Tag Archives: justice

Stop and Think About the Bible

Torah ScrollLearn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed. Isaiah 1:17 NRSV

Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Hebrews 13:3 NRSV

  • Secular thinkers believe they can figure out what is good by observing what makes them feel good. This means that the good is relative to the person making the choice. Christians teach that the Bible is where we learn what is good. Christians believe that the Bible reveals absolute good. How do you explain to a secular thinker the value of an absolute revealed good?
  • Do you observe oppression in the USA? Who is oppressed?
  • Social and political activists say that it is unfair that more people of color are imprisoned than white people. What do they think determines the rate of imprisonment? What do you think determines the rate of imprisonment? Are people of color routine oppressed because of their color by US society? By the government? What does the writer of Hebrews mean when he says we should show empathy for prisoners? Does this statement justify activism to release prisoners on the basis of skin color? What do you think determines the number and proportions of the prison population?
  • In Muslim countries Christians are frequently arrested for blasphemy. In socialist countries they are arrested for unauthorized worship. In countries with a history of animist religions they are arrested by not participating in rituals that are considered necessary for the prosperity of their communities. What must imprisoned Christians do about these threats? What must US Christians do?
  • These differences also turn on a difference of perception of what is good. What can Christians do to help others understand how we discern what is good?

 

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A Verse For Meditation

Torah ScrollSince we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

  • Can you remember a time when you felt desperate for peace? Why did you not feel the peace of Christ? What brought that peace back to you?
  • Do you ever feel confused about what is right and then do the thing you know was wrong because …? What do you do about that when you finally admit to yourself that you did the wrong thing for the wrong reason? What does this verse promise you with regard to your failure? What do you do about your failure?
  • When you listen to the news, it always contains reports of someone’s wrong-doing. Do you ever worry about the peace of the wrong-doer? 
  • Government leaders at all levels are sometimes guilty of doing the wrong thing for wrong reasons. When the wrong-doing becomes known, they may confess or they may resist discovery to the end. How do you feel about their wrong-doing? Do you think their wickedness is different from your wickedness in some way? What is the difference between being justified before God through the blood of Christ and being responsible to make amends or endure punishment at the hands of human justice?
  • Have you ever escaped human justice for a wrong you know you did? What did you do about it? When you have peace with God over your wrong-doing, how does that affect your actions to reconcile or amend or make good a wrong you have done?

Read news of the persecuted church at Living on Tilt the newspaper.

What Do We Pray For?

When Christians are confronted with sociopathic evil that is inevitably commingled with political agendas, self-serving ego trips, and true spiritual confusion, how are they to sort through the tangled web of issues and pray with integrity before God?

This is the situation as the nation contemplates the unspeakable wickedness of the bombing at the Boston Marathon. The initial responses to this event have been full of stories we can all admire. A man with both legs destroyed by the bombs was nevertheless able to summon the strength to be a witness and send investigators down the right path to find the perpetrators. The scene of devastation became a stage for heroism and gallantry that every human being could admire and emulate. As tips poured in, investigators worked night and day to find the men responsible. One is dead, and the other is in custody. The fears that locked down a city and held a nation hostage to each new announcement are beginning to subside – for the moment.

But what comes next? What do we want to come next?

This is the tough part. Those who are responsible to bring criminals and terrorists to justice will do their jobs, but the very fact that this comment must include both words – criminals and terrorists – grows out of one of the challenges of achieving justice in this case. There is already a considerable debate, and plenty of rancor on both sides, whether to call this event a crime or an act of terror. The little known of the background of the two men hardly clarifies things at this point, so it will be a while before the terminology is sorted out. It is highly likely that the process of collecting and analyzing the necessary information will be thoroughly colored by the political agendas of officials at all levels and by the same vicious political rhetoric that stirs every issue in the country these days. Everyone will agree that justice must be done, but there will be no agreement whatsoever as to what constitutes justice in this case.

The fact that the two young men were Muslim does not help things. That word by itself raises hackles on all sides of the current social trauma over profiling and the meaning of terrorism.

