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Social Justice in a Christian Culture

Christian - to be a Christ follower.  That's the definition in purest form.  The problem with Christianity today and for centuries is so often we do not take to heart that our mission is to behave as a "little Christ".  We are representatives, ambassadors of peace and good will, or so we say we are.  The Jesus which was prophesied to come, indeed came as a babe in a manger.  History records this event and the whole world has recognized that Christ came. But for those that he came, so many did not and still do not receive Him.  I mean, HIM and all he really represents.  We squeeze the idea of Jesus into our tiny little minds.  We make him fit our personal agenda.  We make him fit comfortably into the traditions we have long held that may have no ties to him or his teachings.  He is a Jesus of comfortability.  But Holy scriptures portray a vastly different Jesus.  One who spoke with authority, who rebuked the wind, who performed miracles, turned water into wine, healed those who were sick, spoke to strangers, loved the poor & lonely, comforted the little children, spoke tenderly, loved his enemies, ate and drank with sinners...the list is endless really! 

This Jesus who came, he came for the less loved, the dirty, the poor, the empty, the broken, the drunk, the slut, the cheat, the liar...this list is exhaustless.  He came for us all.  He came to love, heal, and he came to set free those who are bound.  You and me - aren't we all bound by something...or someone.  He came to set me free.  That gets very real and personal.  I don't know about you, but I want that kind of freedom. I think Jesus came to break the traditions of man and to burst through the doors of our hearts and minds and set our thinking straight.  But it is that he rarely gets that chance and thus his message and voice is stifled.  The Christ who came to set captives free is rarely heard above the useless noise of a hurried and over stimulated society. 

Yet he is still speaking.  In the silence, in the wind, in a still small whisper...we can still hear his voice.  The heavens declare his glory every day!  The winds and waves obey his voice.  Why don't we?  I mean why don't we hear the voice of the real Jesus?  Do we want to?  It will stir, challenge and provoke you to take action more differently than what you are comfortable with.  This Jesus who loved the down and out, the dirty, the oppressed....yes this Jesus, this is the Jesus that I worship, love and serve.  He is a Jesus who loves every one great and small, powerful and insignificant, rich and poor, sharp or dull of mind, sick or healthy...an endless list is comparisons...He came for us all!!!! 

Yet here we are in December 2013 and the world is confused about the Christ child.  We sing songs about his birth.  We celebrate traditions adopted from pagan cultures and we accept this tradition and celebrate the Christ in the best way we know.  We speak of the Christ who came to set people free yet we bind and oppress people every where.  He came to set captives free!  You and me...captive to something or someone.  He came for us.  I want that freedom. And it's a freedom I can't give myself.  He alone can give it for he embodies peace!  He is peace.  He lived peace.  He was and is all love and grace and peace flowed from his being.  In his presence, people felt their shame and guilt wash away.  His touched healed people.  His voice spoke peace and calm and comfort.  He was the living breathing Christ speaking into a restless world of hate and injustice. 

He speaks those same words to us.  He came to set the captives free. He came to loose the chains of injustice that exist in our world.  It was predicted that he would do so...and he does, but only when we let him.  I don't know if you understand injustice, but I think I do.  I think Jesus came for those who are not heard!  Everyone wants to be heard.  Everyone wants significance.  The search for significance and meaning causes people to do a lot of things...and many times some not so good things.  In my searching in life, I have come to understand that Jesus loves me just as I am.  He takes all of me and wraps me in a blanket of love, grace and mercy.  He washes me clean as only he can because he came to free us from our sin through his life and death.  This makes me significant.  He came for me!!!!  He loves me and he thinks I am of infinite value...value enough that he would die for me.  This is love! 

So this Jesus...the one we don't know...the one who is all love, grace and mercy.  He came to open the minds of those who thought they knew the truth.  He confronted them daily. These were the religious leaders of the day.  The Pharisees and Sadducees.  He challenged every teaching they held fast to.  He spoke with authority for he was authority.  He hated injustice.  He ate and drank with sinners and they criticized him for it.  He spoke to a lady caught in adultery...he spoke peace and no judgment to this guilty woman.  His words were perfect and appropriate...where are your accusers, he asked he and then lovingly said he didn't condemn her but that she should go and sin no more!  Powerful words for a broken society, don't you think?  With all the controversies of our day, those words would heal a world of hurt.  "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more"  These words fit all kids of ills an evils.  In a world that speaks hate on so many levels; in a world that doesn't love is you look different; in a world that segregates and isolates those who struggle with illnesses hidden from view..."neither do I condemn you" - yes those words would heal a lot of hurt...if only they would be spoken.

