The Foundation of His Throne

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;
Mercy and truth go before Your face. Psalm 89:14

The Psalm says that at the foundation of God’s throne, we find righteousness and justice. They go hand in hand. A package deal! That means righteous people will do justice. But what is justice? Matthew 25 is justice. Caring for the hungry, thirsty, homeless, sick, lonely, and enslaved is justice, and these actions are done by those who are righteous and holy. They understand their identity in Christ. They see injustice and they say, “I so desperately want those who are suffering to understand love.” They know that where there’s injustice, there is no love.

So doing justice helps you understand love. Doing justice means you find out how amazing love feels. When you do something to help someone who suffers, you’ve expressed your deepest ability to say, “I love you.” You’ve found your deepest way to share your love. All that joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and self-control – all those fruits of the Spirit – suddenly come into play. That’s when you know you’re holy and righteous. You know who you are, and you start living out of that identity.

mlk-justice-and-righteousness-word-art

When you don’t live out of that identity, when you take on a flesh identity, that’s when you don’t have self-control. And when you don’t have self-control, you feel like everything’s out of control and you’re lost. Or you try to control others.

That happens when you don’t trust God. You trust in God, but you don’t trust God. And scary to say, a lot of people don’t trust God. A lot of Christians don’t trust God. Think about the cares of this world! There is so much pain and suffering! It’s easy to not trust God. It’s easy to want to take control. We say, “I’m going to take control here, because I know what I want to do to feel better and be safe.”

But justice and righteousness surround His throne. Our God is a righteous God, and He doesn’t just live righteously. He takes what’s wrong and makes it right. That’s justice. When it comes to understanding God and how He moves and sees, we need to look to that. It’s how Jesus moves. It’s how the Spirit moves. The Trinity is on the same page, and the wisdom that we receive flows from righteousness and justice. Not righteousness and judgment. Not condemnation for those that don’t live in righteousness. Just taking what’s wrong, and making it right.

At times, the church has gone astray. We’ve done it out of fear. Fearful, we want to control people, using guilt and shame to do it. Then we start to judge and condemn. Instead, let’s trust God with the people we’re trying to talk to. We’re here to love, and create justice through love. That’s how we’ll live out our righteousness.

See you Monday.

Wounded by the Church

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. James 1:5-6

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Romans 8:26

Lately I’ve been reflecting on the challenges that doing justice presents to Christians. On the one hand we are charged to do justice, and on the other hand we are cautioned to not judge. How are we supposed to do justice without judging? I think it becomes clear once we think about what it means to do justice. To do justice doesn’t mean to make judgment calls – and then alienate people with them. To do justice means to make things right. When we see that something is wrong, we have to make it right.

But we have to use wisdom. Think about how many people you’ve met who are very angry at the church. I’m talking about the ones who are angry at the church because they’ve been wounded by the church. They aren’t angry because they never went to church, and they aren’t angry because they hate God. They are angry because they’ve been wounded by people who claim to love God, and yet they judge. They’re angry because of Christians who pushed them away from God. Judgments came, and they came without wisdom.

I wish I could step in, and reassure them that that’s not who I am. That’s not who Jesus is. We need to ask God for wisdom before we open our mouths.

But I think there are a lot of times when Christians intend to do justice, and think that making a judgment call is the way to do it. They think they know the difference between right and wrong. Well, maybe they do. But it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t ask for wisdom. If I know a person who is in the wrong, I still need wisdom. If I don’t ask, then how will I know how God wants me to handle that person? If it’s up to me to tell someone that he is wrong, then I need wisdom so that I’ll know how to handle him and make sure he feels loved. If you need to create justice in a situation in someone’s life, then you need to ask for wisdom on how to do that. When you don’t, you might say something to make that person mad – so mad that they push you away.

We used to live in our flesh, but now we are Christians. Now we live by the Spirit. Our identity is in the Spirit of God. And it’s God’s Spirit who brings us wisdom. Always. All we have to do is ask in faith. It says in Romans that there are times when we don’t even know how to pray. We don’t know what to pray for. That’s okay, because the Spirit will intercede for us, “with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

Ask for wisdom, and believe.

See you Thursday.

