often weak on justice, and those who are strong on social justice are often weak on the scriptures and the gospel? Say the word justice in some churches and people head for the exits. Is it because justice requires something of me? Is it a racial thing? Are we afraid of those who are different from us? Is the gospel only concerned with getting me into heaven, or does it speak into my relationships here on earth?
I think I’m missing something. I think I’ve truncated the gospel. I think I need to look into this. We’re going to focus on justice starting with our BlogTalkRadio show tonight with special guest, our own Wayne Bridegroom, who pastored a church that ministered to four different ethnic groups, participated in the interfaith fellowships in his city government (Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, Catholics, etc.), and was the only white person to ever receive the Martin Luther King Award from the city of Modesto. Don’t miss this very important discussion.