This season more than any before has brought so many personal and communal moments of feeling ill equipped.
Not having what you need to deal with a situation.
Not having enough of what you need to deal with a situation.
Thinking you have enough and then running out.
Having the wrong tools for a job.
Not being given clear guidance, expectation, etc.
For myself, I thought I was relatively equipped to handle issues of racism. I knew I needed to still learn and grow but thought I’d be able to handle anything. The last two weeks showed me I absolutely was not equipped to handle anything.
And not just conversations about racial justice or getting involved in the fight against injustice. I’ve felt ill equipped for my emotions, for managing my time, for staying connected to my family members, to knowing how to really truly help my neighbors in a way that’s helpful.
Take it back three months ago. More ill equipped. Life is full of these moments.
I’m going to make an assumption here and say that most of us were not feeling equipped for this season.
What has this season shown you about how equipped/not equipped you are for hard situations?
There’s a clear need for justice in our city, in our community, in our world. It’s been a privilege I’ve had to not really have to worry about injustice. Sure, I can get upset for a moment over something unjust that has happened states away. Sure, I can support a child through Compassion International. It’s still really easy for me to unplug. To check out.
Scripture is full of the narrative of justice (and injustice.) Abraham’s family ending up as immigrant slaves, unjustly oppressed by the Egyptians. God confronts Egypt and declares them to be guilty of injustice. And then Israel went on to do the same thing to other groups of people, so God confronts Israel through his prophets and declares them to be guilty of injustice.
Humanity’s legacy has always been injustice. We’ve always walked that road.
God’s response was always to send Jesus.
The gospel is all about justice, and Jesus is one who cared for and cares for justice constantly. Never unplugging or checking out.
We might not have a clear understanding of what justice actually is.
What is justice?
What is injustice?
Righteousness and justice are often presented together in scripture.
These are not exhaustive definitions of these words, but where you find them in scripture these are what these words often represent.
Righteousness - right relationships between people; treating people based on their created value, as created in the image of God. Giving people the dignity God says is theirs simply by means of creation.
Justice - restorative; seeking out vulnerable people who are being taken advantage of and helping them; taking steps to advocate for the vulnerable and to change social structures to prevent injustice.
By these definitions, I have not concerned myself with justice as much as I’d like to think I have.
Injustice can be active, passive or unintentional. If you find yourself realizing you’re a perpetrator of injustice, now is a great time to deal with that and ask God to start directing you into how you can be a perpetrator of justice.
During the last couple weeks I’ve felt sad, angry, numb, hopeless, depressed. Just to name a few. I’ve wanted to see the people who caused George’s death pay. Even in this, I’ve been shortsighted. Payback is not justice; it’s retribution. I can also see how this one experience has caused a reaction in me, yet there are thousands of these unjust experiences I’ve seen, heard of, encountered, etc, and have not had any reaction.
We can’t get involved in everything. BUT, selective justice isn’t fully justice.
What is your internal response when you witness or experience injustice?
If you haven’t had any internal responses to anything that has happened in the last four months, or if you hear about George Floyd/riots/pandemic and just shrug your shoulders, you probably haven’t interacted at all with what’s going on. Either through ignorance or privilege.
My internal response to injustice can be a lot of things. Ignorance. Anger. Sadness. Wanting revenge. Helplessness. Wanting to see change. Moved to action
Where does that “shift” happen to get us to a point where we’re moved to action? To really love your neighbor as yourself? To really make peoples’ problems your problems? To truly “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God?”
Think about Jesus’ response to the injustice in the world as he walked the earth. Jesus absolutely felt things but his feelings often moved him to action. He was always “moved to compassion”. And he was never about retribution.
Compassion is greater than just empathy or sympathy. Sympathy is feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune. Empathy is walking in someone else’s shoes, feeling someone else’s pain. Compassion takes action. Being confronted with the suffering of another and feeling motivated to relieve that suffering. Sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.
Injustice doesn’t call for an empathy or sympathy response. It calls for a compassion response.
Exodus 3 shows this moment where Moses has an interaction with God that highlights God’s compassion, and his call to move us into compassion and action, even when we feel the most ill equipped.
The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians...So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.
Moses responds by telling God how ill equipped he is.
But why me? What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?
Suppose I go to the People of Israel and I tell them, ‘The God of your fathers sent me to you’; and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What do I tell them?
What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?
Please, I don’t talk well. I’ve never been good with words, neither before nor after you spoke to me. I stutter and stammer.
Please send somebody else!
God doesn’t change his mind. He reminds Moses that it’s not about being well equipped with tools, but by becoming equipped through following God and laying your life down.
Alright. So what do I gotta do to be part of the justice solution?
Read more books?
Get more tools?
Get more equipped?
Equipped doesn’t mean I get all the tools. Equipped means I’m laying down in sacrifice.
What I hear Jesus saying in this season is not to just get over involved and burn out on things. As I grow and learn, follow his example of sacrifice.
I hear Jesus say “deny yourself and follow me”.
Deny self isn’t denying desire, it’s denying selfishness and self-protection.
Taking up my cross daily is not some weird self-mutilation. It’s daily taking up the identity that I’m dead to sin and alive to Christ. Learning to bring every thought captive to the submission of Jesus.
Following Jesus is walking with him, being with him, doing what He does. Just as a disciple would have done with a rabbi 2000 years ago.
Learning to literally do what Jesus did. To live in sacrifice toward others. To pursue real justice on behalf of those who are vulnerable.
Jesus declares me righteous even though I don’t deserve it. He calls me to seek justice on behalf of those who need help. Not to be a hero (getting all the right tools in the belt.) Living it out as a response because Jesus fulfilled justice on my behalf when I needed help (sacrifice.)
This is a lifelong process, it’s directional, but it starts today. Yesterday is gone. Nothing you can do about it. And tomorrow isn’t promised. Nothing you can do about it. Today is what I have.
In this process, there is wrestling and rest, and they can exist simultaneously.
2 Peter 1:3 MSG
Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
What are you going to do with this?
What are you going to do based on what you’ve seen, heard and experienced in this season?
Take It Deeper Questions
- Have you ever tried to use the wrong tool for a job you were doing? How did it go?
What are some things you actually feel well equipped to deal with?
How do you feel when you witness great injustice?
How do you feel when you witness great justice?
What does it mean to “love your neighbor as yourself?”
How can you move from sympathy or empathy into compassion?