My people go into exile without knowledge; their nobles are dying of hunger, and their multitude is parched with thirst. Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite and opened its mouth beyond measure; the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude go down, her throng and all who exult in her. People are bowed down, everyone is brought low, and the eyes of the haughty are humbled. But the Lord of hosts is exalted by justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy by righteousness. Then the lambs shall graze as in their pasture, fatlings and kids shall feed among the ruins. Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will become rotten, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the instruction of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them; the mountains quaked, and their corpses were like refuse in the streets. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still. Isaiah 5:13-17, 24-25 (NRSV)
Justice is not blind… it is hungry. Science Fiction writer Douglas Adams wrote many of his stories about a concept of “the interconnectedness of all things”. For those who read and affirm the Bible, this is the same kind of idea we teach when we teach that God created all things for a purpose, that God is a god of order, and that when one part suffers, all parts suffer with it. That last bit Paul wrote about the Church primarilly, but I think it applies to a broader group than one set of people.
Interconnectedness is the founding premise of both global warming and the “trickle down effect”. It is the motivation for welfare and war overseas. It is the purpose behind foreign policy and the insurance premiums and we built a monument to this idea in the paradoxical entity called “Wall Street”.
It’s weird. It’s hard to wrap our minds around. But with all of this being supported by it, there has to be some truth to it. For better or worse, we are all connected.
Justice, then, is not just a fancy idea either. Justice is the tension that exists between all things. If we are all connected, and my actions can either hurt or help you, there is necessarily a right and wrong way to do anything and everything. This is our problem today: we want there to be a clear right and wrong for anything that affects us, but not for our own actions. We want to receive the benefits of being in community, but not the responsibility. The more we shake responsibility though, the greater the tension in the community around us, until something snaps and we find ourselves broken, as well as the community around us. The gravity of justice is inescapable.
If there is a right and wrong way to deal with poverty and hunger, there is a right and wrong way to deal with romantic relationships. I think that is why God included problems of murder and theft in the ten commandments along with faithfulness in marriage and honoring parents… and ended with coveting – the sin of wanting what others have. That is one of the hidden sins of our society. Whether it is materialism and keeping up with the Jones’s, or the envy of wanting the looks or abilities of others around us, God calls it sin and our nation is riddled with it. The tension is beyond the breaking point. Justice is starving.
What can we do? The only way to find true justice is to put aside our desires and find new ways to live that bless others instead of just ourselves. It doesn’t matter if you are a white American or an Iraqi immigrant. We share the same world and our actions matter. Isn’t that what Advent and Christmas is all about? Isn’t that what Jesus came to do for us? He took the tension upon His own body and in His grace gave us the strength to lay down our own desires and live for righteousness. Because we trust in God’s provision, we are able to live for God and for one another instead of just living for ourselves. This holiday season, can we put down the thoughts of getting what we want and start giving God what He deserves?
- Where do you feel the tension of injustice the most?
- What part of your life do you try to protect the most?
- How can you begin turning over your desires and replacing them with trust and obedience to God today?