“Act justly” #2

[If you haven’t already, please read “Act justly #1” for context on my concluding remarks on one of the things that disappoints me about my Baby Boom Generation’s Christian culture blind spot.]

Here’s a taste of the injustices that Micah spoke to…

They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud people of their homes, they rob them of their inheritance.  Micah 2:2

You drive the women of my people from their pleasant homes. You take away my blessing from their children forever.   Micah 2:9

…you who hate good and love evil who tear the skin from my people and the flesh from their bones;  Micah 3:2

Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say, “Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us.”   Micah 3:11

Am I still to forget your ill-gotten treasures, you wicked house, and the short ephah, which is accursed? Shall I acquit someone with dishonest scales, with a bag of false weights? Your rich people are violent; your inhabitants are liars and their tongues speak deceitfully. Therefore, I have begun to destroy you, to ruin you because of your sins.   Micah 6:10-13

Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire – they all conspire together. Micah 7:3

We Evangelicals have been obsessed with one facet of morality – avoiding sinful sexual behaviors, swearing, smoking, drinking, and missing church on Sunday. Sure, God has a “bad list” and we should stay away from stuff on it. But I think we’ve leapfrogged over the part of morality that includes how we “act justly” and care more for others than we do ourselves. See Philippians 2:3-4.

For instance, if I asked you what “Sodom’s sin” was, what would you answer? It’s obvious, isn’t it? They were sexually perverse! I mean, that must be it, because we’ve even named a sin after their town – “Sodomy.” Trust me, I’m not denying that they were sexually and spiritually immoral, but was that they only thing, even the main thing, for which they were culpable? But did you know that the prophet Ezekiel identified Sodom’s sinfulness? He came right out and told us what the sin of Sodom was.

“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me.” Ezekiel 16:49-50

Did your eyes skip over the first part and land on the last – “the did detestable things”? But notice the other immoral behavior that proceeded – and mostly likely – precipitated the detestable things for which they’re famous – arrogance, eating too much, having no concern for people, and neglecting the poor and needy!

Is it possible that us good Christians who congratulate ourselves for being good because we don’t do “detestable things” might, on the other hand, be as guilty as the Sodomites of some of their other sins? Do you know any arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned people in your church, in your family, or in your bathroom mirror? Could these be as “detestable” to God as the other detestable things?

“The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” Proverbs 29:7

We’re wicked if we don’t care about justice for the poor! If we were given 60 seconds to make a list of as many items as we could about how “righteous people” act, I wonder if “justice” or caring for the poor would even make the list. It’s what “the Lord requires.” Sure, he requires lots of other stuff, stuff that we preachers have preached hot and heavy. But Micah boiled it all down to three things – act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

When Jesus fired at the Pharisees about what they’d neglected, it sounds like he’d been reading Micah when he also reduced it down to three items – justice, mercy and faithfulness.

I admit that it p***ed me off a bit (please note my restraint in using the asterisk form of swearing) that such a renown brother would use such a key passage so rich in meaning about social justice to make his point that could’ve been made from any number of other places in the Bible. I also wasn’t very stoked that my denomination published his comments as though faithful to God’s heart or his Word. It probably bothered me as much it did because of my disappointment with myself for having long-jumped over the justice message in the Bible in my 30 years of pastoring. Having kept all my teaching notes in two full file cabinet drawers, I found one lonely message on the topic, and that was from two years ago!

I’ll conclude with Richard Rohr’s comments in the preface of Mark Scandrette’s great book, Free:  Spending Your Time and Money On What Matters Most. I like what Rohr says because he seems even more p***ed than me about how self-absorbed we Christians can be.

“If you are a white middle-class American and all your beliefs end up making God look like a white middle-class American sharing all of your usual prejudices and illusions, I doubt whether you have met the Eternal God at all. You surely have not met Jesus, who always took the side of the outsider, the handicapped, the excluded and the poor… Christianity is in such a state of defensiveness and ‘circling the wagons’ today, in great part because we have not taken the time to make the gospel something beyond an exclusionary ideology that merely serves our needs.”

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