Doing Justice Everyday – 2/1/2011 Morning Prayer Amy Lukas Today I would like to just speak a little bit to the call to do justice in our lives and the lives of others. What does God say of justice? And what does this justice truly look like? At a basic level, doing justice means living in a way that takes into account the common good and seeks flourishing for all. It means caring about the needs of others and, in whatever ways we can, acting to ensure that everyone has access to such benefits as food, shelter, education, freedom, and safety.
It just so happens that this is the message Micah presents in our Old Testament scripture verse for today. Micah was the prophet of the downtrodden and exploited people of Judean society. He prophesied during a time of great social injustice and boldly opposed those who imposed their power upon the poor and weak for selfish ends. We can find guidance for this Christian call to practice justice in the answer Micah gives of what the Lord requires of us. As he preaches to the people, Micah raises the question that I hear many college students raise– “Good God almighty, what do you want of me?”
Haven’t you ever felt like doing that? Just looking up at God and pleading with Him, “Good God Almighty, what do you WANT of me?”
The prophet Micah in Chapter 6 verse 8 tells us --- 8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? 3 simple requirements that the Lord wants us to do. Justice, Kindness, Humility. I used to have this bible verse written on my bulletin board – always looking at it as a beautiful verse, but as one that I didn’t really know how to tackle in my own life. Let’s focus specifically on that call to do justice which is the focus for the Month of February in chapter 12 in the book “On Our Way.” Have you ever felt overwhelmed with the call to “do justice?” I know that I have. To say “I’m DOING JUSTICE”…It seems like some huge thing that God is calling us to do. How could we ever succeed in doing such a thing? Especially in the world we live in today – a world trodden with oppression, poverty, exploitation, inequalities, populations lacking the resources for basic human needs – the call to do justice to these issues can be daunting. But in this seemingly daunting task – we need to realize what God has called us to do – to merely act justly and seek justice in any situation we find ourselves in - no matter how insignificant an impact you believe you are making, don’t stop striving for justice – for what is right and fair for all people.
How do begin to form a just and peaceful world? How can the whole of our lives reflect God’s special love and passionate concern for those who are poor and excluded?Just as Matthew 25:40 state, “Just as you did it to one of the “least of these” who are members of my family, you did it to me.” The “least of these” are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Whether they are individuals we could be serving at a local soup kitchen, families struggling to make ends meet in our state, villages in need of clean drinking water, or whole countries struggling with war. When we show the least of these compassion and kindness, we can be moved to form relationships and community with these members of society. Forming these relationships and sharing God’s compassion with one another is the first step in the direction of justice. When we begin to take in their life stories and see their personal struggles… their injustices are internalized as our own. Their pain becomes our pain, and once again we are moved to work for justice. When we begin working for justice not only “for” the least of these, but “alongside” the least of these – that is when we begin working as Jesus did - in relationship to the least of these.
Social justice is understood in various ways and can take on a variety of forms.What does God really care about, what is it that God is looking for his children do? Do justice: that means giving food to those who need food, that means cleaning out the rain gutters on the home of someone who is too old and feeble to be on a ladder, that means caring for children who come from broken homes no matter how ungrateful they might appear. When understood as individuals interacting with society in order to achieve a specific goal, social justice may consist of raising funds for victims of natural disasters, urging people to demonstrate greater concern for the environment by using more environmentally friendly transportation, or advocating for social or public policy reform. Whatever form doing justice takes –acting justly can be seen as celebrating and sharing in God’s abundant goodness and performing justice as a labor of love – showing God’s love for all people. Being a voice for the voiceless, standing up for those who can’t stand up on their own - becoming if nothing else a shoulder to lean on and a place within which to seek Gods refuge. In doing justice we see eachother as truly human – standing in solidarity with our neighbors and brother and sisters in Christ – we can realize the abundance God has provided for all people and strive for reconciliation with one another so that all people begin to see the restoration of the kingdom of God.
In the foreword to the Green Bible – Desmond Tutu says –“Jesus’ supreme work is to reconcile us to God and to one another and, indeed, to reconcile us to all of God’s creation. It is possible to have a new kind of world, a world where there will be more compassion, more gentleness, more caring, more laughter, more joy for all of creation, because it is God’s dream. And God says, “Help me, help me, help me realize my dream.”
So I urge you to not think of doing justice as “DOING JUSTICE.” These daily acts of justice that we can engage in are not done in the hope of making the world a utopian paradise. It is not done to bring the Kingdom of God in the final form. Rather the goal is to make the situation of all people a little better, a bit more tolerable and humane, be more responsive to human needs, form a better place for all children to grow up, and perhaps provide a tiny glimpse of the Kingdom of God as modeled in the lives of Christians.
So let us not be silent – make a move, and take action to do justice in all aspects of your daily life – no matter how small the act. It is not acceptable to simply remain silent and stagnant in the face of injustices when we have the God-given power, authority and influence to be active agents of change in our lives. Our work for justice will not be speedy or easy- it may seem like we are making hardly any progress at all at times, We must be persistent and always keep these 3 requirements God has for us at the forefront of our minds. Let us help bring about God’s dream of a world reaching closer to the reconciled kingdom of God- a dream of Justice, Mercy, and Humility.
Let us then draw our inspiration once again and remember what prophet Micah has said
8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
I’d like to close with part of a Franciscan Benediction that we’ve read in SALT before. I hope that it helps us to see those little areas that we can see justice in our lives and the lives of others.
“May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.
May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.”