When I was a little boy (around 9 years old), our home was robbed twice. A few weeks prior to the first robbery, our beloved dog was hit by a car right before my eyes. He lived for a few hours before dying. In the midst of the grief of losing my dog, our house was burglarized. The thieves stole pretty much everything of value, including a gold ring in the shape of Texas my grandfather gave me. My mom was keeping it for me until I was old enough to wear it. That gold ring and a pool cue were the only things I had from my mother’s dad. I still have the pool cue.
After the robbery, I remember feeling afraid and having nightmares.
About a month later, we had replaced most of the “stuff” like the TV and VCR. We installed a security system. My parents were divorced and didn’t care too much for each other but my dad bought us a puppy. It was his way of bringing some joy back into our lives. I remember mom let me name him Ralphie and let him sleep in my room sometimes. Within a few weeks, we were robbed a second time. This time the thieves entered through the empty house next door and broke through the adjoining wall of our duplex (to avoid the new alarm system and burglar bars on the windows). They took all the new stuff that replaced the old stuff… and they stole our puppy, Ralphie.
This time anger overtook fear. It dawned on me that something is wrong with the world. This is my first memory of feeling injustice.
Fast forward to the morning of November 10, 2015. I had been selected for jury duty. Sitting in a most uncomfortable chair, we were introduced to the case. It was the worst kind of criminal case you could be assigned as a juror. It involved an older man sexually abusing a 5yr old little black girl. Nothing could take my mind from my own daughter, who was 4 at the time.
It was the one of the most heart-wrenching, sickening and traumatic situations I have ever experienced. After six days of testimony, a heroic little girl took the stand and faced her abuser. After 9 hours of deliberation, we found the man guilty on several charges. He was sentenced to what would amount to the rest of his life in prison.
I walked away knowing that justice had been served.
What do I mean by justice?
I think that defining terms is very important when we talk about ultimate issues. John Stonestreet likes to say that, “People use the same words but different dictionaries.” To put it another way, people can use the same words in a discussion but those words have different meanings. A good example is the word ‘love’. I love my wife, I love my kids, I love cheeseburgers, I love my mom and I love my best friend. However, I do not love them all the same way. Love means something different in each instance. “Justice” has multiple meanings and applications as well.
Here are a few definitions of ‘justice’ from online dictionaries:
the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness:
rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason:
the moral principle determining just conduct.
conformity to truth, fact, or reason : CORRECTNESS
The definitions above are helpful but they don’t quite point to the source of justice.
Let me put forth a deeper foundation for your consideration.
From a biblical perspective, justice is rooted in the character of a creator God. Justice, also referred to righteousness, is an attribute that flows from God’s goodness. In order to flesh this out, we must go to Genesis 1. When God created the world and everything in it, he claimed “it is good.” When God created man in His own likeness, God saw everything He created and stated, ‘it (meaning all creation) is very good.”
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
Because we are created in God’s image, we carry some of his attributes. To put it another way, we have artifacts of God’s character woven into the fiber of who we are as humans. Every human life has intrinsic value and essential worth. Either this is objectively true or it is not. If it is true, then all humans have value on an individual basis no matter what and deserve dignity, protection and justice. If it is not true, then human value is arbitrary based on what those in power deem valuable – certain human-beings become expendable based on utilitarian values (usefulness). In the last instance, there can be no objective shared characteristic of justice – it evaporates in a mist of arbitrary relativism. We need a unmovable point of reference.
We can’t say something is wrong unless we have some innate knowledge of what is right.
C.S. Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”
Genesis 1 tells us about the ‘straight line’ or goodness, rightness or correctness. However, we need to head to Genesis 3 to better understand ‘a crooked line’ or wrongness. When we juxtapose the two, we have a clearer picture of justice. Now we can reframe the dictionary definitions of justice with deeper dimension and meaning from an objective source.
In Genesis 3, the Bible tells the story of how humanity chose to reject truth, reject God and reject His goodness. This is called ‘The Fall’. Prior to this point, all things were ‘good’ and ‘just’ in the created order. When man rebelled, sin and brokenness entered the ‘very good’ created order. Disorder and injustice followed. Since that moment in time, we humans have had a sense that things are not as they should be in the world.
There is an “oughtness” that we innately know about how life should be. Because of this, we know all is not lost. Artifacts and reflections of God’s original intent – goodness and justice remain innately rooted in our being. We just know a moral law exists that informs us on the difference between good and evil – straight and crooked lines.
Where does the ‘Justice Impulse’ come from?