Justice without Anger

After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Master, you know I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
He then asked a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Master, you know I love you.”
Jesus said, “Shepherd my sheep.”
Then he said it a third time: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was upset that he asked for the third time, “Do you love me?” so he answered, “Master, you know everything there is to know. You’ve got to know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” John 21: 15-19

We are told as Christians to seek and do justice, and I think we do, but we don’t always use wisdom. In fact, we seem to use the clearing of the Temple as a just cause to use our judgment and even our anger, no matter the situation. We try to apply Jesus’ righteous anger in the Temple to every situation and say, “Jesus is my example so I’m justified to react in anger here.”

That’s not true, though. We look at the one time He reacted in anger, and we miss all the other times when Jesus was calm and made things right with love.

Jesus-PeterEven when Peter denied Him, Jesus did not react in anger. The third time the cock crowed and Peter denied Him, Jesus found Peter and just looked at him. He didn’t react. He didn’t say, “I told you so.” He just looked over at him. And I don’t think He looked over at Peter in disappointment. I really don’t think Jesus was disappointed. He understood. Think about it: Jesus told Peter it was going to happen. If He knew it was coming, how could He be disappointed? Peter was the only one that was disappointed. He was disappointed in himself. Jesus just looked at him.

I think Jesus looked over at Peter with the eyes of love. He looked with compassion. It was as if He said, “Peter, I know. I know the battle that is going on inside of your soul right now. You feel really guilty. I know you do. But Peter, I’m going on the cross to take that away.”

Then when Jesus got off the cross, He met Peter on the beach. And He asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” I think Jesus asked Peter three times in three different ways to show Peter how much He loved him. “I love you,” He said, “in every way, shape and form Peter, and those three times that you denied me? I’m accepting you three times.”

Well that was a big deal for Peter. Jesus didn’t react. He didn’t get angry. He didn’t get frustrated. He didn’t say, “How dare you deny me? What were you thinking? How many miracles have you seen?” There was none of that. Jesus looked at Peter and said, “I love you.”

I think that Christians need to take that approach more often.

See you Monday.

Was Jesus Weak?

Last time, I said anger is weak. But in the Temple, Jesus got angry. He flipped tables and drove out the money changers. Was Jesus weak?

What we saw in the Temple was not a weak man’s anger. A weak man defends the faith by getting angry in the face of a challenge, which is not what happened in the Temple. What we saw was Jesus’ zealous anger for His God. Those guys were selling things, in the Temple! Jesus made it clear: a temple is not a place to make money.

This story has always interested me. Obviously this wasn’t the first time that people were selling things in the Temple. I don’t believe for a minute that Jesus didn’t know about it. I think He’d seen it happening for 33 years, basically His whole life. So why did He react that day, and not before?

I think it’s because the Holy Spirit had come upon Him. He finally had authority to drive out the merchants and money changers. I believe that is why He walked into the Temple that day and said, “Enough! This is not a place for this. This is a house of prayer, not a house of sales. I’m not going to let you make money off these people.” I think that was a zealous thing. That was passion. Jesus wanted people to know how great the Temple was, and how special it was. So he cleared it. It was righteous anger. Justice anger.

Jesus clears the templeThe anger Jesus showed that day is the same anger I have when I see injustice take place. When it comes to human trafficking, I can get very angry, and it’s my passion that I’m expressing. Trafficking isn’t right, and I want so much to make it right. It’s my passion to make it right.

There are times when you need what they call “righteous anger.” If I had a chance to storm into a nail salon and free the women being held captive there, I’d do it. That wouldn’t be a time for calm debate. I wouldn’t stop to share the Gospel with the traffickers. I would only say, “What you’re doing to human beings, to all of us, is bad. It’s not okay.” And I would not go into that salon in a way that most people would call “love.” My actions would show love for the women, obviously, but not for the people holding them captive. I wouldn’t be nice. Love isn’t always “nice.”

Jesus made things right in the Temple, and it wasn’t necessarily “nice.” I think that’s what He’s showing us. There is a time and a place for anger. When it comes to dealing with the human heart, you have to do it in love. But when it comes to dealing with a crime against humanity, anger is going to come out. It’s not anger in the sense of hate. It’s the anger that Jesus had when He cleared the Temple.

