Called to Righteousness

I saw the video of the policeman kneeling on George Floyd's neck, just like everyone else who is paying attention to current protests and riots. It made me disgusted. I've seen police brutality when I was a young woman living in Chicago, but since then, I've made friends with law enforcement, live in the same neighborhood, and learned to rely on them. Sure, there are bad actors and a need for reform, but reform alone will not stop people from choosing to do wrong.

When Jesus said, "For you always have the poor with you" (Mark 14:7), he was warning his followers that sin and disease will be a constant presence in a world that has gone so wrong from God's original intent for creation. So, it will be until Jesus returns. People who could live honestly and peacefully with each other, find ways to set up boundaries and foment divisions. Humans of every class, shape, or color steal, kill, lie, and covet. You can go through the list of sins in the Ten Commandments to find one or more in the headlines of every media outlet today. On the other hand, there are many people who we do not read about who do good, who forgive, who give generously, and who love sacrificially.

It is because of sin we have agreed to protection in our neighborhoods and cities in the first place, but sadly, innocent people can find themselves victims to the protection that has been put in place. People fail to do right. It is Adam's sin to want his way over God's way, and we are his children. When protection becomes abuse, we must stop it. While alive on this earth, we will deal with the consequences of people choosing themselves and what they want over choosing God's way, ourselves included, and often those choices have devastating results.

Our hope, as Christians, is that Jesus, who has overcome the world, who sends His Spirit to empower his followers to live justly and righteously as he asks us to live, has given us the standards of the one who alone knows right from wrong. When anyone, and I'm writing to Christians, sees something egregious, such as the death of George Floyd, we cannot just shrug our shoulders and say to ourselves, "that’s life ” or “someone should do something about that.” We lose part of our humanity when we ignore wrongdoing. It is a sin of omission. We must wrestle in ourselves to find a morally clear response, yet one that also supports the necessary justice all deserve.

In Amos 7:8, God says he is “setting a plumb line in the midst of his people.” God has raised up through the commandments of the Old Testament and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the standards to which he holds all people. His rules are both right and just. For a standard to be right without being just is to be like the professor who made it clear that there were no makeup exams for his class and held everyone to it, even the young woman who was called to her dying mother’s side that day of the final test. Justice without compassion fails to value an individual’s unique circumstances. But mercy alone fails to make the person accountable to a right standard. It is compassion gone awry. When we lose the plumb line, we forgo our moral foundation. When we lose empathy, we lose our humanity. However, to decry wrong while doing wrong is neither justice nor righteousness, it’s hypocrisy. And that kind of hypocrisy comes in all sizes, shapes, and colors of humanity. It can be found in the streets and in a home, in the halls of justice and in a church.

We are, no doubt, in a struggle, perhaps not only with each other but also in a struggle against an evil that cunningly using every means from silence to violence to tear our cities, our communities, and even our families apart. It is an evil that mocks God’s will and way, his power, and his loving-kindness to humanity. An evil that steals kills and destroys what we, together, have built. It denies God's care and sovereignty in a person’s life and, instead, demands its own beliefs and morality. Everything, whether it’s a community, laws, a home, or a country, becomes vulnerable to this ravenous monster that wants anything but peace, safety, and goodwill among us. Certainly not justice nor righteousness.

So, what can we do to confront this evil? We could start here:

Examine yourself. “If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray, I will heal their land .” (2 Chronicles 7:14) If you are a Christian, God is calling you to prayer and humility. Prayer proclaims that God, in his sovereign mercy, can find a path of peace and show each of us the way. Humility forces us to examine our life and our choices, and to repent of those things we‘ve done that failed to uphold God’s standards. Have you wanted righteousness without justice or justice alone? Coming to peace with God by desiring his will becomes the foundation on which we can lovingly speak and always live.

Speak: The Silence of Acquiescence doctrine says that if we keep silent about wrongdoing when it’s done to others, then we have no stand when the same wrongdoing happens to us. Elie Wiesel made the case after the Holocaust when he wrote:” the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” We may only be able to talk to a few, but to do so wisely, lovingly, and with grace is the first step. God tells Isaiah, “Come. Let us reason together.” (Isaiah 1:18) We may have conversations with people whose views will be different than ours and possibly unchanging, but when we state ours clearly and own them to others, we begin a dialog that may be life-changing. We make our stand, and perhaps, good will follow.

Act: St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” Our actions do speak loudly. When we live out our values in our home, our neighborhood, and our church others will see and may give praise to God. God’s way is love, and that takes discipline and courage. “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Don’t let moments of failure define us. Ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen what is weak and make firm what is feeble. (Isaiah 35.3)

Pray: When we pray about the unrest in our society today, and we pray with all our hearts, there can be mourning for peace and justice. Ask the Lord to give you a heart of prayer for those whose lives are being impacted by injustice, for peace in our communities, and for grace for all who are involved in governing. Jesus tells us, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

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