I understand what it means to be isolated, cut off, marginalized...oppressed!  My husband has felt this sting of injustice as he laid his life down and worked within the walls of the world we call "church".  He lost a handful of those jobs because he was severely misjudged and stigmatized.  That is oppression!  That is a slavery that is not yet spoken of freely within the walls of contemporary church.  But the Jesus that I know and love, would be here today speaking openly and honestly about this.  He would be knocking over tables and defending the cause of this marginalized and oppressed group of people.  He would speak on behalf of those who could not speak for themselves.  He did this for the woman caught in adultery.  He became the best defense lawyer she could have asked for.  He took her case and dismissed the trial.  She was left free and the chains of injustice had been loosed. 

How do we open our minds enough to hear the voice of the Christ who came to free us? How?  It's hard to hear him, isn't it?  Everyone and everything is clamoring for your time and attention.  Tradition already speaks for you and you rarely sit and question if what you doing really is like Christ would do.  But I challenge you.  This Christ who came as a babe, he came for you.  He came to still your troubled mind.  He came to free your heart.  He came to speak peace to the captive.  He came to release you from all sorts of bondage.  He came because we could not reach God on our own...no matter how you try.  You cannot reach into the realm of the holy on your own accord.  We are not righteous or pure enough to approach God quite so boldly.  But Christ made the way for us to reach into the realm of the holy and see God!  He came that we could have an ever lasting life and a life more abundant and fuller than we ever imagined.  A life free from needless strife, worry, or fear.  He came for us, for you, for me!  He came to be the voice of love, peace, justice.  He came to set right all the ills and wrongs of society.  He came!  He came because he was pure and right and holy.  He came...and he comes to you and me.  He speaks through that inner still and quiet voice.  He comes to right the wrongs of your life and mine. 

He came to us and we are his mouth piece or mouth peace!!!  We speak for him and he for us because he is in us and we are in him.  He is light...the light of the world!  And we are to be that light radiating every where we go.  But I dare say, I know it's true...so many of us are not light in a dark world.  We are petrified to be light.  We are afraid to speak up or out.  We fear rebuke and rejection.  We fear the reprisal of men for daring to tackle the injustice of the world.  Yet, we must if oppression shall ever cease.  We must dare to open our mouths and defend justice in the cause of Christ.  We must for he would if he were here.  As his ambassadors, we must defend what he would defend and show this hurting, lonely, defenseless world the love of the Christ child who came! 

I'm standing against injustice.  I have laid my life down for a cause I believe in.  I have dared to open and speak.  I have been rebuked, rebuffed, isolated, cast off, discarded, abused, and so on for the sake of the cause I believe in.  Our family has moved around the country after my husband lost jobs because mental illness was not accepted within the walls of places that named themselves "church".  What a horrific shame!  Yes, shame...it's unacceptable and when will we stand up and say it is so?  When will we finally dare to say injustice occurred and it was wrong and I don't abide it any longer?  When will we dare to confront the wrong doers and remind them that ridding injustice is the heart and soul of God.  Will we forever cower and shrink back from our duties because we are uncomfortable?  Will I?  I cannot.  I hate this injustice.  It has cost my family dearly.  We have lost jobs, "friends", family over and over because we dared to stand for justice!  And standing for justice costs everyone something. 

 Christ came for justice and it cost him his life!  Why should it not cost me mine?  Oh how I hate that it will cost me so much, yet in the end, I will win and receive the crown of life that I so desperately long for.  I can't rid the whole world of injustice, but I can make a difference.  I can speak when spoken to.  I can correct wrong thinking when and where I read it.  I can stand beside the one who has experienced injustice...of, that's a big one.  When are we going to learn to walk along side those who have been hurt?  When are we going to learn to love, comfort and just walk with them...perhaps quietly bearing their burden without words!!!!!?  Oh that we would understand how Jesus wanted his disciples to wait with him in the garden.  In his most grievous hour, they could not even wait and pray with him.  Sounds like a familiar tune.  People are so busy running here and there, making money, doing life...we forget that some are barely making life work.  The oppressed and the forgotten are lucky to sometimes get out of bed.  They are lucky they can breathe and see the light of another day.  The depression, the loneliness is overwhelming darkness and they just can't bear to think what the night might bring. 

The cry for justice was close to God's heart.  He sent his son into this world to rid the world of injustice and to point people to himself.  Justice was his cause.  He makes the rules of what is just and what is not...and we are to follow.  Injustice in our world today has many forms...many social ills and evils abound...but to sit quietly and say nothing is to say you don't care to be like God.  It's to say his heart and passions don't matter and that is an arrogant and selfish position to take.  Whatever God cares about, we should too. I close with this favorite passage of holy scriptures.  Clearly these indicate the heart of God.   

Isaiah 58

New International Version (NIV)

True Fasting

58 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
    Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
    and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
    they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
    and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
    and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
    ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
    and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
    and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
    and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
    and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness
[a] will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
    and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
    and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
    and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the Lord,
    and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
    and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.



- Joyce Roseman

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