Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Graduate Course in Justice

This year the daily Bible that I'm using is organized so that the reader enjoys a daily dose of wisdom literature. When I was at Harding University, one of my professors said something to the effect of, "The Psalms show all the ways that a person of faith could be reacting and relating to God."  The scope of the Psalms is astonishing-stretching from lament to praise, from complaint to mnemonics, from wisdom to hymns primarily in honor of the King.  As a college-aged student I found them from my Sunday School worldview unseemly.  It's a good thing I had not yet understood the Song of Solomon or I might have passed out.  So I am day by day reading a Psalm or proverb and getting a graduate course in suffering and justice.

I suppose most of the suffering in the world can be separated into three categories-suffering for sin, suffering for the fallenness of the world, and suffering for Christ.  When we lie and lose a friend's trust we suffer for our own sin.  When we suffer injustice at the hands of the greedy or self-aggrandizing people around us we suffer for others' sin.  When we fall ill, when our bodies fail, when coincidence becomes accident, we suffer for the fallen state of the world. When it comes to suffering for Christ, we often relegate it to people who give us a funny look when we mention we're believers or make a joke of our faith at the water cooler.

Justice though, I guess I don't usually give it much thought. In some way it seems the purview of a child.   Adults know all too well that "life isn't fair."  Yet as I read through the Psalms I was struck by all the fists shaking themselves at the heavens.

It might have been an academic exercise except that a recent visit from one of my sisters powerfully reminded of the reason that we have the Psalms.   In the course of her job, she had taken a small action, played a piece of dirty politics, which she regretted.  However the other teacher plays dirty every day, and in competition the dirtiest player wins!  Thus the action my sister confessed and regrets was not even a drop in the bucket, and of course she lost the promotion she coveted.  Her boss stated frankly to her that she wasn't "wise" enough to receive the promotion; she couldn't "play the game."

I listened to her sob.  She was betrayed, angry and frustrated with her failure and herself; I thought of Psalm 41. I only remembered it because I had just read it in my daily reading, and I'll admit it took me a few minutes to search backwards to the right date and find it.  When I did we read it together.  In it the Psalmist begins by confessing his part in the mess, and then he calls on God to bring justice to those who are abusing him and it ends with Amen.

It's a prayer, and that morning it was our prayer.  We were a pair of sisters complaining to God about the evil people who were picking on His daughter, complaining bitterly that the world seems an unfair and unjust place.  Lifting our voices to ask the Just and the Justifier to defeat those lined up against her.   We ended our talk with a short reflection on Romans 12.  The phrase, "leave room for the wrath of God" reverberated in her story.  Not only is she powerless to get what she wants, but she is bound by her faith to forgiveness, kindness and humility.   Still in the moment of pain we joined the Psalmist to say, "Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, From everlasting to everlasting, Amen and Amen." Psalms 41:13



Usually when I share some Whatsoever Wednesday post with you, I have been reading, listening to, or watching some wholesome thing. Recently though, the noble thought I've been thinking is about the fact that God hears us when we're indignant, hurt and angry.  We are not alone in thinking that the world is a broken, fallen, unjust place.  God has a heart for His suffering children and He is in the business of setting things right.  It's our business too, for what does the Lord require of us, "but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with" our God? (Micah 6:8) 


Helene
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright© 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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