Part of the Communion in Times of Coronavirus series of gentle reflectionsInderjit Bhogal, 2020
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Today is the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower. 72 people died in the devastating fire there.
The last fortnight has seen angry protests following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. Most of the protests have been peaceful and I detest violence where it has featured.
It is important to listen to the calls for justice, and to ask what needs to happen.
Or, to put it another way, what does God require of us, not only in this situation, but at any time?
This question features in the Bible in a number of places with significant answers.
One place where the question is asked is in the book of Micah, chapter 6 verse 8 where we read:
“What does the Lord require of you but to act justice, love tenderly, and walk humbly with God”.
Six words are important there: act justly, love tenderly, walk humbly.
In any situation you have to make choices about how you will respond. The attitude you choose to live by is critical.
The words in Micah are worth pondering.
We can choose to live by those six words: act justly, love tenderly, walk humbly.
I will take these words in two’s to offer reflection.
So, first let us focus on the words “act justly”.
What justice means biblically is that everyone can enjoy the benefits of life. The “fulness of life” (john 10:10), for all without discrimination and deprivation. This is the persistent call of the prophets of ancient Israel.
In the words of the prophet Amos, God longs for the day when “justice (will) roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:2).
Whenever men and women work in favour of justice, understood as simple fairness, and equality among people in things that enhance human dignity and well-being, they are standing on the “foundation stone” established by the God of justice.
This justice challenges the violence of poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, and every form of domination, discrimination, oppression and war. Consequently, justice will not employ violence, and will address violence non-violently.
Commitment to justice includes working non-violently whether we are speaking of verbal violence or physical violence.
Ending particular forms of injustice is integral to the Kingdom of God, where all enjoy the fulness of life.
Justice is not about being right or righteous, but doing right and hungering after righteousness.
In Genesis 18: 17-19, justice and righteousness is linked, and mean the same thing, the “way” of God is revealed as “doing what is right and just”. This is what brings about the completion of the will of God. Fairness, equity, and impartiality in the rule of law, and sharing of the benefits of belonging together is what is held together here (Sacks, 2003).
For Moses justice is a good life. He says, “choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19). Justice is the route to a good life.
When the biblical prophets spoke of justice they consistently held up the “widow”, the “orphan” and the “stranger” (Exodus 22: 21-27; Psalm 146: 7-9). These three groups of people represent those who had no means of their own to live a good life, and were dependent on the grace and generosity and goodness of others.
In our times these groups relate for me to older people in care, children in danger, and refugees.
Biblically, God is the God of justice (Deuteronomy 32: 4; Isaiah 30:18; Psalm 119: 137). It is God’s measuring line (Isaiah 28: 17). Justice exalts God (Isaiah 5:16). It is the worship God respects (Amos 5:22-24).
In all the debates of our times the cry is for justice, rooted in a 400 year history, and spanning Grenfell Tower, Minnesota, and Covid-19.
A cry for justice is the cry of God.
We are to hear the challenge of God to “act justly”.
14 June 2020, third anniversary of Grenfell Tower fire