Archive for the ‘Justice’ Category

Mercy and Compassion

The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. Psalm 145:8

It is easy to get caught up in defending my rights, my causes, my property, my beliefs, my theology, my world. Perhaps this is because we each face struggles, temptations, and injustices every day. These injustices can be as minor as someone cutting you off in traffic making you late for work, or cutting your pay even though you deserve a pay raise. But life is not about the injustices or the lows of life. Neither is it about the accolades and the highs of life. Rather, life is about how we respond to such circumstances. 

Yesterday I had a man return our chair he had taken to remove, as best he could, the paint he had spilled on it. We felt the need to repaint the interior of our home we recently moved into as the color scheme was actually depressing to me. We chose a paint company who had a good reputation, although quite expensive. But I felt they were worth it because I believed this company would make things right and do a superior job. The work crew consisted of two very polite and industrious hispanic men who spoke very little English. I grew to appreciate these men as they were conscientious, always on time, and took pride in their work.

After completing the job, there were some touch ups I requested to have done next to the stairs where new carpet had just been installed. In the process of touching up some missed spots on the wall, my painter friend spilled a gallon of paint on the new carpet and an upholstered chair in the living room. He frantically and diligently cleaned up the mess. He took the chair home to clean it more thoroughly. When he returned the chair, I was impressed that he had done a remarkable job, but I could still see the paint stain. I was ready to call the owner of the company and submit a claim, which he had previously told me that he would cover without a problem. However, the man who had painted my house and then spilled the paint requested that I not call the owner because he would lose his job. He explained, through an interpreter (his son), that he is simply a contract worker and would be required to pay for any damages out of his own pocket. He told me that he would make it right and pay for a replacement chair and new upholstery. I told him the estimated cost of such a replacement and I realized he would have to work a month to replace the damaged chair.

As I thought about this situation, I was saddened at the injustice my painter friend was experiencing in the work place. He is a hard worker and very talented. But more than that, he is honest and just. I was troubled throughout the night, and then this morning I read Psalm 145:8. God convicted me that my friend was worth far more than a perfect chair. I then texted by friend a thank you note telling him I would not mention this incident to the owner of his company and that the chair and the carpet look great. For now, I will keep the chair with it’s paint stain as a reminder of the injustices that people all around me endure.

I am thankful for the mercy and compassion God extends to me and how He has extended a measure of that to my friend through me, however reluctant I was to do so. I know a burden, however temporary, has been lifted this day from his shoulders. And I have a gift in the form of a slightly damaged chair sitting in my living room as a testament to God’s mercy and compassion in my life.

Mediation Solves Every Problem

If only there were a mediator between us, someone who could bring us together. Then I could speak to him without fear, but I cannot do that in my own strength.   Job 9:33, 35

As a physician I had the opportunity to experience our legal system in this country. There were times when I had been accused of medical malpractice requiring me to testify in a deposition. And there were times when I was asked to testify either for or against another physician who was being accused of malpractice. No matter who was being accused, it was always a harrowing experience as I realized someone with more authority and power than me would be making a decision that would affect me, but also my colleagues, friends, and family. Because I trusted my attorney, I trusted that the judge (whom I had never meant & would never see unless my case made it to court) would seek justice and truth in my case. My attorney gave a human face to what otherwise seemed like an impersonal process. We would meet before and after each deposition to give me comfort and understanding. And he would sit beside me during every deposition to not only keep me on track in my testimony, but to intercede every time the other attorney would ask unfair questions. My attorney always made me feel more comfortable and assured in the most uncomfortable and unsettling of circumstances. 

Job was feeling lost and alone. He was uncomfortable and unsettled to say the least. He had lost his family, his possessions, and his health. But what made his circumstances even worse was that his friends accused him of sin that caused all of it. And so we see Job crying out to God, his judge. He knows he is a sinner. But he also knows he hasn’t done anything to bring such judgment and disaster upon himself or his family. This is when we read Job crying out for a mediator, the messiah in whom he believed would bridge the gap created by our sin. Even Job, who was blameless (Job 1:1), knew he could not stand before the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and all holy God. Job knew he needed a mediator. He knew he was sinful, even though he was blameless. He knew his heart was deceitful even though he was filled with integrity. 

