Results tagged “Justice” from Reformation21 Blog

A Prayer for Survivors and East Lansing

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Our East Lansing community is grieving, hurting, and reeling in light of the revelations that emerged these past weeks regarding heinous atrocities committed in our community over the past twenty years. That this would happen anywhere is painful; that is happened in our community feels devastating. To say that we are distraught would be an understatement of epic proportions. As a university church, we especially feel intertwined with these events. Yesterday, during our worship service, we called on the Lord in light of recent events. Please join us in prayer.

Father, we come to you this morning with heavy hearts
For the evils committed in our community
The innocence that was stolen
And the pain that has been inflicted.

As the prophet said, so we hear
"A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more."

Our children, Lord! Our children
Oh, how our hearts are filled with sadness
and our eyes with tears
as we think of the small children, our teenage daughters, and young women
abused over the past twenty years
O Father, what wickedness
An evil that turns the stomach, confounds the mind, and depresses the soul
A monstrous evil committed in our community
An evil filled with selfishness and corruption
A wickedness that made a mockery of trust and authority
A crime injuring the least among us.

It pains us to think of a man committing such a crime over and over
And the pain only grows as we think how many turned a blind eye
But You did not
You did not.

We praise you this morning that you are a god of justice
Larry Nassar thought the abuse he committed would always be shrouded in secret
But nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest by your authority
Nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light in your light
For You will render to every man according to his deeds
Your justice will stand
And none can thwart it.

And so, we believe that it was no accident that these things have come to light
We thank You for those who had the courage to make these crimes known
What courageous young women
To stand against evil
To know they would become the objects of ridicule
To bare their soul's great pain before an unentitled world
To shine light in the midst of darkness
So that justice might be served
And others protected
We thank you for them.

We pray for each of these women, teenagers, and little girls this morning
Though their courage has been great, so has their suffering
Grant them healing under your wings
Give them hope amidst their pain
Extend to them comfort that can only come from above
And in the days and weeks and years ahead
May they find that though the scar remains, it has become less tender
That the dark days of the past have faded in their mind's eye
That the pain is less fresh
And healing more at hand
And we ask that the years that the locusts have eaten,
You would restore.

This morning, we especially want to pray for Rachel Denhollander,
our dear sister in Christ
Like Moses before Pharaoh, David before Goliath, and Paul before Felix
She has modeled for us sacrificial, strong, faith-filled-courage
Give us boldness like her
To speak for truth, to condemn evil, and to grant grace
What a testimony, a living testimony she is
Thank you for her leadership,
Her desire to pursue justice and at the same time to extend forgiveness
Truly we have much to learn from her
We pray that after this long battle--and it has been a battle
That after this long battle, you will give her rest
Rest in body
Rest in mind
Rest in spirit
Rest in heart
O Lord, Sabbath, be a resting place for her
For the sake of your name, shower her with your grace and love and peace.

We also praise you this morning that you are a God of truth
And so, we pray for our community
May truth reign
A university city which prides itself on the pursuit of knowledge
And yet so many swam in a sea of lies
Awaken this land to the evil in it
Lead us as a community in repentance
Heal us
And as the God of truth
Protect those who have done no wrong
Safeguard their reputations
Keep them from false accusations
May truth reign.

We also praise you this morning that you are a God of salvation
And so, we pray for Larry Nassar
As Rachel modeled before us,
so we pray that he would come to know You,
We pray that he would be brought low
That he would fall upon his knees
Be forced to reckon with the guilt of his sin
Its terrible weight and burden
So that he might find that his only hope is You
We would see him like Saul, an enemy of righteousness,
struck blind and given sight to see you the one and only true God.

Lastly, we thank you this morning that you are a God of compassion
That You do not sit idle in heaven
But look with a tender eye upon your people
And so, we pray for those hurting in our own midst
Some who have been abused in horrific ways like this
Others who have had loved ones experience this violating evil
Dark revelations like these over the past weeks
Easily bring old injuries floating to the surface
What felt like a pain of the past
All of sudden feels present again
O Father, wrap your everlasting arms around those hurting in our midst
May our church be a community where safety is found
Love is present
And hope is extended to all carrying such pain
And may You wipe away our every tear.