We’ve all experienced some form of injustice in life or at least witnessed it. Something from deep within cries out, “That is wrong!” At the same time, from deep within we have this innate desire to make wrong things right. But, where does this feeling or impulse come from?
Some sociologists contend that it is learned behavior that is socially conditioned by our surrounding culture. I think that is partly true. Our culture can shape our conception of justice. But that does not explain the fact that even little children from various cultures have an innate knowledge of fairness and fundamental idea of justice and injustice, even if it is very elementary. When you hear a 3 year old yell “That’s not fair!”, you are hearing an impulse of justice. People have this innate sense of “thats wrong” coupled with a desire to see things made right.
You can go to any cultural setting on earth ask people if it is good to molest and murder a child. The overwhelming response will be ‘no’. Any exception will be seen as an outlier to what is normative across cultures. Everyone can agree that harming a child is wrong. To do so is unjust and evil.
When we were robbed twice, I felt pain, hurt, anger, frustration and fear. I knew what happened was wrong. At the same time, I wanted to see things made right. Justice was never served in those instances.
However, when I was on a jury that put a monster who did irreparable harm to a little girl behind bars, something was different. At the beginning of the case, I felt much the same way I did when we were robbed. By the conclusion of sentencing, I felt peace and a sense of rightness, even goodness about the situation. Given, none of my feelings change the trauma for that little girl. But, we did deliver justice to the best of our ability.
When I see a man pleading for his life, gasping for air under the knee of another man sworn to protect life and uphold justice, an impulse emerges from deep within. I see an image-bearer in agony under the boot of an image-bearer under oath to serve and protect. Both men are created in the image of God and worthy of dignity. Both are marred by brokenness and sin in the context of a fallen world. However, when the dignity of one man is discarded by another, we witness injustice. In other words, when image-bearers see fellow image-bearers attacked, we innately know that human dignity and value are being attacked. Those “artifacts” of God’s character that are woven into who we are emerge in the form of a justice impulse. That impulse can take many forms in its expression.
We could be silent, we could lash out in anger, we could protest, we could destroy, we could try to help, etc.
I have concluded that silence in the face of injustice may be the worst response. Silence basically seconds the motion. It allows, or dare I say, promotes evil. As misguided, wrong and evil as riots and destruction are in the face of injustice, silence carries with it a mixture of contempt and selfishness.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
I put forth the following regarding the justice impulse we all sense.
First, the justice impulse that we feel when we see or experience something wrong is good. We need to affirm that our sense of justice is indeed, good.
Second, justice needs space to be heard, cultivated and modeled within our homes, communities, businesses and our government. We all need to be free to rightly point out injustice when we see it. We need to allow truth to shape our concept of justice and love be the root of our response.
Third, we need to realize that in this broken world, injustice and evil exist. We will not completely rid ourselves of this reality. The human heart is deceitful. However, as image-bearers we can respond to injustice and evil with justice and goodness. We stop injustice by understanding that we all have dignity and value. You are sacred, I am sacred, your ethnicity and mine are sacred. We did not choose to whom, where or when we would be born. However, together, we can stand against evil even when we disagree on other things. And remember, evil begets evil. Disfunction begets disfunction. But, perfect love casts out evil, as light casts out darkness.
Fourth, we can restore the brokenness caused by injustice by promoting goodness and protecting the dignity of all human-beings – particularly the vulnerable and disenfranchised. We restore by bringing peace into a situation and ensure justice is served.
How do we as people who love justice respond to our justice impulse?
1. Pray. When events out of our control occur that cause emotional response, we must pray and ask for God’s wisdom to discern whether our impulses are just and good. If so, what is the right action to take?
2. Listen for understanding. Bear witness to someone else’s pain and suffering without judging. Be present in someone’s pain.
3. Learn to walk and chew gum at the same time. Sensible people faced with a complex situation do not need to be relegated to a tribe (or side). The “only two sides – pick one” dichotomy is elementary and childish. Remember, humans have dignity and a general sense of justice even when opinions differ on particulars.
4. Speak up in the face of injustice, even if it is unpopular. William Wilberforce is a perfect example.
5. Serve. I’ve learned the best way to restore a semblance of justice and goodness is to serve those in need. For instance, when we serve those experiencing homelessness, we are bringing goodness and restoration into their lives through relationships. We are acknowledging an individual’s dignity and value. We are saying, “I see you.” People have value not because of their socio-economic status or ethnicity but because their imagery. All are made in the image of God. When I serve an image-bearer, I am serving the image-maker. When I lovingly raise my voice for the voiceless, I am doing justice, loving my neighbor and showing God’s mercy.