The fact that comments from family and friends do not paint a coherent picture of the two men makes it difficult even to know where to start thinking about the right thing to do in response to this issue. One of the marathon runners has already publicly stated that she does not believe she can ever run another one, even though she herself was not injured. Marathon organizers for events scheduled in the near future feel compelled to address the very natural security concerns of participants. And people everywhere look over their shoulders at any large group of people, wondering if the two Boston bombers were acting in isolation, or if they were simply the first wave.

How is a Christian to pray about this horrifying and thoroughly confusing event? There is a perfect model for us, and we can trust this model, because it was given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

We must always turn to God before we start jumping to conclusions about any confusing or terrifying situation. Turning our thoughts to him first puts all our earthly concerns in proper perspective.

Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

We run to God. We want to cry out what we want. When we are hurting, we want relief from the pain and suffering, and when some other person is responsible for hurting us, we want that person punished. We run to God thinking of ourselves, but Jesus shows us that there is plenty of time to talk about our pain and our suffering after we give God the glory due to him. Before we tell him what we wish the outcome to be, we first enter into his plan for the outcome. We stop and look at the situation from God’s viewpoint. We ask for God’s holy purposes to redeem the situation.

When we think of God’s purposes, we remember that God loves all people, that Christ died for all people. Whatever wicked people may do, God still loves them and wants to forgive and heal them, just as he has forgiven and healed each Christian. This thought will change our understanding of justice in this situation.

Give us this day our daily bread.

Now it is time for us to tell God our needs. We are needy creatures. In this terrible time of mourning for the dead and wounded, grieving with families and friends, fearing for the future, we can tell God everything that is on our minds. We are more at peace about it all, because we have reminded ourselves that God is still sovereign and still loving and merciful. We can go to him in our broken neediness, and he will hear us out.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

This is a very difficult phrase to pray with integrity. Can we really forgive two men who knowingly wrought such murder and mayhem on people who never did them any wrong? Jesus says that we can do this, and Jesus showed us how, as he himself was being nailed to the cross. We forgive. Our forgiveness does not excuse wicked men, but it does pull the poison of vengeful thoughts out of our hearts. True justice can never be accomplished as long as those who have been wronged are unable to forgive the wrong-doer.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

This prayer is the capstone of our ability to forgive. We forgive, and we let go of our need to exact revenge. We say we want justice, but Satan is always in the wings agitating and instigating our need for vindication, payback, and compensation for the damage we have sustained. Jesus says that we must ask God to protect us from Satan’s assaults in order that we allow real justice to be rendered while letting go of our need to pay back wickedness with even greater vindictiveness. We ask God to protect us from Satan’s constant whining that no amount of payback will ever be enough.

For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

With this statement we come back to the Lord’s agenda. We state our faith in God’s plan and purpose in all things. We remind ourselves that evil may appear to triumph for a time, but God never permits evil to defeat his purposes. God can and God does redeem the times. We can trust him. We serve him as citizens of his kingdom, we confidently trust that he is omnipotent, that evil cannot win, and that God will reign in glory forever. This statement closes the envelope we opened by saying “Hallowed be your name.”

Amen

How shall a Christian pray in response to something as horrible as the Boston bombing? Jesus has shown us the way.

For news about the persecuted church and the cultural wars in the USA read Living on Tilt the newspaper.

 

Pray for Justice for Trayvon Martin — and for George Zimmerman

Lady Justice Fountain
Lady Justice Fountain (Photo credit: etgeek (Eric))

I have an opinion about Trayvon Martin’s death. It is a tragedy. Every time a young person dies, it is tragic, because young people are supposed to live and dream and achieve new heights for themselves and others. They are supposed to have families and bequeath values to generations yet unborn. Nobody is supposed to die at age 17.

I pray for Trayvon’s parents who will never again hold their child in their arms. They will never again wonder where he is at 10PM or worry that something bad has happened. May God comfort them and heal their grief at this tragic end to a young life.

