230: Fruitfulness on the Frontline – Justice and Confrontation

What comes to mind when we think of “Justice”? Maybe the famous words spoken by Martin Luther King Jnr. “No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Or maybe it’s the feeling of an injustice that we want put right when someone’s jumped the queue or someone’s cheated us out of something we felt was our right.

Words for the Week

Micah 6:8 (NIV)

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
 And what does the Lord require of you? 
To act justly and to love mercy
 and to walk humbly with your God.

Psalm 15 (NIV)

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose way of life is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbour,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honours those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
 will never be shaken.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

old bailey

Writer’s Thoughts

In the Old Testament the words for “justice” and “righteousness” are often the same. When thinking of justice, it can help to think of the word “righteous”, doing the right thing, saying the right thing, in a situation.

Micah, in chapter 6, sets the picture of a court scene: of God bringing a lawsuit against His people; Israel is the defendant while God is the prosecutor and judge; with the witnesses being the mountains and the foundations of the earth. The scene changes to Israel accepting her guilt and asking how she can repair for her misdeeds, maybe by sacrificial offerings, or by the sacrifice of a first-born son. But God’s answer is that a “gift” is not necessary, He desires the heart of the “giver”. A giver who will show justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. God desires that are actions are righteous, that we treat others mercifully and that we have a humble relationship with Him. Interestingly, following on from these verses, Micah goes on to say that God is calling to the city, to the merchants, to the businessmen who obtained their wealth by dishonest means. Psalm 15 looks at our walk and our talk, our lives are to be lived with integrity. When we apply these verses to our lives, how do we measure up in our personal lives, as a body of God’s people and as a nation?

As we look at Fruitfulness on the Frontlines we are encouraged to think of our own Frontlines as: “the places where we spend most of our time – work, home and leisure”. How are our relationships at home, in our families, in our workplace? Do we build others up and give them value? Do we account for our expenditure in the right way and fill in our Tax Return correctly? How do we spend our leisure time or our money? Here are a few other frontlines to consider: the bus stop where a migrant is figuring out the timetable, on public transport where an elderly person is trying to find the right money or a vacant seat; outside the local supermarket where someone is selling the Big Issue; inside the supermarket shopping making choices of which product to buy; walking to work passing the homeless on the street; these are places where we often feel uncomfortable, unsure how we can help.

How do our actions on our frontlines affect people somewhere else in the world, for good or bad? I had a geography teacher who took the time to have lunch with me at school. He asked me a series of ethical questions “would you . . . . .?” to which I immediately answered “no”. Then he asked “if you were desperate for some chocolate and saw a vending machine, just as you were about to push the button you saw a sign saying ‘pushing this button will hurt someone overseas’ would you still push the button to get your chocolate?” For a 14 year old, this was more difficult to answer. His point was detachment. What we do here feels so detached from what happens far away. Do we realise that they are our frontlines too? Do we buy Fairtrade food products? Are we concerned by the working conditions where our clothing is made? Is someone working in a sweatshop helping to keep down the price of our clothing or is our clothing ethically sourced? What about our technology or our luxury items?

God’s justice is not just gracious, it is redemptive, restorative. In 1 John 1:9 we read “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” So we have seen that we need to have the same attitude as Jesus, to live righteous lives, lives that speak for justice, on our immediate frontlines of family and workplace. We also need to think of our other frontlines where we can make a difference when shopping, when we see the migrant and the homeless, and in our prayers as well as giving of our time and money to charities. Let’s commit ourselves to pursue justice and not to be satisfied until we see it flowing like a mighty stream.

Own it personally…

Questions
What injustices and untruths do you see on your front line? And in the wider world?
Take a few moments to look at some video clips/web-sites to help us think more widely.

Listen to God
Re-read the Micah and Psalms passages above, and in another version, such as the Message, asking God to speak to your heart, that he will reveal any areas where He wants to work in your life and home.

Challenge
Where might God be asking me to challenge the prevailing culture, in my workplace or in the world? How can I be involved in affecting change? Or Is there a charity, a volunteer role, that God is asking me to be involved with?

Apply
Ask Him for help to show you how you can confront things which need changing and the courage to get involved.

Act
Make a plan, put it in your diary now as a reminder.

fashion
Munir Uz Zaman | AFP | Getty Images

Speak it Out – Pray and Prophesy

I Will Speak Out
By Bankhead, Rinaldi, Goudie, Bassett

I will speak out for those who have no voices
I will stand up for the rights of all the oppressed
I will speak truth and justice
I’ll defend the poor and the needy
I will lift up the weak in Jesus’ name

I will speak out for those who have no choices
I will cry out for those who live without love
I will show God’s compassion
To the crushed and broken in spirit
I will lift up the weak in Jesus’ name

Pray

Dear Lord God,
Help us to see people through your eyes, to have compassion, to be moved and to give.
Help us live righteous lives in our own homes and workplaces, to give value to others and live lives of integrity.
Help us to live lives that will speak up for and seek justice for the oppressed.
We pray for our city, that housing will be provided for the homeless, that we will welcome the stranger and that our business will be conducted in a way that glorifies You.
We pray for the UK that justice will be upheld.
We also pray for countries where justice is not upheld. We ask for those working with organisations such as the International Justice Ministry that they will know your power and wisdom in decision making and the bringing of Your justice here on earth.
Amen

“Finally, I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavoured, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned. We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated.” 
“Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving. The people who haven’t earned it, who haven’t even sought it, are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion.”
Bryan Stevenson (from Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption)

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