Think about it. When Jesus was getting whipped and beaten and mocked, He could have reacted in anger. No one would blame Him. He could have pulled Himself off the cross, and no one would blame Him for that either, even if He came down blazing with righteous anger. But that isn’t what He did. He let them crucify Him, and He just looked up to heaven and said, “Father forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” Why did Jesus stay calm? He didn’t get angry because His crucifixion was not about a crime against humanity. It was an issue of the heart, and He was on that cross for a reason. He was there to bring justice.

Sometimes Christians don’t know how distinguish the times that call for righteous anger from the times that call us to create justice through love. We need the Holy Spirit to step in and show us, so we have to ask the Holy Spirit what we’re supposed to do.

See you Monday.

Anger Is Weak

Do not judge, Christians are told, and we really don’t need to if we want to do justice. Doing justice is seeing something that is not right and making it right. How do we do that? Not through judgments, not through slander, not through yelling and arguing. Some people think they can do the hell fire and brimstone thing, telling people that they’re going to hell. Some people even decide to start protests.

I don’t think that’s how we should go about doing justice. I think we need to do it the right way, the way God does it. We need to make things right through love. We need to make things right through truth. I think that is what Jesus is trying to say. Not only do you need to share the Gospel with people, but you need to share truth with people in every way, with love. I think that is absolutely what Jesus stood for. I think that’s why He came into play.

I don’t think you’re going to bring anybody to understanding who Jesus is through a heated debate. I know, because I used to get pretty heated on certain topics and certain issues. There were times that someone would come at me and I would get really frustrated and angry. Then we would get into a heated debate. I’ve come to understand that getting heated is a reaction of my zeal.

reason-for-God-Tim-KellerThere are people out there that do it the right way. Timothy Keller is one of the best I’ve ever seen at it.  I’ve seen some of the most intelligent people in this country try to challenge him on his faith. You don’t see him react in frustration. He doesn’t get angry. He simply shares the truth in love, and he does a really good job.  People like hearing him debate because he does it in the right way, plus he’s very smart and he’s very intelligent. He tries to bring justice, but he does it righteously. I think that is the key to why people like Timothy Keller and others like him, whether they believe in Jesus or not. They like him because he’s willing to explain his beliefs without getting angry.

Angry people are weak. I know that when I’ve reacted in anger, it’s because I’m at a weak point. The anger could be over a challenge to my beliefs, or it could be about a small thing from my daily life. Whether I’m angry with a stranger who is challenging me on my faith, or with my wife or my kids, I’m at a weak point. I’m not mentally strong enough to handle things in a calm manner. It’s not right. You have to remember the fruits of the Spirit, and one of those is self-control. Self-controlled people are strong people. They’re strong in their minds.

Jesus shows us everything we need to know about this. I’ll tell you about it next time. See you Thursday.

 

Saving Zacchaeus

Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”

Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:1-10

Last time I blogged about how God deals with injustice by making things right. God does justice, and He shows us how to do it too. Jesus gave us so many good examples of how to do justice in the world. I don’t think that going out on demonstrations or protesting was one of them.

zacchaeusI’m not really big on protesting. I do things to fight human trafficking, but I don’t stand around shaking signs or shouting. I don’t think protesting is always the best idea. In fact, protesting is rarely the right way to go. Protests can bring a lot of anger to a situation, and all too often, hate comes along with the anger. Plus protests can escalate into rioting, and even into war. I don’t think Jesus protested. I think He just stood for what was right, and that’s an awesome example for all of us.

But standing for what is right is not the only thing Jesus did about injustice. Jesus was all about love, and making things right by loving people into the truth. That’s the example I want to follow, man, because that is powerful stuff. Love is so much more powerful than anger.

When Jesus saw Zacchaeus in that tree, He decided to take him in. He said, “Hey man, I want to come to your house for dinner.” A lot of people protested that, saying, “Jesus, what are you doing? He’s a tax collector, a sinner, he’s the worst person on the planet, and you’re eating with him?” But Jesus did it anyway. He said, “Yes, but I’m doing justice here. I live a righteous life and I see a man that is not living in truth. So I’m going to go sit with him, and I’m going to love on him.” And by the time the conversation was over, Zacchaeus gave the people’s money back, with interest! So after sitting with Jesus, Zacchaeus made things right.

Jesus sought him out, and Jesus loved him into the truth. This is how Jesus created justice, and He did it everywhere. It’s an awesome lesson for us. Think of all the things we can make right through love.

See you Monday.