On a morning such as this
We take great comfort that You are
Our Father, who art in heaven
Comforting words any morning, but especially on mornings like this
Though our city and university appears to be swirling in chaos
You reign
You sit enthroned in heaven

And so it is to You we turn,
A glorious sovereign God,
But a god who is also our Father
A God of power and might
And fatherly tenderness
Where else could we turn?
Where else would we want to turn?
Keep us
Heal us
Protect us
Comfort us
And may You receive the glory.

A Just Silence

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We've all felt the pressure to speak out about things that we know little to nothing about. The increasingly prevalent sentiment is that if Christians-and especially Christian leaders-don't speak up on the hot button issues of the day, then they are complicit in fueling social injustice. 

The insistence of many that all of us need to continually speak out about almost every social issue and make official statements of sympathy or refutation in the court of public opinion--when, in fact, the courts that God has established have not had a chance to run their due course--is, quite frankly, wearing me out. I suspect I'm not alone.

The strong insistence of those who press Christian leaders to speak out on any given social issue is fundamentally flawed by virtue of the fact that many of us simply don't know enough about most issues in order to make educated, timely and necessary statements. It is a very dangerous thing for finite creatures of limited intelligence to behave as though we are infinite beings of unlimited intelligence.

This past summer, a number of individuals insisted that I was complicit in a police shooting when I did not speak out about the evil of such an injustice. I can understand someone leveling that charge against an eyewitness or against someone who was withholding pertinent information. But to tell someone sitting in a living room 800 miles from the incident--who knows virtually nothing about the situation or those involved--that he isn't loving his brethren unless he speaks out against an injustice is itself an injustice. It is the injustice of placing a biblically unlawful burden on the conscience of another. 

Many feel compelled to watch more news, read more pertinent books, research related cases and further educate themselves so that they can knowledgeably speak out and finally absolve themselves of the charge of functional complicity. But is this the right response? 

Years ago, John Piper was speaking on the subject of sleep. In that talk, he emphasized that when we attempt to live without sleep we are ultimately trying to become like God. Sleep is the great equalizer. Ultimately, all of us need sleep. We can't live without it. Sleep is one of God's ways of reminding us that He is the Creator and we are the creatures. As Psalm 121:4 reminds us: "He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." The very thing we often want to claim for ourselves is only true of God.

I can't help but wonder if this urge to watch 24 hour news and to read article after article on a particular social issue is not only an attempt to become a more informed individual--it is a way in which we seek to have such comprehensive knowledge as to render a judgment on everything. It may be that we are simply seeking to do that which belongs to God alone. In the face of a particular human injustice, it may be incumbent on us to speak out. But it can also be just as right to say, "I don't know. I hope justice is done, but I eagerly await the verdict of the courts and ultimately the verdict of God." It's liberating to admit our limits.

Jesus did not speak out against every single social injustice with which He was confronted. On one occasion, a man came to him to dispute a matter about his brother and an inheritance that their Father had left behind. Instead of speaking to that particular social injustice, Jesus said, "Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you" (Luke 12:14)? He then went on to warn the man about the dangers of harboring covetousness in his heart. Was Jesus wrong for not pronouncing judgment on the social injustice of one man withholding a portion of a father's inheritance from his brother? Was Jesus complicit in that injustice? None of us would ever dare say such a thing.

As I have been preaching through the book of Revelation, I have been struck by the fact that all of the evils that men think they can sneak past the courts of men will be finally and fully called up at the great judgment seat of God. Those wicked schemes that we pressured one another into speaking about (even in ignorance) will be dealt with by the one who knows all, and who will in no way acquit the guilty.

This doesn't mean that we are to be indifferent to issues of social or moral injustice. This doesn't mean that we are to be complacent or fatalistic about evil. But, it should help foster in us a bit of humility and a sense of our human limitations.

Brothers and sisters, let's make sure that in our zeal for the execution of justice, we don't fasten burdens around the necks of others that we and they were never meant to carry. There comes a point where the destruction, death, and evil of the world around us can begin to take a very tangible toll on our hearts and lives. In light of our limits, and in light of God's very own place as the ruler and righteous judge of the universe, we have to be willing to place the injustices and evils of this world into the hands of Him. Let's make sure that our attempts to be guardians of justice is not an attempt to claim for ourselves what ultimately belongs to God alone.

