Kingdom People – Justice doers
Pastor Vannae Savig – July 26, 2020
We are wrapping up our Kingdom People series today. I really hope you all have been enjoying it as much as I have. Just to recap, Kingdom People are people who follow Christ and are called to by God “to be conformed by the likeness of his son” like it says, Rom. 8:29. And when we are living our lives this way, we take on characteristics different from the world. When you are living your life as a kingdom person, it means that you are making the Kingdom of God the nucleus of your living, giving top priority to the affairs of the Kingdom of God, striving towards the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Being a kingdom person is more than just going to church, or even being deeply involved in church activities. It’s a complete heart change that spreads throughout every area of your life. Kingdom People are called to listen to the Holy Spirit, are called to love radically, called to be forgiving, and are called to do justice.
When we talk about justice in today’s world this can be a hot button issue for some. Take a second and think about what comes up for you when I say the word “justice”. For some of you, you cringe when you hear this word. For whatever reason you may have some negative associations with it. Maybe you think of the courtroom or the show Criminal Minds…like I do. Perhaps you think of the systemic injustices that plague our world. Or maybe you think of a superhero donned in a cape, taking justice into their own hands. Justice has been traditionally defined as “rendering to a person what is due him or her.” And when that’s the definition you’re working with, I think it makes sense that you could have different views on what justice actually looks like. So I have a request, could you put your thoughts and definition of justice aside for the next 10 min? And lets work on a definition together, and what it looks like for Kingdom People. In the original biblical languages, the Greek word dikaios (DIK-ah-yos) and the Hebrew word tzedakah (tze-dah-KAH) both have this dual meaning of to make right and justice. Justice is a relational term — people living in the right relationship with God, living in the right relationship with one another, and living in the right relationship with natural creation. Justice means loving our neighbor as we love ourselves and is rooted in the character of God. As God is just and loving, so we are called to love and do justice. As Kingdom People, the foundation of justice should lie in human dignity, human flourishing, and in the sacredness of the life Christ has given us. I think one of the most striking things about the justice the Kingdom of God seeks, is that love is the foundation of it. Love and justice go hand in hand. I’m not just talking about love like in a musical. I’m talking about the type of love that walks alongside justice, the love that pushes to action, a love that makes a difference. Love is sacrificial and not self serving. Love always seeks justice. Blogger Ron Highfield, describes doing justice this way, “Seeming to seek justice for others does not require that you give up your supposed rights and privileges. You can seek justice for others for less than noble reasons and you can remain deeply self-centered while doing it. But doing justice is an altogether different matter. I do justice when I submit all my actions in relation to God and others. Doing justice requires that I renounce all self-judgment and reject all actions that privilege my desires, my supposed rights, over others. We do justice when we do the right thing whether it is in harmony with our interests or not. The foundation for doing justice is loving justice more than you love yourself.”
I can remember being in college and being completely overwhelmed by the new things I was learning. I had expected to learn lots of things in my classes, but I think I was a little naive when it came to the type of education I was going to receive about life and society. Every week there were different non-profits coming to speak to us and telling us about the injustices that were happening all around the world. I learned about sex trafficing here in the states. I learned about the child soldiers in Uganda. I learned about the homeless community that was only a few miles away from my dorm. I learned so many things that I never learned in class. And to be honest I was overwhelmed and hurting by finding out all these things. I can remember calling my mom, devastated that the world was so full of ugliness and hatred and injustices. I remember being surprised by how sheltered I had been. I didn’t know where to start. I felt like I was supposed to save the world…but didn’t know where to start. I knew as a Kingdom person, I had a role, a calling if you will…But I didn’t know where to start. I think the best place to start is by looking at the life and ministry of Jesus.
Jesus calls us to love our neighbors, to bring healing in the broken places, and to offer forgiveness and restoration in the face of wrongdoing. Following the God of justice means to bring healing not condemnation, inclusion not exclusion, forgiveness not punishment. Kingdom People know God’s justice, and they share it. Jesus gives a lesson on the meaning of justice in his parable of the laborers in the vineyard in Matthew 20. He tells of a landowner who hires some workers and promises to pay them a “just” wage for their work (20:4). In the end, he pays them what he promised. However, to the dismay of the first workers, who worked all day for their wage, the owner paid the same amount to some workers hired later in the day. Jesus suggests here that justice has not to do with strict fairness but also includes a kind of generosity that goes beyond what is expected—without short-changing the original commitments. He challenges those who would question the justice of such generosity. Jesus challenged authority and the way people saw justice throughout his ministry. Questioning the Pharisees, healing the sick, spending time loving on the ‘undesirables’ in their community. These were radical actions, Jesus was doing justice with love and generosity.
After my feeling of needing to save the world in college, I began to look for ways to get more involved. I joined the University’s Ministries team. Which basically was an outreach ministry group. I went with the team to bring food and spend time with some of the homeless community in the Chicago area. I think the thing I learned from that experience was that doing justice was easier than I expected. There were injustices right there in my town, and I could help, right then, in a real tangible way. And I was shocked by how simple, my being there was helping others.
I found a poem in a book by Ted Grismrud. It’s written by a homeless woman in his community, who once asked a Christian for help, but being in such a hurry the Christian kindly promised the woman that he would pray for her.
I was hungry, and you formed a humanities group to discuss my hunger.
I was imprisoned, and you crept off quietly to your chapel and prayed for my release.
I was naked, and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance.
I was sick, and you knelt and thanked God for your health.
I was homeless, and you preached to me of the spiritual shelter of the love of God.
I was lonely, and you left me alone to pray for me.
You seem so holy, so close to God but I am still very hungry—and lonely—and cold.
Her poem is a blunt reminder that love needs to spark action, and justice.
All Kingdom People without exception are called to do justice. It can be in big ways or small. This could be in how you relate to your children, treat visitors in your home, and interact with customers or clients, or it could be in the way you tackle global problems like trafficking, racial injustice,economic injustice, and environmental issues. We can do justice in our personal lives, our immediate spheres of influence, and globally. But this activity, whatever action we’re each called to, is about submitting our will to Jesus and aligning our heart with His, not solving the problems which trouble us. It’s so much bigger than us. Thinking back to how overwhelmed I felt in college by the very idea of injustice, and knowing that I had a part to play in God’s Kingdom, I realize that I didn’t need to be overwhelmed. I didn’t have to worry about saving the world. I didn’t need to become a superhero. I’m not saying it’s not difficult to realize how broken the world is. But when I align myself with God’s heart, when I remember that God has already gone before me. God, at the cost of his own son, provided justice on the cross, and made a way for restoration and justice to take place here on Earth. I’m excited to be a Kingdom Person. I feel like Martin Luther King, who is by far more elequoten than I am, says something really great about justice, “Everyone can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace…a soul generated by love.” – MLK