Finally, for the Christian, we must understand that all of these responses must be rooted in truth and love. We accomplish all things by grace through faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ who suffered the most significant injustice in history to justify those who trust Him. God sees injustice and will not remain silent. God’s people see injustice and we should not remain silent either.
Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
“He (God) has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8
PS. I keep my juror badge (pictured above) taped in the back of my Bible to help me remember that I must work to stop evil and do justice.
Seeing people’s faces raises moral and lowers stress.
As Local Outreach Pastor during the COVID19 pandemic, the church is faced with new challenges when it comes to connecting and serving people. While most folks know how to use social media and communications platforms like its second nature, we must consider those who may not know how to use technology to connect.
Think about the elderly widow who is isolated but she has a smart phone. She may not be aware of the capabilities at her fingertips. The objective is to help you help others connect face to face using technology.
Below are some simple videos and instructions you can share with others. Help those feeling isolated and lonely connect. Be their buddy and the face that brings them hope and comfort.
Let’s help our neighbors connect during quarantine during this COVID19 situation. Let’s keep relationships and loving our neighbors at the forefront of our minds while we exercise proper precautions like social-distancing and self-quarantining.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” continues to be relevant in our cultural moment. His words challenge the church to embrace it’s full purpose. The extent to which the Gospel of the Kingdom is proclaimed and integrated into the life of the church is the extent to which the church is relevant and effective in society.
The quiescent church is the gateway to injustice, brokenness and disorder. The witness of the church should be felt throughout the culture as the Gospel message empowers believers to pursue justice and reconciliation, serve the needy, create beauty and restore what is broken. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin transforms the believer. This Gospel, rightly lived out will teach, sanctify and transform the society in which believers dwell. It will be distinctly ‘sacrificial’, restorative and bold in its expression.
Martin Luther King Jr. operated from a distinctly Christian worldview. It informed his purpose, his view of reality and drove his behavior. This nation has benefited from his worldview and his actions. His challenge to the church echoes today. Dr. King knew what he was about. Do you know what you are about?
We know what our salvation saved us from (eternal separation from God’s presence, goodness and joy).
But a better question is;
What is our salvation for?
[Put another way, what is the purpose of our salvation?]
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Before our Savior marched to the cross, He prayed. He cast the seeds of His Gospel into the eternal hearts of future generations – the Martin Luthers, the William Wilburforces, the Charles Spurgeons, the Jim Elliots, the Billy Grahams and so on. This includes you and me. One of the Savior’s seeds landed perfectly in the soils of your heart and mine.
“in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
The seeds of our salvation were cast on the bed of eternity as yet the foundations of the earth were laid. Try to imagine it with our finite minds as we plunge into the depths of God’s unending, all encompassing grace – it is incomprehensible.
Will you join me in preparing the soils of future generations with prayer?
Father, THIS EASTER, may seeds of the Gospel be cast into the eternal hearts of men and women here today and generations yet born. May the seeds sown THIS Easter reap a harvest of righteousness, prayer and revival in generations to come. We pray in one accord for our children’s children’s children and so on that they may believe that you sent Jesus Christ… for “those who will believe in Jesus through [our] word.”
“The shower of answers to prayer will continue to your dying hour. Nor will it cease then. And when you pass out from beneath the shower, your dear ones will step into it. EVERY prayer and every sigh which you have uttered for them and their future welfare will, in God’s time, descend upon them as a gentle rain of answers to prayer.
Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
We pray for a mighty harvest in generations to come. May our present prayers shower down like sweet rain from heaven on generations yet born for the Father’s Glory. In Jesus’ name.
Blessings and Happy Easter!
[This post is an excerpt from an email I sent to my fellow church staff members. I thought it may encourage my readers to experience Easter and Prayer in a deeper way. I hope it blesses you … and you children’s children for generations to come.]
The following originated from an email I sent to my fellow team members at Christ Chapel on January 8, 2018.
Good morning team,
On December 31st, I set about my morning bible reading asking the Lord to give me a passage of scripture for the new year. Up to this point, I had been journeying through the Psalms. At eventide of 2017, my foot set upon the golden shores of Psalm 16.
As I considered the entirety of this magnificent passage, I discovered a treasure I could hold in my heart at dawn of a new year…
“In your presence there is fullness of JOY.” (Psalm 16:11)
Unbeknownst to me, Pastor Ted Kitchens would announce on Sunday that the staff’s “theme” for 2018 would be ‘JOY’!
I too thirst for Joy! We all do. It’s been tough and trying year for many of us, and the only prescription is more Joy!