I have an opinion about George Zimmerman. His life is a tragedy right now. There is a bounty on his head. Numerous national figures have at best made fun of him, and at worst wished him dead. People are donning hoodies and trying to send hooligans to his home, if they could figure out where that is. His life is a disaster. The evidence available to me as a private citizen neither condemns nor exonerates him. An investigation is ongoing. Nobody knows the outcome yet.

I pray for George Zimmerman. May he be comforted as he goes over and over the events of that night. May he find it in himself to speak only the truth to investigaors. May he be protected from vigilantes who would like to take the place of judge, jury and executioner. May real justice prevail in this case.

I have an opinion about the investigation of Trayvon Martin’s death. May the investigators be committed to the truth. May the truth be made evident. May justice be done. May demonstrators and national egos be calmed and quieted as people gain confidence that justice will be done.

We don’t need violent outbursts. We don’t need unjustified accusations. We do not need our national leaders in government, religion and social programs to accuse the Sanford police of racism.

Use of the term ‘racism’ must be abandoned. When people use this term, they always intentionally rouse anger and hatred and violence. They know what they are doing. This case does not justify that sort of deliberate rabble-rousing. Pray for justice. Build confidence in the police. As a nation we need our police, because there really are people who would happily murder anyone just for the fun of it. Let’s don’t destroy police and the work they do for the temporary self-aggrandizement of national fame over marching and speaking as vigilantes. Pray for justice. Work for justice. Do not use the term ‘racism.’ It means nothing and incites hatred. We are not a nation of many races. We are a nation of one race – the human race. Let us pray for justice and work for justice and believe in justice.

Justice may mean that George Zimmerman remains a free man, because he did nothing wrong. Justice may mean that George Zimmerman is jailed, because he murdered a young man who was doing nothing wrong. Let us pray for justice, not for some ego-fulfilling outcome. Don’t take your ego to the streets. Take your prayers and your faith in God to the streets. Praise God for a nation where justice assumes that a man is innocent until proved to be guilty. Be thankful for this policy. You may need it to work on your behalf sometime.

Pray for justice.

  

Everybody’s Son Looks Like Trayvon

We all pray for justice as a nation waits for the outcome of law enforcement investigations into the death of a Florida teen shot by a man who claims he was under attack. Responding to national concerns, our president has weighed in. You would expect our president to speak words that heal and help. Ordinarily, presidents do not comment on local police work, but the pain of people whose emotions have been played like accordions by media from coast to coast is boiling up over a perception that justice will not be done in Trayvon’s case. This year there has been more usage of the terms “race” and “racist” than I ever heard during the sixties, and the civil rights work of the sixties supposedly ended the need to identify people by race. As the parents of Trayvon Martin grieve the loss of their child, political leaders and the national media are in a feeding frenzy to make this event into an example of racial warfare. Our president had a perfect opportunity to heal and help in this situation, but he failed.

Healing and helping is what the people need. As Christians, we believe this is a chronic need of the whole human race, but we recognize that there are specific events where the need becomes critical. The death of Trayvon Williams is one of those events. When the president felt compassion and empathy with the parents of this teenage boy, he expressed that compassion, and that was the right thing to do. However, the words he chose were not healing and helping; they were divisive. The president focused on the color of his own skin, and identified with the color of Trayvon’s skin. As a nation, we have seen way too much color identification. The president needed to speak words that demonstrate the compassion any parent feels at the death of a child. If he had simply said, “Everybody’s son looks like Trayvon,” a nation of parents would immediately have recognized the common bond of all parents who love their children. Instead, everyone immediately thought, “Oh yes, the president is black, and so was Trayvon.” The tragedy of Trayvon’s death is not that he was black; the tragedy is that he is dead. A child. A mother will never again hold that beloved son in her arms. A father will never again see the dream of a better future for his son. Every parent knows that feeling, and every parent shares the pain when a son dies. If our president wants us all to pull together, then he needs to help by leadership that focuses on the things that pull us together.

