ON THE PATHS OF JUSTICE
"But you must return to your God, hold fast to love and
justice, and wait continually for your God." (Hosea 12:6)
"Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil
from your doings .... Learn to do good; seek justice, correct
oppression, defend the orphaned, plead for the widowed."
If you google "Top 35 Bible Texts on Justice", you will find these two among them. To those who continue to chime "You shouldn't mix church and politics", I often ask, "When is the last time you read through the books of the Prophets in The Bible?" There is a long, long trail a-winding, the "highway" of God if you like, or even "higher" way. It stretches back over millennia to the hallmark event of liberating the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt. The God who deeply desires to live in covenant love with humankind and invites us to live likewise with each other and with all creation, has been helping open up, build, de-construct, and re-construct the road to right relationships and healthful interdependent community living since creation. It is the unfolding grand vision of the Realm of God. To me, that was the primary purpose of Jesus' ministry and mission on earth -- to take that initiative up a notch or six and invite all people to participate. The repentance he encouraged was more than just personal, it was a call to turn whole social systems and injustices around. This is a far bigger, more challenging, and way more engaging project and mission of hope than getting one's own tainted soul "right with God" before one dies so one can go to heaven after that happens. The latter is a very waterer-down, and rather distorted compression of why the ministry and mission of Jesus seemed necessary. It also gives us all a larger sense of purpose for our lives in the here and now.
Seeking justice, peace, and right relationships is a long-term, energy-draining, effort that requires oodles of stamina and perseverance. You get knocked down, then you get up again ... I remember meeting with a local aboriginal chief during the Oka crisis as some of the cross-country protesters made a stop at the church I was serving at the time in Belleville, Ontario. I sought to engage him in conversation about justice and his reply (not an original one) was: "Well you know what the government means when they say 'Justice'. They really mean, 'Just Us!'." It is a struggle, but it is also a clarion call to people of faith to join with others who are like minded, like-hearted, and endeavor to truly turn the world around.
Creating justice and lasting peace goes far beyond remedial aid, patch-work approaches, and protest marches. I spent some time in the 1980s establishing one of the first shelters for battered women and children in the conservative bastion of Brockville, Ontario. It took five years of effort, meeting with resistant male councilors, NIMBY neighbours, et cetera; but we got the house up and staffed and running. It's still operating today. And that's sad ... but still necessary. The real justice won't happen until we have figured out how to raise a generation or two of males who don't have a violent bone in their bodies, who don't have any chauvinistic ions firing in their brains, and who have developed and nurtured healthful manners of anger management and are willing to be human beings who can share power with women mutually and not have to always have control. Truth to tell, I'm still working on some of that re-development myself.
Get the drift? Behind the problem, there are always larger, long-standing habits, behaviours, inculcated cultural practices and attitudes that really are THE PROBLEM. As we seek a mission focus for Marshall Memorial, it may be that one or two major justice issues will help frame such an effort.
What I do believe is, A) Seeking justice is a calling from God; and B) Being part of such action with other people of faith and like-hearted persons in a community not only galvanizes such a group; but also, in seeking to bring enhanced and altered circumstances to the lives of those on the receiving end of cruelty or injustice, participants find their own lives altered and enhanced. Thanks be to God, the God who wills "shalom" for all of us, for all creation.