The morning after children were blown apart in Manchester and the world weeps for the evil, we wake to two Shaloms here.
Like we’re begging the world for a double measure of peace, for an absence of conflict, for completeness, fullness, wholeness — for justice.
They wake to the light dawning brave here: Our first daughter, Hope, our second daughter, Shalom, our third daughter with the middle name Shalom, the name she was given still in China, and that’s our fierce prayer for the world: the brazen hope of a double measure of peace and wholeness.
But you tell me — what in a shattered world is peaceful wholeness when bombs blast open screaming children and tensions and divisions cut us all vein deep and we all feel a bit torn apart by the injustice?
It rained yesterday, dripped long out in the orchard yesterday, and I didn’t yet know that there were shards raining down in Manchester, half a broken world away. Grieving is always happening in the midst of all this glory.
I didn’t know the names of children lost and how their mothers longed to stroke their hair back just once more, like evasive hope running the last time through the ache of yearning fingers.
There were swallows in the orchard after the rain, and I had watched them swoop and soar, like the weight of earth cannot hold down winged things or souls who have known love.God is love, and God is just, and God wouldn’t be loving if He weren’t just. God wouldn’t be loving if He didn’t bring justice for a family whose 8-year-old daughter was shredded by shrapnel and evil yesterday in unsuspecting Manchester. God wouldn’t be loving if His justice didn’t protect the innocent and God is a God of justice or He isn’t God at all.
Tuck it into the hands of all the hurting: God is a setting-right God.
God is about setting right what goes wrong in bloody concert halls and down our own shadowed halls, and God is about justice for the wounded, and justice for the forgotten and justice for the marginalized and justice for a world just heartbroken.God is about making things right and making things just — both in the soul and in the world — and those two words are the same — righteousness and justice — and they come from the very same root in His own Word, from the very same beat of His heart.
I once sat across from a man strumming his guitar at the back of an old Baptist church and he leaned one way and said.
They’ll tell you that only Christians who lean this way are the justice warriors. The ones who care about inclusion and refugees and poverty relief and equity — but they don’t care to speak much about Jesus and the cross and the only way.”
And then he leaned the other way.
“And there’ll be those that tell you that Christians who lean the opposite way — that they wince at the idea of being justice warriors. The ones who think caring for physical needs is a distraction from caring about real gospel needs — because they misinterpreted Jesus to not be passionate about justice at all.”
Are we seeking us first — or seeking first the Kingdom of God?
Are we all citizens of heaven first — or are citizens of all our own countries first?
Are we looking for worn, thin places in the fabric of society and sacrificially breaking off threads of our own lives to weave threads of time and gifts around the needs of others — so in the midst of brokenness, we can take the broken way, to bring about the wholeness of shalom.
Then that crooner with the guitar turned and looked up at the wooden Cross hanging on the back wall of that First Baptist church.
“Never remotely doubt it: God is a justice warrior. Just look at Jesus.”Jesus’ life is just — and justice is Jesus’ life.
God’s so passionate about justice He sends Jesus to embody His passion.
Jesus, in all His righteousness and justice, is The Warrior to bring justice to a broken world, proclaim the Kingdom, announce sight for the blind and freedom for the captives — and then He stretches out His arms so wide on that Cross to absorb every sin and every injustice the world has ever known.Jesus bears all injustice, suffers all injustice and crushes all injustice — so that His people walk in justice.
God is the original justice warrior who says:
“Quit your worship charades.
I can’t stand your trivial religious games….
I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion,
while you go right on sinning.
When you put on your next prayer-performance,
I’ll be looking the other way.
No matter how long or loud or often you pray,
I’ll not be listening.
And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing
people to pieces, and your hands are bloody.
Go home and wash up.
Clean up your act.
Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings
so I don’t have to look at them any longer.
Say no to wrong.
Learn to do good.
Work for justice.
Help the down-and-out.
Stand up for the homeless.
Go to bat for the defenseless.”
Isaiah 1:13-17 MSG
And because God is a righteousness and justice God who is about setting-everything-right, God is passionate about personal salvation, pure holiness — and pervasive justice.
And He has wrought all of that — personal salvation, pure holiness, and pervasive justice — by fighting for justice at every single level — justice for every soul and justice for all of society.
People may confuse social justice with a social gospel —- but the thing is:
Real Gospel warriors and justice warriors cannot be confused and they cannot be separated.
Because you can’t truly be a warrior of the gospel unless you’re a justice warrior — and you can’t truly be a justice warrior unless you’re a warrior of the Gospel.
The honest to God truth is:
Caring for the physical needs of the person
never distracts from the gospel needs of the soul —
unless you’re only sharing the gospel
with the physically wealthy.
It’s a broken world and mothers weep and the mourning dove cries out in the apple tree and, sure:
You can choose to ignore justice — but it’s ignoring what God requires of you.
“What does the LORD require of you but to do justice…” Micah 6:8
I can see how the Cross hung straight behind the guy strumming his guitar — how the Cross didn’t lean too far one way or too far the other way, because the whole and full way of Jesus is too conservative for the liberals and too liberal for the conservatives, so the Cross finds itself pointing true north, a third way, pointing straight to God.
It’s taking me years to discover the wholeness of shalom, of the Kingdom, of the Gospel:If we are genuinely justified by faith, we can’t help but live out justice — and if we genuinely live out justice, this is what helps many more decide to live justified by faith.
Grace makes you just.
Grace makes you just care, just stand up, just listen, just pray, just live given, just go last so others can go first, just do hard and holy things, just live cruciform — cross-formed — so others can just live.
Grace makes you just.
And if we say we are saved by God’s grace, but God’s grace hasn’t saved us from indifference toward injustices — then maybe we haven’t tasted saving grace?If grace hasn’t made us justice warriors — then maybe we just haven’t been slain by grace?
It’s a central evil — to not advocate for those on the edges.
“You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial…. Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” Deut. 16:19
A fine preacher man once stood at the front of his church, in front of the Cross, and he didn’t lean either way but stood straight in front of them and looked his people in the eye:
“If the church does not identify with the marginalized, it will itself be marginalized. This is God’s poetic justice.” ~ Timothy Keller
In the midst of the rain yesterday, the sun split everything falling and arched itself in full-brazen color across the world and the promise was plain for a wounded world to see:
There is hope for a world of justice,
for wholeness to be formed from brokenness,
for shalom to reign over the Kingdom of God,
and there are justice warriors who are prayer warriors and Gospel believers
who will never let fear beat down their fierce faith in all the light shattering the fraudulent dark,
who will wage cruciform love in the face of everything that takes the form of evil,
and justice will rise higher than the threat of terror, and justice will go further than the long claws of hate,
and justice will reign because there is a just God who defiantly and forever reigns.
There may be storms that rip up your world, but heaven can come down and brush a rainbow across all that pain like a sacrifice —
and make you hope for the promise of the just wholeness to come.
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2 registrations for #JUSTICE17 for only $300 ($150 each). 24 hours only!
I’ll be looking for you. This is the one gathering that not one of us can afford to miss. This is the heartbeat of God. Do whatever it takes to come gather with us. Guaranteed: No regrets. Profoundly life-changing.
Terrorism, violence, cultural & racial divisions. Poverty. Injustice. All may threaten to rip apart our world. But Jesus’ message – Love thy neighbor, is still our greatest call to Worship and Justice.
The thread of each conversation at the JUSTICE CONFERENCE is within the context of a theology of justice that calls followers of Christ into a more intentional lifestyle of ‘living justly’ as we seek to live out our faith and be disciples of Jesus.
Register now – www.thejusticeconference.com/register (Limited to first 100 people using the code BIBLE)