Recovering Biblical Justice

The recovery of an understanding of biblical
justice is occurring around the United States. It’s a welcome
renewal.

Having just finished Jim Wallis’ “God’s Politics” at the same time Tennessee was dropping several thousand poor and disabled persons from health care and access to prescription drugs brought home the urgency of Wallis’ understanding of biblical prophecy.

Wallis tells about clipping all the references to poverty from a Bible in his seminary days. So numerous were the references, the remaining Bible seemed pretty thin, he reports. It’s fortunate for us that he and his friends carried out this experiment and learned from it.

Wallis has brought the voice of the biblical prophets to the national dialogue. It’s a voice that’s needed and, in its own way, refreshing. The challenge to address human suffering in the form of poverty and to speak of compassion, healing and justice is more than a call to political action, says Wallis. It’s the call to follow Jesus.

In the language of the church it’s discipleship. Discipleship isn’t right-wing or left, red state or blue, Republican or Democrat, as Wallis correctly states. It’s the substance of discipleship. It’s what the earliest disciples called, “the way.” It’s the practice of spiritual disciplines that in today’s materialistic, consumer culture are downright countercultural.

That Jesus was regarded as a threat to the social order in his time is overlooked by many today. If we read the Bible deeply and comprehensively, as Wallis did in his seminary days and as he advocates today, we’re presented with a view of faith that contrasts starkly with the culture.

And it’s more than mere contrast, it’s a call to stand with the poor and to advocate in partnership with those without voice; it’s a command to heal the sick and visit the imprisoned. This isn’t presented by Jesus as optional. It’s the mark of being a disciple.

When Christian faith gets too cozy with any culture, it is at risk of being diluted and losing its voice. Justice requires independence and integrity. All of this is to say that as I reflect on the need for the mainline church to find its voice, I believe Jim Wallis is pointing the way by pointing toward the Bible.

And that’s why the paring of the rolls of TennCare, the Tennessee equivalent of Medicare, is a Biblical issue. It’s why the church must find its voice and speak on behalf of those who lack the access or ability to speak for themselves.

If we start with the Blble as many are proposing today, I doubt we’ll get cozy with the politicians and the cultural majority. In fact, I believe we’ll find ourselves in a heap of trouble. Just like Jesus.

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