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What does justice look like?

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

What does justice look like?

A sermon preached by Tamra Tucker at The Crossing on May 26, 2011.

Do. Love. Walk.
Justice is intimidating to me. And appealing and I want it. It’s intimidating coming from Oklahoma, where comfort is key, to a place that lives and breaths social justice. But how do I talk about justice? How do I approach it? How do I describe what it looks like?

I don’t know what it is, but I know what it isn’t: it isn’t kids taking care of their siblings because their parents aren’t home. It isn’t one of my kids at work losing her aunt to gang violence, being shot in a drive by. It isn’t the trafficking of young girls in our city. And it isn’t passing the mentally disabled off as crazy addicts so we have an excuse not to help them.

But what is justice? Is it turning the tables over in the temple? Is it getting up in the face of injustice and having a shouting match? How do you use the fire that burns for justice? Maybe sometimes.

This is the question that always bugs me. How do you make that jump into uncharted territory? This is why I love and hate this passage of the bible. People ask how to be a follower, how to devote their lives to God, how to be good. It is simple: do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God. But how? Is it really that simple? How do you do justice? How do you love mercy? How do you walk humbly? I need opportunity; someone to say, “Come with me, I have an idea.”

The strongest example in my life is a deacon named George Day. He lived this verse. He walked into the prisons around Oklahoma and sat with those already condemned, in a place where justice is supposedly already served. And he loved them; he loved them deep with mercy, with kindness. To him, justice wasn’t for condemning people. His call was to walk with them. He met the condemned where they were, in their cells and saw the Christ in them that was in himself, and he loved them and walked with them. He found God in those prisons and loved God and walked with God.

George lit a fire in me. I blazed through my childhood trying to do justice, every bit of it I could. I skipped school to volunteer. I did every charitable thing I could get my hands into, but I could never get it quite right. I didn’t really know how to live this out. How to stay on fire all the time. How to walk humbly with God. How do I live day to day life, doing the simple things that need to get done, and still be on fire, fulfill my call?

The answer is simpler than all the extravagant expressions of emotion we could make up in our mind. Micah pulled direction from Amos, Hosea and Isaiah to give a clear and simple way of obeying God. Do. Love. Walk. This verse gets a lot of attention for the justice side of things. But that isn’t all that’s here. What about the action of kindness? What about walking humbly? How do we check our passionate paths of justice with love and humility? I think there is a reason justice cannot stand alone here.
This passage is used to base the 5th component of our Rule of Life at the Crossing - the justice and service piece. In our rule of life, we commit to justice and service as a spiritual discipline. This discipline takes practice. That fire I had has burnt out a few times and justice doesn’t come natural to me. When I find myself in the body of Christ, with its different members, I find more than opportunity for service; I find love and humble steps, the fulfillment of this passage.

We start this work by worshiping God with one another, and we continue with our voices, by sharing our stories and opportunities for service. We lift one another up, supporting each other not with empty words but with our actions, by our commitment to be present to each other. The point here is not to know on our own, but to keep coming together and doing this work in community, to pose this question to each other, to celebrate each other’s work, to challenge each other’s failings, to hold each in love when we burn out, and to work together to do justice, that God’s will be done on earth.


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