Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Justice

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio
Photo by Ryan Mahoney
Leviticus 19:15
“‘Do not pervert
do not show partiality 
to the poor 
or favoritism to the great, 
but judge your 
neighbor fairly.

"Sin is not simply the breaking of rules, but is living with indifference to the needs of others when confronted by those needs". ~ Eric Severson  In one of my searches about justice, I found this book, Scandalous Obligation: Rethinking Christian Responsibility and I have been reading parts of it on Amazon. I think I am going to have to get a copy. In my effort to tackle the more difficult topics for each alphabet letter I am choosing justice over joy. I admit that I don't begin to have all the answers in regards to what is our responsibility in this broken world. Is it my problem if a guy who comes to our feedings, who lived in the bushes around our building dies alone in a near by allie.  Is my heart like that of Ebinezer Scrooge and the loss of life just decreases the surplus population.  I don't want to put a big guilt trip on anyone but my gut feeling is that we as kingdom people are probably not doing all we could to elevate the suffering all around us. 

I watched the other day as the paramedics came to deal with a guy that was passed out on our church porch. We knew the guy pretty well. He's had periods where he was sober and doing pretty well only to be overwhelmed by the pain of his life and be back to drinking. I stood there as my pastor told the guy, "I don't want you dying here on the street". This guy is quite a talented piano player. My pastor started to sing Amazing Grace with him to try and keep him conscious till the paramedics arrived.  By the time they arrived he was up and staggering - I was glad to see that they treated him well. He said I came here so I could be near Jesus and here you sang my favorite song.

In our down town area, our neighbors are folks living in shelters, guys in the federal prison work release program, Spokane Mental Health. For years our church was indifferent to the plight of these folks. Our attitude was - they must be poor because they are lazy. Granted we all reap our own consequences for the choices we make.  I've talked to a lot of these folks each week at our feed. Some are people who just had too many medical bills and couldn't keep up. Some lost jobs and tried for months to get work, some found themselves with out a place to live after a domestic break up or abuse. Some are highly skilled but something happened and they just gave up on life and now wander the streets of Spokane. Some are notorious drunks and drug addicts but it seems to me that even those folks find themselves in such a place in an effort to numb some tremendous pain.

It takes a lot of work just to get from one location to another where there is shelter or meals being served.  Part of loving my neighbor as myself is to even see my neighbor.  I am amazed by how appreciative these folks are for things as simple as listening ear, a kind word and a gentle touch. 
We make a concerted effort to not serve anything we would not feed our own families. 

Even with all that we are doing - I know for myself I have a long way to go in understanding how to love my neighbor. I remember when I first became involved with caring for the homeless that there were nights that I felt bad that I had a warm bed and a roof over my head while I knew people I had talked to earlier in the day were sleeping in the rain and cold. I have had to come to grips with I can't do everything. Every need that is presented is not necessarily mine to meet. Much of the time I just barely make my own bills and keep food in my own refrigerator to feed my own family. Luke 3:11 John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." I may not be able to do everything but it seems to me that as a follower of Jesus that I must do something.

Psalm 106:3
Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right.

Proverbs 29:7
The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.

Isaiah 1:17
learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

Its midnight and I have to go to bed - but I know I will continue to wrestle with what is my responsibility in this broken world. Are there ways to give people a hand up rather than a hand out. You know the old saying about you can give a man a fish and feed him for a day or you can give him a fishing pole and teach him how to fish and feed his family.
I guess where I am presently is I know can't help everyone but I can help a few and perhaps when they become stronger they will be able to also help a few others. To the rest of the folks I meet,  I do my best to treat them with respect and dignity. To take time to wave or smile, to listen, to pray.  I think Jesus would not likely be hanging out with the religious folks in the big warm fuzzy entertainment services. I think he would be out among the lost and broken. As an ambassador for his kingdom I want to be found doing the things Jesus would be doing. I fall terribly short and there are times when compassion fatigue gets the best of me but I know that Jesus is working to challenge me and to change me. To give me a heart that cares about the things that He cares about. 

Dear Lord, Open our eyes to the needs around us. Help us to see the little things we could do. Help us to share that extra coat, or to give a bit of our time to serve others. Lead us by your Holy Spirit to be sensitive to your leading. I think sometimes you are asking us to sacrifice and give up a bit of our own pleasures that others might not suffer so intensely. Help us to come to a better working understanding of what justice means from a kingdom perspective.

1 comment:

  1. The scales of justice are so often out of balance. Unfortunately judgement precedes a fair hearing for many people. Your post is perceptive and wise.

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