Let’s not call it a New Year’s Resolution. Let’s just say that it is a manifestation of renewed and reimagined priorities, some of which you can read about in last week’s post.
But, whatever we are calling it, I am trying to cut back on politics in 2015. I am disengaging. I have already radically cleaned out my Facebook feed. I have found that the “unlike” option is quite handy. It is amazing how my stress and anxiety level have declined, just in the last 12 or so days. There is less animosity in my heart, less hate on my tongue.
This is not to say that I am giving up totally. I am maintaining my memberships in various political organizations, mainly because membership equals money equals good work getting done, and for the most part I still support the work of many of these organizations. So if you are a member of one of these organizations and are reading this, don’t worry! But I am going to be stepping back from being publicly active with these organizations. In the end, this is a decision about what is best and most healthful for me, my life, and my path moving forward.
However, I am certainly NOT giving up on Justice. To do that would be a denial of my faith and a denial of Jesus.
This weekend I was blessed to worship with the great folks at CrossPoint Church in Harrisburg, PA. The message this week was on Isaiah 58.
“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free,and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them,and do not hide from relatives who need your help. Then your salvation will come like the dawn,and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward,and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry,and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden,like an ever-flowing spring.” (Isaiah 58:6-11)
What is clear from this is that we are called to do works of justice. We are called to “Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free,and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them,and do not hide from relatives who need your help.” This is a big, big call. In fact, it might even make us do things that we don’t WANT to do. It is these things, these acts of mercy and justice that God wants from us, not the empty, vain, self-serving ritual fasting that Israel thought would save them.
This passage from Isaiah reminded me of this passage from Amos:
“I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.” (Amos 5:21-24)
So, what does all of this mean? It means that this year I hope to step away from the politics of the world and into the Grace and Justice of the Kingdom of God. Towards that end, I intend to engage primarily with faith-based advocacy and justice groups. Groups like the Evangelical Environmental Network, Evangelicals for Social Action, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America ~ Bautistas por la Paz, Sojourners, International Justice Mission, and many, many more.
That said, my main justice priority this year is racial justice and reconciliation, both inside the church and society as a whole. I have been, for several years now, a member of the NAACP and will continue that membership and hope to be more active with the local branch here that represents York and James City counties, and the City of Williamsburg. In addition I will continue to build relationship with and be involved with the “Black Lives Matter” group here in Williamsburg that is focused at the College of William and Mary.
For, as Galatians tells us, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
Come, let us build the Kingdom together!