One of the questions for this chapter focuses on this quote from the book: “Jesus confronts injustice not by calling attention to the greatest offenders of shalom but by calling us to love our neighbors as ourselves. By doing so he places justice within our reach.” Justice is about seeing the image of God in the face of others, and it is realized one ordinary person at a time. We are invited to participate, to love our neighbor, by bringing our ordinary lives infused with the freedom of Jesus’ love.
Justice is a hot topic right now in the Church, but it isn’t just the newest fad in church circles. It isn’t a new addition to our faith. It is at the core of God’s character. When we love our neighbor we imitate Him. Below is an excerpt from a 2nd century letter whose author is unknown. It is titled the Epistle to Diognetus and paints a beautiful picture of what it meant to be the Church. In this portion from chapter 10 the author speaks to imitating God through seeking justice and love for others.
“How will you love Him who has first so loved you? If you love Him, you will be an imitator of His kindness. And do not wonder that a man may become an imitator of God. He can, if he is willing. For it is not by ruling over his neighbours, or by seeking to hold the supremacy over those that are weaker, or by being rich, and showing violence towards those that are inferior, that happiness is found; nor can any one by these things become an imitator of God. But these things do not at all constitute His majesty. On the contrary he who takes upon himself the burden of his neighbour; he who, in whatsoever respect he may be superior, is ready to benefit another who is deficient; he who, whatsoever things he has received from God, by distributing these to the needy, becomes an imitator of God.”
As the author of this epistle makes clear, loving one’s neighbor and imitating God are directly tied. If we truly want to be imitators of Him we must truly participate in his love for others.
Study Questions1. “Jesus’s idea of living fully, loving boldly, and fearing nothing is extraordinary. The vision doesn’t stop with us. It continues and spreads throughout the world so that the love of God shows up in God’s people who work for his justice where they live. We are set free to be people who work for justice because the Trinity’s love anchors our hearts” (112). Do you agree with this quote from the chapter? Can you think of any Scriptures that speak of God’s desire for his people to be concerned with justice?
2. Jesus confronts injustice not by calling attention to the greatest offenders of shalom but by calling us to love our neighbors as ourselves. By doing so he places justice within our reach. How does this quote make you feel?
3. Rick frames the problem of injustice as a relational one and not a political one. In the previous question we explored how this places the responsibility of justice within the reach of each person. One way we do injustice to others is with the labels we place upon them. Are you guilty of placing those labels? Are you willing to remove those labels and see the image of God in them?
4. Earlier in the book Rick pointed out that it is difficult to trust God because he might order our lives differently than we would do it ourselves. In light of this chapter what might it look like if you trusted God to order your life in order to bring about the possibility of shalom?