As I studied Psalm 16 again today, I couldn’t help but reflect on Jesus’s words in John 15: 1-11 (the True Vine). I encourage you to set both passages side by side and ponder them. One can’t help but be awe struck by how God has woven his word together. So, I pulled a couple threads I hope will encourage your heart as we embark on our voyage this new year.
Where do we begin?
Begin with the end in mind: Joy!
“in your presence there is fullness of Joy….” – Psalm 16
“that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full (or complete).” – John 15
How do we find this ‘Joy’?
Set the Lord before and abide in Him – the Vine
“I have set the Lord always before me…” – Psalm 16
“Abide in me (Christ)….” – John 15
By intentionally yielding our will in humble obedience, we enthrone Christ in our hearts to rule and reign. In turn, we yield fruit (which brings the believer Joy to the Father’s delight!). We are running to our Father shouting, “Father, father, look! Look at this beautiful fruit that you planted in my garden!” And the delight of the Father’s smile begets Joy in the hearts of his beloved children.
Can we find Joy apart from Christ?
The answer is ‘no’.
“I have no good apart from you.” – Psalm 16
“apart from me (Christ), you can do nothing” – John 15
So, Where do we end?
End with the beginning in mind: Joy!
Everyday – “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord’… in your presence there is fullness of JOY!” (Psalm 16)
I have been reading Charles H. Spurgeon’s (1834-1892) collection ‘Christ’s Glorious Achievements’. Last night I awoke around 2am unable to sleep. So, I quietly made my way to my study and decided to read a few pages of Spurgeon’s book. My hope was that I would become sleepy again and wonder back to bed. I eventually did. But it was not until God put an impression on my heart and mind that I wanted to share with you.
I won’t go into details but 2016 has been a trying year for me. It has been a year of transformation and refining. As I wrote a few days ago, there has been grief around the passing of my father. Thank you for your love and support.
Today, I want to shift the gears from Grief to Glory.
My prayer for this Christmas is for the Lord to deepen the meaning and allow me and my family to experience His presence in a special way.
Below are two verses I’ve pondered many times in the past. However, this morning, I have treasured them in my heart. And now, I hold them out for your consideration.
“And, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14a) “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)
The first verse states the Incarnation of Christ, Immanuel – God with us. The second verse states His mission then and now.
Consider the words of Spurgeon:
“You have often thought of it, but have you ever worked your mind into the very heart of it – that God has actually visited the world in human form – that he before angels bow has actually been here, in fashion like ourselves, feeding the hungry crowds of Palestine, healing their sick, and raising their dead?
I know not what may be the peculiar boast of other planets, but this poor star cannot be excelled, for on this world the Creator has stood. The earth has been trodden by the feet of God, and yet it was not crushed beneath the mighty burden, because he deigned to link his Deity with our humanity.
The incarnation is a wonder of wonders, but it does not belong to the realm of the imagination, or even expectation, for it has actually been beheld by mortal eyes…
From Bethlehem to Calvary he has traversed life’s pilgrimage. Thirty years of more yonder canopy of sky hung above the head of Deity in human form… for a thousand joys lie close compacted in the word ‘Immanuel’ – God with us, ‘The son of man is come.’”
Now imagine the power and humility involved with such an act of grace. Would you trade your home, comforts and lifestyle to be born into a shanty town to a poor family – from a people ridiculed by the world only to die for those who hurled insults at you? I wouldn’t.
Christ is come and Christ remains. Why?
To seek and save the LOST.
Spurgeon said, “Proud men do not like us the preach this truth.” I completely agree with him as a man of former pride in being lost. Are you too proud to consider yourself as ‘lost’? By ‘Lost’ I mean the depraved condition of your being, your thought patterns, your selfish motives, habits and addictions, secret envy and hatred toward good – maybe you attempt to exist under a shiny veneer of ‘imaginary holiness’ or comparison to others who overtly behave worse than you. Only God’s spirit can make you understand you are in fact ‘lost’. Otherwise, we all continue being lost in our lostness and without hope. We are like blind men grappling in darkness on the edge of the abyss we refuse to acknowledge exists.
But, think of it. “God with us.” God is come in the humble form of an infant babe whose mission in life and death is to seek and save the lost. Our finite minds cannot fathom the depths of this grace. But, dead men see the light and He makes them live. Everyday for 2000 years, the lost have been found. As the Lamb of God trods the pathways of time, do you feel the earth tremble beneath His glorious steps?
For on this world the Creator has stood… “and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
No human could possibly contrive such a revelation of a personal God condescending to his creation to save it, thus revealing his ultimate Glory.
This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.