Our despair can only be turned into hope when we sit down with our heavenly Attorney, Jesus. That is because Jesus is our only hope. And so Paul writes, “For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.”  (1 Timothy 2:5)

In our darkest moments when we feel crushed by horrific circumstances, wrong choices, or justifiable accusations, Jesus is there to give comfort, wisdom, understanding, insight, and strength to get through it. He gives you a human face to an otherwise faceless Law and distant God. He is knocking at the door of your heart asking to share a meal with you. He wants to hear all about your fears, your joys, your trials, and your triumphs. And the amazing thing is that Jesus is more than our mediator, He is our judge.In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge…” (John 5:22)  May you have peace today knowing that Jesus will do more than listen, He will mediate. This means He has a solution for you. This means you can trust the heavenly justice system. And so meditate on Jesus, and let Him mediate for you. 

Seeing Clearly Matters

When I decided to ride my bike across the United States, I didn’t realize the importance of a Garmin on my bike to keep POSTERtrack of all my stats. The Garmin tracked the temperature, speed, distance, route, elevation gain, pedal strokes, cadence, heart rate and more. You might think this amount of information is overkill, unnecessary, and just for bike “snobs.” But it is actually necessary to know this information. Without it, I would not know my fitness level or my capabilities to continue day after day. The Garmin data provided my coach with the necessary information to instruct me on how to ride the next day and the next week. I could then ride with the confidence that I would make it across the country. You could say that I trusted my coach’s judgment based upon his “inside” knowledge of me.

If you think about it, we need to see ourselves clearly in order to grow spiritually and reach our full potential. I need to know my strengths in order to work on and invest in them. I need to understand my weaknesses so I can have accountability partners to help me manage and control them. I have found that the only way to clearly see who I am and my full potential is when I submit to God and His judgment rather than rely solely on my own judgment. Yes, I find that I need God’s judgment to see myself clearly. Otherwise I will buy into the judgment of Satan that will cloud my vision. He causes me to focus on the wrong data about my life. He will either have me over emphasize my strengths or my weaknesses. It is only when I focus on God that life comes into the proper perspective for me. 

When I listened to my coach’s judgment of my Garmin data, I had a calm assurance that allowed me to ride better and better throughout my trip. The same thing occurs when I listen to God’s judgment of my personal spiritual data. Perhaps this is what is described in John 12:31-32, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” When I focus on the cross and see God’s love for me, I am drawn to His judgment that allows me to see clearly. My advice is to focus on Jesus who went to the cross so that we could trust His judgment in our lives.

 

It’s a Matter of Justice

“Eric did it!” was the cry of my older sisters when my mother came home. I was 7 years old & my sisters were 14 & 16. They were playing forbidden records on the “hi-fi” in the living room when they urged me to swing on the cord of the curtain rod. The rod with the curtains came tumbling down on top of me. There was a gaping hole in the dry wall where the rod had been attached. And now I was facing my mother’s justice in the presence of my accusing sisters. Somehow this didn’t seem fair. Deep in my soul, I knew there was something unjust about this scenario.

We seek justice. In fact, we long for justice. So why is it that we rarely talk about God’s justice? Perhaps we have the wrong concept about justice. Rather than focusing on how God’s justice sets things right & thus reveals His righteousness, we think of our own faults deserving of punishment. I deserved to be punished for trying to swing from the curtains, but my mother was merciful as I think she could see the bigger picture. She taught me a lesson that day about justice & mercy. You see, it’s only as we experience God’s mercy that we can understand & seek His justice.

In the past few years, this church has joined God in bringing His justice to the lives of those suffering from poverty. This has been a transforming experience for those participating in these ministries & for this church as a whole. It’s not an easy matter bringing justice where there is so much injustice. It’s a process that takes time, effort, love, & a relationship with those who are most oppressed.

This week, we will expand our understanding of justice as Mike Hogan from International Justice Mission (IJM) speaks to us this Sabbath, May 12. IJM seeks to make public justice systems work for victims of abuse and oppression who urgently need the protection of the law. Each year 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders, according to the U.S. Department of State. Most of these people are women & girls who are sold as sex slaves from places like India, Pakistan, & Cambodia to places like the United States! New York Times Columnist, Nicholas Kristof, has reported that there are as many as 100 million slaves in the world today. 

Isn’t it time we at least begin to think about how “connecting” with people is connected with God’s justice? God challenges us through HIs Word to spend ourselves in such an effort. Isaiah records it like this… “If you spend yourselves on behalf of the poor and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, your light will rise up in the darkness and your night will become like the noon day!” (Isaiah 58:10) It is our calling, our responsibility as recipients of God’s mercy to be the agents of His justice. I’m ready for the journey! How about you?

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