As our government begins to prepare itself for a transfer of power to a new leader, we too, as Christians, as the Church, have an opportunity to reevaluate and formulate our goals in these upcoming years. Although I am excited to know that our new leader supports economic policies and health care plans that will help the poor and disadvantaged, I want to remind you all that we still have a responsibility to care for the “least of these.” There is far more poverty in this country and in the world than our government will ever be able to help, and there are still other injustices that our government remains ignorant of which we must stand against.
Our God is a just God. He is a God who demands justice. But our culture has justice all screwed up. We picture justice as criminals being condemned, but when scripture and, specifically, the prophets speak of justice they are not referring to condemning the guilty, but rather protecting the innocent. Especially protecting those who cannot protect themselves. We need to reassess our definition of justice. Because the biblical call for justice means our protection of the innocent and marginalized who we so often overlook.
I’ve been reading the prophets a lot lately: namely Isaiah, but I also heard a mini sermon series on the book of Amos recently. The prophets’ call for justice is powerful. And God’s anger at injustice is terrifying. Isaiah 59 is entirely about evil and oppression in the land. Isaiah writes about how “no one calls for justice,” how “justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us.” He writes about how, “justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance.” And finally he writes that, “the LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice.” (Isaiah 59:4,9,14,15) This is why Amos writes, “hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate.” (Amos 5:15)
Amos is writing to the nation of Israel and they are a very religious people. They go to temple and they sing their songs, but they are practicing these “religious acts” without any sincerity, without any heart. God will time and time again condemn such acts. In Psalm 51 God rejects the people’s burnt offerings and insists on their hearts. In Amos, God cries, “Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing-stream.” (Amos 5:23-24)
God is not interested in simple “religious acts,” but rather the bringing about of His justice. This is why James would write, “religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” (James 1:27) He means more than simply visiting. He means caring for them. Paul writes in 1 Timothy about how the church has a responsibility to care for widows. In our culture “orphans and widows” translates over to single mothers and their children. We must care for those in need.
Jesus’ parables and teachings are full of stories about caring for the needy. The story of the sheep and the goats tells us we must care for “the least of these.” The parable of the Good Samaritan tells us that we must love and care for all people. Jesus tells the rich young ruler to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor. And one of the most terrifying of his parables is the story of the rich man and Lazarus.
“There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores. Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and his soul went to the place of the dead.” (Luke 16:19-23) Tell me, what did the rich man do that was so wrong? Why was he sent to “the place of the dead”? All we know is that there was a poor man at his gate and he remained ignorant. This parable is terrifying to me, because it makes me wonder, “How many poor people are there at my gate that I remain ignorant of?” Jesus is calling us to care for those who are in need. I know there are many organizations and programs set up for global missions, but how many are in poverty at our gate? We must not forget the poor and disadvantaged of our own nation.
I want to go back to considering justice and Isaiah 59. If justice is namely protecting the innocent and those who can’t protect themselves, then we need to be outraged at the ignorance our government has paid to the genocide of 1.3 million children a year in our very country! Isaiah writes, “your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity.” (Isaiah 59:3) We cannot remain ignorant of legalized abortion, or more accurately, legalized violent attacks on unborn human beings. Although poverty is a great injustice which prevents people from experiencing all that life has, abortion goes to the root and prevents life itself. There is no greater injustice than this.
So, what can we do? How can we bring justice to this world? I don’t have any great answers, but let’s just do what Jesus said and give our money and possessions to those who really need it. Let’s actively look for people in need, rather than remaining ignorant like the rich man in the parable. And let’s speak out for those who can’t: our younger brothers and sisters living in wombs of women across the country. Let us speak out and stand up for them! And let us not only speak for them, but let us also care for these women, their mothers. Let us help them financially, let us give them love and grace.
There is a website you can visit to learn more about abortion. Like I think everyone ought to visit the holocaust museum at some point in their life, you must visit this website. It is called Abort73. It is hard to take in, but it is necessary. I am pleading with you to join me in this fight for justice.
“Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate.”