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Reflections of a Lay Pastor: June 17th 2018: Justice and Mercy

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Reflections of a Lay Pastor: June 17th 2018: Justice and Mercy

The Bible refers to Justice many times: 

Amos 5:24;  Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!;

Micah 6:8;  What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Luke 18:7;  Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?

If someone put us on the spot and asked:  ”What do you mean by Justice?” we might be stuck for an answer, even in a specific case.  After all, it takes 12 men and women and a court full of lawyers, witnesses, and police, to decide what is just and then they sometimes disagree and even get it clearly wrong on occasions.

I can see why Luke wrote the story that includes the passage above;  oppressed people want to believe that God is on their side, and that they will triumph over their masters one day.  Think of all the wonderful songs that we call Negro Spirituals, sung by people oppressed in the most horrible and prolonged way.  Think about the strengthening beliefs of people born, living, and dying in the prison that is Gaza.

When we pray for God to bring justice to the Earth, what are we expecting:  a little more income for farmers who manage to register with the Fair Trade movement?  Or, maybe, redistribution of power in some political situation where “They” are oppressing “Them”;  but nothing to do with us.  I am not sure that we have thought this through.

Earth Overshoot Day is the day of the year when we have already used all that the Earth can sustainably provide.  In 1971, it was December 20th;  last year it was August 2nd.  Every year it gets earlier.  There is no justice for the Earth, nor for our descendants, in a burned-out world.  If we thought that Justice involved equal rights for all people, then we would be asking God to reduce our standard of living to one that the Earth could sustain.  We would also be asking that the wealth of the Earth was shared equally, meaning a big reduction in comfort and convenience for us.  Maybe we should also extend that reasoning to the animal kingdom.

Humans make up about 1/3 of all warm-blooded animals by weight, and domestic animals, providing us humans with food and clothing, account for the other 2/3.  Wild animals account only for about three percent.  We have squeezed wildlife out of their habitats everywhere;  they only get the parts of the Earth’s surface that we don’t want.  Where is the justice there?

And what about us?  Thinking back to all the good and bad I have created through my life, what would justice demand there?  If someone who had lived a selfish life ended it with one act of heroism, what then?  If someone who had lived a blameless life devoid of love for others, what then?  As for me, I am hoping for Mercy, not Justice.

If we really believed in Justice, we should be living very different lives.  More of us would become vegans, fewer of us would have cars, we would put more clothes on in winter and have no truck with air conditioning.  We would be concentrating more on unselfish love and less on possessions.  Until then, let’s not be hypocritical about justice!

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