Live Justly

Love the Lord your God with all your ... strength.' Mark 12:30d

Saying that we live in a world marked by 'Wars and rumours of wars' might be a good way to describe the world in which we live. While that may be an exaggeration there certainly seems to be no shortage of injustice surrounding us. When people take notice of the injustice two things (or in some cases one of these two things) tend to happen. 1. They find someone to blame 2. They try to fix the problem, often by trying to remove what is perceived to be the root cause. Unfortunately what seems to be happening is many people feel religious people, Christians in particular, are to blame.

New Atheists are among some of the most vocal of this position. This group of people traces most of the world’s ills back to religion; wars, racism, and injustice would all but disappear if not for people like us who refuse to give up faith. One of the more radical writers of the group Sam Harris is so sure that religion is destroying everything he makes the appalling statement that; “If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion”.

Statements like these are not limited to those who identify themselves with the New Atheists, this type of criticism is far more common than that. And sadly people who make these criticisms simply have to look in any given day’s newspaper for some example of a Christian behaving badly. It seems like a day cannot go by without another case of some Christian being charged with some form of misconduct. We have to do better than this.

Atheist Writer Keith M Parsons in an essay titled ‘Atheism: Twilight or Dawn’ writes this, “Is it fair for a critic such as Dawkins to adduce the evils committed in the name of religion? Yes, because of the claims that religion makes for itself. The Christian church, according to its own account, was charged by its Founder to be the Light of the World and the holder of the keys to the kingdom of God. The church, again as it presents itself, is the Bride of Christ, and as such its behaviour is to be holy and chaste. When so much is expected of an institution or an individual, moral lapses are going to stand out with particular vividness. This is inevitable. Consider the case of the former high public official, the author of several book promoting personal virtue and the self appointed spokesman for public morality, who was discovered to be a compulsive gambler who had lost several million dollars. When such things happen, it is not at all unfair to hold the guilty individuals or institutions up to their own standards. Defenders of those individuals and institutions who respond by directing a tu quoque at critics are missing the point. It cannot be enough to be no worse than others when you are supposed to be setting the standard. If that is what you settle for, then you have to relinquished any claim to moral authority”

Parsons is so very right. We cannot settle for being no worse than anymore else. We are supposed to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. We are supposed to be a beacon of goodness showing the world what the kingdom of God really looks like. We are supposed to this by loving each other and serving the broken world giving care to the widow and the orphan. We cannot settle for anything less.

It is time for us to live open and righteous lives among people who have no intention to live open and righteous lives. Are there people around us who are hurting, or hungry, or thirsty, or alone? It is our responsibility to address these problems.

Jesus tells us as much in his parable about the sheep and the goats. The sheep are set aside for heavenly reward because they gave drink, food, clothing, and comfort to those who where in need, and the goats are set aside for punishment because they did not give drink, food, clothing and comfort to those who where in need.

I am not saying this is easy. It’s not. But it is our responsibility. Jesus has called us to live lives that are marked by justice, and anymore after even a cursory reading of the bible will see that we are not by on large living out these principles very well. Our critics like Sam Harris and Keith Parsons are right when they say much blood has been spilled and much injustice done in the name of Christianity. It is not good enough for us to sit back and say those who did such actions were not really Christians or comfort ourselves by saying ‘we are all just reforming sinners’. We need to live justly, so where ever we go we leave seeds of God’s Kingdom in our wake not destruction.