Kindness and justice

Here's an "Opening the Bible" blog entry I just posted on i.ucc

This week’s Ash Wednesday reading from Isaiah 58:1-12 reminds me of some things Jesus said.

The people asked the prophet what was wrong with their ceremonies and how they worshipped and fasted. The prophet's response in verses 6 and 7 is:
{6} Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? {7} Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
And here’s what Jesus said in the parable of the sheep and the goats from Matthew 25:34-36

{34} Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; {35} for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, {36} I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.'
Addressing injustice, freeing the oppressed, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick and the homeless and providing life’s necessities to everyone is at the core of Jesus teaching – and it was present long before Jesus ever talked about it.

In both passages – the people wondered what was wrong with their ways. They thought they were doing things fine and that they would be commended. And the point that came out was that their pursuit of recognition and accolades was completely backwards from what was expected.

Our call as followers of Jesus is not about trying to get noticed – or serving our own interest -- or pretending to be humble while exploiting others.

But we don’t really do things like that, right? It may be true that our way life in general is so rich compared with most of the world that we continually exploit the rest of the world, but I really don’t think that’s the point of where we’re going. I do think the point is that we are called to advocate for people who are oppressed and exploited and in need. And the point further is that we do it not because we are better, but because all people are precious as God’s creation.

As advocates, it is necessary for us to act with kindness and justice.

Kindness is our guide in loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves.Justice is our guide in loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

It’s not an easy thing to do. When we pursue a cause, so often we end up in a battle of words or worse where people are hurt. And I wish we never went there. But I wonder, is there ever a time not to be kind? I think I see the example of Jesus in systematic and purposeful exploitation and oppression of others. {Turning over the tables in the outer temple and the words of woe from the Luke beatitudes. ("But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation”)}
Not having the benefit of Jesus perfect judgment, however, I don’t know when we should cross the line – I think it best that we never have to. I think it best that our journey towards justice is woven with kindness and that our journey towards kindness is woven with justice. I believe we have to trust God to guide us through the difficult straits. We sometimes have to let go of all the anger in order to let kindness and justice break forth.

May our Lenten journey towards justice be woven with kindness, and may our Lenten journey towards kindness be woven with justice. As we continually seek Jesus, may we trust that God will continually guide us.

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