If you're burdened by the evils of the world, I want to encourage you not to respond with either conscience binding expectations or with frustrated indifference or fatalism. Rather, I want to encourage you to learn when to sleep and when to let the world rest in the hands of our Father who always knows what is happening, and who always knows exactly what He will do about it. After all, "the Judge of all the earth" will do what is right. 

Adam Parker is the Pastor of Pearl Presbyterian Church (www.pearlpres.com). He is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary Jackson and the Assistant Editor of Reformation 21.

The Gentleness and Fierceness of Christ

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Isaiah's first Servant Song (Is.42:1-4) pictures a Servant who is gentle, patient, unthreatening and tender hearted. It is a magnificent portrait of the Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect Servant of the Lord. It is remarkable that in his recorded public ministry, on only one occasion did Jesus draw attention to his personal character: "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am gentle and lowly of heart" (Matt.11:28-30). There are few more heart-warming and encouraging words in the Bible. This is God the Son, in the frailty of our flesh, holding out himself to weary, broken and burdened sinners, calling them to come to him and be made whole in his merciful, gentle and kind embrace.

But there is another "side" to the Lord Jesus Christ. Commenting on Ps.110:6, "He (i.e. God's Messiah King) will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter Chiefs over the wide earth," John Calvin wrote: 

"Should any one be disposed to ask, Where then is that spirit of meekness and gentleness with which the Scripture elsewhere informs us he shall be endued? Is. 42:2-3; 61:1-2; I answer, that, as a shepherd is gentle towards his flock, but fierce and formidable towards wolves and thieves; in like manner, Christ is kind and gentle towards those who commit themselves to his care, while they who wilfully and obstinately reject his yoke, shall feel with what awful and terrible power he is armed. In Ps 2:9, we saw that he had in his hand an iron scepter, by which he will beat down all the obduracy of his enemies; and, accordingly, he is here said to assume the aspect of cruelty, with the view of taking vengeance upon them. Wherefore it becomes us carefully to refrain from provoking his wrath against us by a stiff-necked and rebellious spirit, when he is tenderly and sweetly inviting us to come to him."

Over the past centuries, men and women who should know better (and who do know better but "hold down the truth in unrighteousness," Rom.1:18), have constructed an amenable Jesus, a non-threatening Jesus, a Jesus who is the mirror image of their hopes and desires. This "make believe" Jesus is always affirming but never condemning. He is ready, of course, to speak out against sins, but not the sins that are imbedded in the hopes and desires of God denying, commandment despising, gospel rejecting men and women. This Jesus is a fiction. He is little more than a "cut and paste" Jesus, a Jesus emasculated of his passion for God's glory and his whole souled commitment to God's law (Matt. 5:17-20).

It should not surprise us that the NT tells us, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb.10:31). Jesus himself warned his hearers not to fear those "who can kill the body, and after that have nothing more they can do." Rather, they should "fear him (that is, God) who after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell." To reinforce his admonition, Jesus said, "Yes, I tell you, fear him!" (Lk.12:4-5).

There is a wonderful incident in the Gospels that brings together Jesus' gentleness and fierceness. In Jn.8:1-11, we have recorded for us Jesus' encounter with the woman caught in the act of adultery. Her accusers brought her to Jesus to discover what he would say and do. Jesus' response stunned the woman's accusers, they melted away ashamed, and she was left alone with Jesus. Augustine captured the moment brilliantly when he wrote, "There remained but two, mercy and misery" (Relicti sunt duo, misera et miserecordia). It is in the Lord's final words to the woman that we hear his gentleness and fierceness: "neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more" (Jn.8:11). He freely and fully and mercifully pardons the woman. But he leaves her with a 'sting in the tail', "go, and sin no more." This woman was being embraced in the loving, gentle mercy of the Saviour, but she was also being warned to sin no more; to show her new life in a new lifestyle. Imbedded in Jesus' command was a scarcely veiled warning: "God takes sin seriously. Be warned."

All this is simply to say, make sure the Jesus you follow and confess is the Jesus of Holy Scripture. The full orbed Jesus. The Jesus who is both gentle and threatening. Not a Jesus who allows you to live any which way you choose.