Thursday, June 6, 2013

'Follow justice and justice alone'

Deuteronomy 16:18-20 (NIV)

Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent. Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you.
“Follow justice and justice alone.” That is a strong command and some seriously valuable advice. It seems as clear as can be — yet I still struggle with applying it to daily life.

My first thought is of lyrics from “Jesus Christ Superstar,” specifically the words Pilate speaks to Jesus during the trial:
What is truth?
Is truth unchanging law?
We both have truths
Are mine the same as yours?
The problem with following justice alone is humans have done a pretty good job of corrupting the notion. Even if you don’t bring religion into the arena there’s enough discord in the political realm and legal system to prove just how muddy the water has become. Thinking about it through the filter of faith makes it even more complicated given the widespread disagreement in exactly how we’re supposed to read what God says about being good to one another. Heck, we’re smart enough to realize the people in the pew next to us on Sunday might not see the world in exactly the same fashion, let alone the folks from the church down the street, the temple across town and so on.

This is not an uncommon theme. I always default to a similar position: trying my best to let God define for me what God means and block out human opinions. Then follow up by living life according to what I believe to be God’s will and some day, stand before Him in judgment and say, more or less, “I did what I thought was right.” I don’t have any better approach, and I don’t have any better advice for my kids.

I would be deeply honored if any of my children became known as followers of or crusaders for justice. There is far too much injustice in the world — socially, racially, financially or in terms of opportunity, access, respect and so on — the list of things that are fair would be pitifully small stood next to a list of things that are unfair. It’s not that the eyes of the wise have been blinded or the words of the innocent twisted, it’s that there aren’t enough people willing to pursue justice to the ends of the Earth.

I should know. I’m certainly not following this edict. Pretending I were would be a bigger problem because then I’d be lying about it to boot. I don’t always pursue justice as it relates to my own life, because sometimes just accepting a raw deal is easier than making a fuss, and I am ashamed to think of the number of times I’ve sat passively when perhaps speaking or acting might have made an improvement in some small corner of the human race.

Earlier I wrote how difficult it is to fully know what God wants. Yet doing what God wants can be an even greater challenge because it so often directly conflicts with what I want — which many times is just to be left alone, unnoticed, fading into the background with the other hundreds of millions of people in the country. But God doesn’t call me to walk that path. I wish I was a stronger person. I admire greatly those who do what I seem unable or unwilling to try.

Unfortunately, that also seems to be a recurring theme. Hopefully I’ll have tomorrow to try to get things right.

A prayer for June 6:

Lord, I fear this is a common prayer because of my own shortcoming. I come asking you to show me injustice in the world, then give me the strength to do what it takes to correct the problem. Do not let me retreat into myself and pass by without trying to take a stand. I want this world to be a better place for my children than it is for me. I want to make a difference here in gratitude for your love and grace. I say these things, now I need to do these things, because no one else will do them for me. Lead me, God, and I will follow to the best of my ability. Amen.

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