Sunday, 3 February 2013

'Doing Justice'

Sparked off by Ed's discussion at In a Mirror Dimly, Micah 6:8 hits me with a sledge hammer. ‘But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbour, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously - take God seriously.’

At first glance, my life doesn’t have much ‘seeing that justice is done’. Not in terms of Matthew 25:37 – 46 which convicts me further: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’”
And as we know, Jesus then states very clearly
“ I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited. ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’ (The Message)

There is no limit to the needs of our world. There are always hungry people; places where thirst is perpetual; homelessness across the globe; poorly clad children – and adults; the sick suffering in isolation; those who have fallen foul of the law.

And so I justify my behaviour.
I say “Jesus said we will always have the poor with us.”
I say:”I work full time in a demanding job.”
I say: “The needs are so great, and I am so small and insignificant.”
All excuses and lies.
There is ALWAYS something I CAN do. It may not be as big as I would like. I may not be able to be as generous – with time, money or emotion – as I would like. But whatever I do, however little, WILL make a difference. To someone. To some situation. To my neighbour.

So I support those whose work is with the hungry, the homeless, the sick, the prisoners. I give to mission, to charities. I donate clothes and unwanted items to the Salvation Army, to charity hospice shops. I visit sick friends. I write cards of encouragement.

I try. Still...
It is all comfortable. Not convenient – absorbed as I am with my job, I struggle to remember to do these ‘extra’ things – but comfortable.

So I struggle with guilt. With the ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’.
And perhaps that is good. Perhaps I should always be struggling with comfortable vs uncomfortable. Because I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jesus has told his parable regarding talents immediately before he speaks about the final judgement.

Is the key, perhaps, that I use what God has given me? All of it? Jesus gave all he had for me, and all I have comes from him, so withholding any of what he has given me is just WRONG.

So I aim to give generously – until it begins to hurt – rather than focus on saving my money for a rainy day;
I will use my time freely for others, rather than jealously guarding it;
I can look for someone being overlooked or ignored rather than cultivating ONLY my friendships.
I will share my home, responding to those who may need somewhere to be for a while.
I go to visit someone who is sick, rather than just sending them a get well card.

All of this is still within my own sphere. I haven’t yet visited someone in prison – I have never met anyone who has been in prison. So it is now that I am thinking about how, to REALLY do what is ‘fair and just to my neighbour’. Because my neighbour, as Jesus made clear in the parable he told about a man saving the life of his sworn enemy, is ANYONE I MEET. And, perhaps, I need to put myself in the way of meeting others. That might mean volunteering with one of the local welfare programs or joining a particular ministry such as prison visiting.

Whatever happens, I pray to keep my heart open to the needs of my neighbour. So that I CAN “see that justice is done, let mercy be my first concern, and humbly obey my God.”


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