The Boldness of Justice: Book Study – Chapter 8

26 February, 2015

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.

Jan Wynants -Parable of the Good Samaritan

Jan Wynants -Parable of the Good Samaritan

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?

Previous Chapters

1. http://rickmckinley.net/the-cry-for-freedom

2. http://rickmckinley.net/live-fully

3. http://rickmckinley.net/god-is-love

4. http://rickmckinley.net/being-the-beloved-book-study-chapter-4

5. http://rickmckinley.net/a-grateful-rebel

6. http://rickmckinley.net/a-generous-life-book-study-chapter-6

7. http://rickmckinley.net/love-boldly-book-study-chapter-7

6 Responses to “The Boldness of Justice: Book Study – Chapter 8”

  1. Ruben J. Alvarado

    #1–Sometimes when making attempts to love our neighbors and bring justice into their lives, I’m overwhelmed by the magnitude of helping so many. In your opening paragraph, you state that justice is about seeing the image of God in the face of others is realized by one ordinary person at a time. You also ask if we can think of a scripture that speaks to God’s desire for his people to be concerned with justice. I do remember a tale that speaks to the magnitude of so many. I recall that in the story two persons are on the beach and hundreds of some type of sea creature are stranded from the sea. They will perish if they don’t soon return to the nourishing sea. One of the persons picks up one of the creatures and throws into the sea. The other person questions the futility of the task. He tells him that his effort will not make a difference. The person doing the rescuing simply responds it made a difference to him, referring to the one he had just hurled. The tale helps me to understand that one cannot provide solutions for all the injustices in the world,but if one loves boldly as Jesus we can at least help one neighbor at a time and contribute to bringing shalom. #3–I am guilty of placing labels on my neighbors. It has been one of my wishes to get rid of those labels for they are preventing me from loving unconditionally. I’ve always sensed that this labeling has prevented me from living and loving fully. I’ve labeled others by race,power, social status,and geography. I’ve used them to divide and separate me from our Truine God. They keep me from seeing the image of God in my neighbor. Why God even said, Love your enemies and here I am finding it difficult to love my neighbor. I know that Jesus calls us to love our neighbors and I know that I need to answer his call, so that there may be shalom on earth. It will be challenging to overcome years of habitual labeling. It will require an awareness of recognizing my selfishness and overcoming it with the grace of our Truine God. Thanks, Rick for allowing me to recognize labeling in our lives and the injustice of it all.

    Reply
    • Rick McKinley

      Labeling is so detrimental to our willingness to love our neighbor. When we set those labels aside and see the Image of God in them we can love them as God would.

      This commandment is truly realized one ordinary person at a time. That ordinary person is you, it’s me, it’s each one of us that receives God’s love and joins him as He loves others. As you point out this requires us to accept a change in the way that we view others. It is evident that you want to join Him in the way He views others, and in loving them as He does.

      Reply
  2. Heidi Dahlin

    2. Jesus calling me to love my neighbor, rather than focusing on the many large injustices of his time on earth, makes me I feel personally responsible and accountable to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. I was moved by a scene from The Constant Gardener where, surrounded by the tremendous need in Kenya, Tesse chastised her husband for ignoring a needy person by saying, “This is one person that we can help right now.” I’ve tried to hold onto that line; I get easily discouraged and overwhelmed by need. Often times I feel paralyzed. I feel pretty good with the call to love my neighbor, until I think about who my neighbor is–which is, basically, everyone.

    I recently adopted a cat. I had a dream three times where I adopted an orange cat, so like Pontius Pilate’s wife, I told my husband we needed to adopt a cat because I had a dream (well, true, her dream was a bit different). So I went to a shelter and was immediately overwhelmed by the tremendous number of cats who needed a home, even when I filtered out all who weren’t orange. I had to be okay with helping that one cat I could help right then. Still, I always wish I could do more in the face of need.

    Reply
    • Rick McKinley

      Great observation Heidi. By making us personally responsible for loving our neighbor God makes us part of the solution. By loving our neighbor we take part in his answering the cry of those around us.

      Reply
  3. Erica

    3. I’m guilty of this, but God is so good. I used to label everyone. I didn’t have compassion for people with mental illness. I didn’t understand sickness, I feared it. I didn’t understand the poor, why didn’t they save? I didn’t understand why women settled in relationships, I judged those who had sex before marriage, and drank, and watched R rated movies. I turned 18 and I had it really good, and then the bottom fell out over 14 years. I was the passenger in a car wreak, twice. My house burnt down, I thought I had cancer, then we thought mom had cancer. I lost my great, incredible job, became depressed, was locked in a psych ward, lost apartments. I met an amazing Christian man who turned out to be an abuser, I was suddenly a single mom. I lost all my savings. I had to sign up for unemployment. I moved in with my parents. And now I’m 32 and I don’t judge people too much. I don’t need to experience their story because I know what pain feels like. And that means we’re all on the same level.

    4. I hope as I conquer my fears that God will have more control in my life. Right now it’s small. My son is in a school where besides having a freer way of learning, he also learns compassion and emotional skills. I don’t want him to just be a great student, someone who sees what he’s good at and get’s to learn more about those subjects. But I want him to learn how to treat people and be a good human. I’m showing my daughter that the world is safe, and if she cries someone is here to snuggle her, feed her, and delight in her. I’ve been married a year and a half and hope God will continue to bless us and give us a lifetime to love each other well. As my kids get older I hope it becomes more clear what my role is. So often I have these huge plans and for whatever reason they can’t or don’t work. Right now I love getting involved at Imago and I hope that expands to my actual neighborhood. Trusting in God would mean listening for the plans He has instead of making my own. Sometimes my life has felt like a roller coaster, but this last Sunday’s sermon has shaken that. I am not living in a country where my life is under constant threat. I haven’t lost my life like our brother’s in Christ. They weren’t worried about the things I worry about. I think my trust in God needs to begin with gratitude for all that he’s done and each day that I have. It’s a gift.

    Reply
    • Rick McKinley

      Erica, great observations about how it might look to trust God more! The first one you mention is that it means “listening for the plans He has” and the second is “to show gratitude.” These give us a window into your desire to live in his freedom and to let him order your life according to his will.

      Reply

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