As we noticed last time, a relational-orientation is the crucial missing piece between The Church, Justice and the Kingdom of God. This is about a holistic embrace of the Justice of the Kingdom, which includes not just what we think of as social justice, but economic justice and environmental justice. Just as there is an interconnectivity of injustice in our world, our response to “set-things-right” (that is the righteousness that goes beyond that of the Pharisees) must be interconnected. Thus, the Justice of the Kingdom also has to do with the Worship of the Kingdom, which for those of us in the Vineyard movement, is a significant resonance.
As we read, this is woven into the justice of the Kingdom, and we can see this quite clearly in the Hebrew scriptures:
- God wants no one to live in economic poverty (Deuteronomy 15:4).
- God created laws and social practices for His people to minimize the impact of economic disparity by wealth redistribution (Leviticus 25), by the tithe system to ensure food security for the vulnerable (Deuteronomy 26:12), by practices of generosity (Leviticus 23:22), by no-interest loans (can you say micro-loans!?!) (Exodus 22:25), and by impartial legal representation as well as other practices.
- God is angered when His guidance and the practices thereof are not followed and the vulnerable suffer for it. Conversely, God is pleased, hears our prayers, and brings blessing (Isaiah 58) to those who follow His guidance into the presence and practice of generosity toward the poor and to seek justice by advocating on their behalf.
These conclusions offer a trajectory for our response to the Reign of God in the here-and-now. For me, this helps give us content for seeking out what the Father’s doing and then joining in! Yet in reflection on what our scriptures have to say about justice and the poor, we need to reconsider some assumptions that have lingered for too long. There is an important event recorded in scripture in which Jesus is at a party in the home of Simon the Leper. The party was thrown in honor of Jesus in the town of Bethany just a few days before Jesus’ death.
During this party Jesus says to Judas Iscariot and perhaps to the others a phrase that strongly influences common theologies of poverty. Jesus says, “The poor you will always have with you” (Matthew 26:11).
The misunderstanding of this statement has justified a laissez-faire attitude in the Church that, by divine decree, the world will always have poor people. Yet even an brief study of this statement shows that it is extremely unlikely that Jesus was decreeing economic poverty as an unchangeable human condition.
Jesus was affirming Mary for her act of worship and perhaps alerting His disciples to the links between the worship of Him and His Kingdom Agenda. He was affirming that His way of Life, which they were living, would continue when he went to be with His Father. Thus the poor would always be among his followers, because those are who we are building relationships with, in radical inclusion, connecting them to our Father through Jesus and with our faith communities and networks of friends and family.
But how can we start to engage in seeking the Justice of the Kingdom? Where do we start? After consulting my friends in the Justice Response/Vineyard Anti-Slavery Team, here are our Top 10 resources and training materials for engaging and seeking the Justice of the Kingdom:
1. Social Justice Handbook by Mae Elise Cannon
2. As You Go: Mission Training DVD from International Justice Mission
3. INTERVENE training resource by Shared Hope International
4. DEMAND: Comparative Examination of Pornography and Trafficking by Shared Hope International
5. Everday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices by Julie Clawson
6. Communities of Faith Justice and Trafficking Toolkit from CAASE
7. Human Trafficking 101 by Polaris Project
8. The Dangerous Act of Worship by Mark Labberton
9. The Justice God is Seeking by David Ruis
10. FAAST 3-part Justice Bible Study
- Top 10 Resources for Justice (Seeking Justice Part 2) - July 9, 2012
- Seeking the Justice of the Kingdom – Part 1 - July 3, 2012