One can forgive a father for lashing out, speaking from within his grief to say that he wants an arrest, a conviction and an execution. It is easy to believe that a grieving parent would speak such words. It is shameful, however, for political leaders and media spokespersons to agitate people to join in the same cry. Our president, as the chief executive, as the chief law enforcement official in the federal government, is uniquely positioned to bring healing in the face of a father’s anguish. The father is grieving, and people in his neighborhood are fearful. They all wonder if they can trust the local and state law enforcement officials to bring justice to bear on this situation. They wonder if justice will be done. The president could have spoken words to build up trust in law enforcement. He could have said that he trusts that the local law enforcement officials and the state law enforcement officials will do what it takes to discover all the facts and bring the situation to a just conclusion. If the president said words with that message, a lot of people would have taken comfort and found some peace to await the outcome with greater confidence that justice will prevail.

Two elements complicate people’s reactions to this death. First, there is a state law in Florida that allows a person who feels threatened to respond in kind. The law was passed as a response to legal cases where people were deemed to be criminals when they simply defended themselves. Second, the person who shot Trayvon was licensed to carry a gun. The outcry over the way law enforcement officials are managing the investigation says that the law is an outrage and should be repealed and that all guns should be taken away from private citizens. It is a classic example of the way agitators can turn the discussion of a problem away from the problem to something that is on their agenda. Neither the law that allows self-defense nor the right of citizens to bear arms killed Trayvon. A man killed Trayvon, and the law determines what happens as a consequence of that act. As Christians, we all have opinions about the law authorizing self-defense, and we all have opinions about the right to bear arms. There is a place for these discussions. However, as Christians, we have a pre-eminent concern for truth. Arguing about these two subjects does not further the investigation to find the truth. What is the truth in this situation? We do not yet know. Arguing about the law and the gun take everyone off the real question: Was the death of Trayvon Martin a murder or an act of self-defense? What we need most of all is the truth that will answer that question.

The president also missed a golden opportunity to guide people to patience. If he had spoken words to build trust in law enforcement, he could have counseled patience for the process of investigation to work. Already we have seen that despite initial evidence that looked one way, additional evidence from a different perspective on the story is coming to light. Real investigation takes time. If the people who grieve Trayvon’s death really want justice, then they need to make time for the thorough investigation required for real justice.

Finally, the president failed to do anything to calm the streets. People want to march and shout and demand, and they have a right to do that, but sadly, that kind of behavior is irrelevant to the investigation of Trayvon’s death. The investigation to get the facts will not be assisted or made more professional by the marchers. They need to understand that while they have a right to grieve and they have a right to their opinions, justice is not about opinions. Justice is about truth. What is needed for real justice is the time and effort to get the truth. Our president could have said words that would help people understand that it takes time, but he did not do that.

Our president, to whom people look for leadership in times of crisis, failed to lead. Instead, he practiced identity politics (Trayvon and he have the same color skin) instead of unifying the nation and specifically all parents. Our president failed the country in general and law enforcement in particular by failing to build people’s trust in the process. Finally, he failed to reassure Trayvon’s parents and all the people who grieve with them that justice will indeed be achieved by doing the work it takes to find the truth. They can march if they need to, but they don’t have to march to obtain justice.

As Christians, we need to pray for our president daily, even hourly if that is possible. We need to pray for him to be a strong, effective leader. We need to pray that, if he is tempted to use a situation like this to practice politics, God will give him the wisdom to resist that temptation. We need to pray that he will use his power and influence to calm the people who are agitating citizens to doubt that justice will be done. Even more, we need to pray for Trayvon Martin’s parents, who will never get their son back, whether justice is done or not. If the shooter were arrested and tried and executed in the next twenty-four hours as a response to their grief, without regard for truth or justice, Trayvon would not rise from the dead.

I am praying for the president, and I am praying for all the people involved in investigating this crime. But I am praying most fervently for Trayvon Martin’s parents. This time next year, and this time in 2022, Trayvon’s parents will still miss him. Everybody’s son looks just like Trayvon, especially if he is dead.