I admit that I am old, and the way I see the world is more and more at odds with the students I work with and even with the younger leaders who are slowly taking over the church. With that being said, I am noticing a coming disaster that is causing great distress in my heart.
Our students and younger leaders are pushing really hard for the church to be more inclusive, more hospitable, and to become more vocal advocates for a number of social justice issues. For the record, I am on board.
But as I talk with these younger leaders and listen to my students I am noticing a scary trend in the language used. Justice has now become king! But justice is more complex than any of want to admit, and if we aren't careful one person's justice is an other person's tyranny. We can get ourselves into a lot of trouble when we only use language of justice, power and privilege. The calling of those who follow Jesus is reconciliation, not justice. Justice is part of the reconciliation process, but so is mercy and humility.
As followers of Christ we must balance out our desire for justice with the 2 other prongs of the three legged stool found in Micah 6:8. What does the LORD require of you? To do Justly. (Got that one!) To love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. For this social justice movement to have legs, it can not just be about power and justice, but must be about reconciliation, and that only happens with mercy, and mercy only comes about through humility.
We must walk humbly with God. For reconciliation to happen we need two parties that have been estranged to be able to come together, and that means that we need to put ourselves, our cause, our position in proportion to the big bad world we live in and next to the infinite love and justice of God. Humility is the beginning of reconciliation. Humility allows for empathy, to hear someone else, to listen and learn. I know the aggrieved party doesn't think the other side is listening or cares, so the rhetoric escalates and where the dream of reconciliation was is now hostility, blame, and shame.
For reconciliation to happen for the Kingdom of God to expand in this dark and broken world, we need more people who are being formed spiritually. We have thrown off the need for personal righteousness in exchange for value signaling and public righteousness based on our political positions. But unless we reclaim the importance for personal righteousness we will simply become more and more tribal.
Walking humbly with God means that, although we have been invited into the neighborhood of God, some of the junk that we have brought with us has no place in this new neighborhood. We need to push each other towards spiritual formation that is rooted in transformation if the values of this godly neighborhood is going to truly take root.
We must pick up our cross, die to our junk and follow Jesus.
We must take off our flesh and put on the clothing of Christ.
We must allow God to search us, test us, and reveal any offensive way in us . . .
THEN LEAD US ONTO THE PATH OF EVERLASTING LIFE.
Reconciliation is the ministry of God's people!
Without personal righteousness, social justice is just another divisive issue that pits tribe against tribe. People who have been and are committed to being transformed into the likeness of Jesus can and must sand up for the weakest and marginalized among us. We must do justly! And those who are being formed by Christ are developing the muscles that are needed in this quest, which is mercy. Forgiveness must be part of this equation if we are ever going to have reconciliation!
We must not let our students or our young people claim maturity because they have a political position that seems right. (We have done that dance before) Maturity is not value signaling and shaming others into submission. Maturity is submitting to Jesus, dying to our flesh, and being lead by the spirit. We walk humbly with God. Then we are equipped to do justly while extending mercy.
The goal we run towards is not justice, but reconciliation. That is the work we have been tasked to do.
We are ministers of reconciliation. It is our calling as the people of God. This is difficult work, and requires hard work over a long period of time. This means that it is on us to do the difficult work of true spiritual formation, to have empathy (even to those who are on the other side of the issue), and to work with all of the strength the Spirit gives towards unity.
May God extend us all an extra portion of mercy and grace as we work towards reconcilation!