I get the immense privilege of preaching this weekend. We’re in the midst of a sermon series on the Lion and the Lamb (and the Donkey and the Elephant). Yes, we are doing a political series. Who does that? It’s so much easier to remain politically correct and mum on the issues of politics; but we at State Street Community Church have never been known for doing the easy thing.
I don’t consider myself very political and I have always wanted to be more so. I am probably more politically engaged in this election than ever before (and what an election to try to be knowledgeable). My oldest daughter became very politically aware last year during the primaries due to an engaging Government class (taught by her grandfather) and the fact that she gets to vote for the first time in this election. Her growing interest compelled me to be more engaged. I even voted in the primaries, which is a first for me. So here we are zooming towards the elections and it seems that not only our country but our church members could not be more polarized. It seems everyone is fighting to be the loudest, to gain the power, to be right; and it occurs to me that we are fighting for power in the wrong kingdom. Somewhere along the way we have bought into the belief that if we are able to propel the right political party or ideals, then Christianity will win. What we fail to realize is that Christianity has already won. It won the day Jesus became the living Word that dwelt among us. It won the day Jesus beat death and made all things new.
So where does that leave us politically?
Someone asked me if I’d be endorsing a candidate this weekend during my sermon. Umm…. Ha… No… However much I love the idea of raising my arms in victory, screaming a candidate’s name and running up the center aisle, it’s probably not a good idea. I don’t believe the pulpit is the place to endorse a candidate. I believe the pulpit is the place to endorse the political platform of Jesus. And at the heart of the platform of Jesus, is justice.
Justice…We like to throw that word around in conjunction with our political beliefs. And it’s a loaded word. What justice means to one, may not be what it means to another. So what does it mean to God? Unfortunately, I think too often we equate justice to punishment, an eye for an eye. Our justice is wrapped up in retribution and becomes very inward focused as we fight for what we feel we are due.
I think God looks at justice differently. There are several words that equate to justice in the Scriptures. There is mishpat; there is shalom; there is righteousness. Mishpat in the Old Testament seems to be connected to the character of God and how we reflect that character in our identity as people of God. When we see this word in the Old Testament, it’s usually connected with caring for the poor, the widow, and the orphan. God expects this from the people that wear his name. In shalom we have the idea of peace and justice. This type of justice is witnessed through community. We see this in the laws God established for his people early on. We see this in the Acts community who shared everything and no one was in need. And these were never seen as acts of charity; this was community living with equal standing. We also see the word righteousness. This simply defines justice as what is right. It is the idea of recognizing what is wrong in this world and making it right. The beauty of this kind of justice is that it tends to focus outward on the other. It is at its core about healing, about restoration.
So in light of this increasingly tense political season, I think it’s important to remember which kingdom we are fighting for. Are we fighting to be the loudest voice? Are we fighting to hold the most power to ensure our comfortable way of life? Or are we seeking to be a voice of justice. In the wise words of the prophet Amos in the face of hypocrisy and power struggle, “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Let justice roll down like healing waters that seek to restore and heal. Let what is right and good be the predominant voice of change.