Justice: Love God and Love Neighbor
“The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright Is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4).
“Of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice” (Job 34:12).
“But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice” (Psalm 9:7).
“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted in the destitute” (Psalm 82:3).
“The king in his might loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob” (Psalm 99:4).
“I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, Lord, I will make music” (Psalm101:1).
“I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy” (Psalm 140:12).
“It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice” (Proverbs 18:5).
“When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers” (Proverbs 21:15). “But the LORD of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness” (Isaiah 5:16).
“Therefore, the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are those who wait for him” (Isaiah 30:18).
“For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them” (Isaiah 61:8).
“Behold the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” (Jeremiah 23:5).
“Thus says the Lord God; enough, O princes of Israel! Put away violence and oppression, and execute justice and righteousness. Cease your evictions of my people, declares the Lord God” (Ezekiel 45:9).
“So, you, buy the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God” (Hosea 12:6).
“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).
“The Lord within her is righteous; he does no injustice; every morning he shows forth his justice, each dawn he does not fail; but the unjust knows no shame” (Zephaniah 3:5).
What word did you hear? Justice. We’re going to talk a little bit about that today. If you’re visiting here this morning, my name is Ryan. I’m one of the elders here at North Hills. You’re visiting right during the middle of a five-week series we do each summer called Wisdomfest. This year for five weeks we’re tackling the topic of racism. Now we know that is a huge topic to discuss. You cannot handle it in five weeks. But what we can do is give this church at this time a specific goal and response which are the three words behind me – Listen, lament and love.
That’s our simple goal. We want to step into these three realities together. That first word listen we discovered in week one is about the idea of a majority culture listening to a minority culture. As a majority culture, you often start believing that everything that you believe, think and practice and do is correct. So, we want to begin this entire series with a posture of listening. And when we listen we will realize that this issue is not an American, southern, Black/white issue. We will discover it’s a global heart issue.
I found it fascinating last week I was watching a documentary about the best restaurant in the world at least for four years named Noma in Denmark. The chef there, his name is Rene Redzepi, and his dad immigrated his family from Macedonia to Denmark. In the middle of this documentary about a restaurant, there’s this two-minute bit about racism. So, we’re in Denmark, right? Scandinavia. A pretty Caucasian dominated area of our world. If you see, and you will in this video, you see Rene Redzepi. In some ways, we don’t look alike, but we’re similar in that we have a little bit of dark skin and dark hair. Listen to what he says about his family going into Denmark and what happened. He has a little bit of an accent, so he’s going to share a story about having difficulty getting an apartment, and then he’s going to comment on racism. We’ll also hear from a friend of his and from his dad which is in subtitles. So, let’s watch this majority and minority culture, racism around the world. Watch this.
He mentioned that he felt, you can say racism in his life of his background. There was a lot of people who were looking bad towards him and his family because he was from Macedonia.
You know I was written up for apartments and didn’t understand why some of my friends they were getting them before me. People just kept saying, you know something went wrong or something. And then at one point I remember the management of one of the places flips. And I go to see where my application is. And they said oh you’re not registered at all in our system. And then at that time I figured that can only be because my father is a Muslim immigrant to Denmark you know. I don’t know I come from a very different background where racism is not a common thing, so for me it’s not an issue in my life. I never thought of it, but it is definitely been an issue in his life.
Of course, I’ve experienced racism in Denmark, are you kidding me? Yeah, sure. Every year. Many times a year. Go home you Balkan. Balkan dog. I mean yeah, all these things.
“Go home you Balkan dog,” if you didn’t catch what he said. These are two groups of people that look appearance-wise very similar. But there is a majority culture and a minority culture, and we want to learn to listen.
The second word is lament. We want to lament the loss and sufferings of others. When we hear, read or see about the loss of life, the mistreatment of any people, the oppression of any culture, as people who follow Jesus we should lament.
And our third word that we’re going to begin tackling today is love. Listen, lament, love. We’re going to spend three weeks on love. We’re going to discover a love for God that drives, compels and sustains us to love all people. So how are we going to do that today. I want us to begin with some big truth statements that are going to start really wide, and then we’re going to narrow all the way down to one quality of God that we find in the book of Deuteronomy. So, we’ll get there in a little bit.
Truth number 1: If God is perfect, which we believe he is, if God is perfect then anything we discover about God compels us to love him more. If God is perfect, anything we discover about him makes us love him more. Imagining perfection is similar to imagining eternity. It messes with our brains. We don’t really know of anything perfect. We use that word. We may say that a trip to a tropical beach was perfect or even simple things like, everything went so well it couldn’t have been more perfect. But if we’re honest, nothing we’ve experienced is perfect. God is perfect. No deficiency. No lack. Nothing could be added to God to make him any better. He’s never made a mistake. He’s never forgotten a moment or had a lapse in judgment. This perfection is the actual essence of God himself. He hasn’t been made perfect. He has always been and will always be perfect. And if he is perfect, anything about him has to drive us to love him. Who would not love perfection?
But I think some attributes or characteristics of God are “easier,” and I’m going to put that in quotes, easier to connect to love. So, let me see if I can demonstrate that. I think when we hear about the mercy of God, that God shows mercy to people who are his enemies, and we consider ourselves enemies to God, and yet he still loves us, our response to that seems to be a little more natural to say I love that. But what about the fact that God is holy? He’s distinctly different from us. I think that prompts awe, and it should. We should think of God he’s so different than us. I don’t even understand him. But at the same time if he’s perfect, his holiness should make us go “I love him.”
What about all of those things we just heard about justice? Does justice make us love God? Our goal today is to see if we can through God’s Word and by the Holy Spirit get a glimpse of God in His justice and love him all the more for it.
Truth number 2: What compels me to love God more will also compel me to love my neighbor more. Whatever I learn about God that makes me love him will make me love other people. If I love God I’m going to always be growing in my love for other people. He’s going to show me things about my beliefs, my assumptions about other people, that I’m going to change from and go “No, I love people.” You cannot love God and hate your neighbor. You can’t. It doesn’t work that way. You can continually grow and be changing, but you can’t love God and hate people. It doesn’t work.
Believing the good news, living in Jesus, having faith, however you want to word that fundamentally changes me as a person. I begin to live in ways that actually aren’t my own ways. I begin living out who I am in Jesus. I’m empowered to live out the qualities of God himself. Let me give you three examples. We’re able to forgive as God forgave us. Now for you church folk who have been around that verse forever, hear that for the very first time. You can forgive because God forgave you. That is an immense amount of power. That means that any of you people in here could wrong me and because God forgave me, I could go, I get it. I forgive you. I don’t have to hold any of it.
Another one, we’re able to love as God loved us. We’re able to mimic God type powerful love in all of our relationships. How about this one from Corinthians. We’re able to be agents of reconciliation. Why? Because God reconciled us to him. So as God brought me and him together, I’m able to walk through this world and grab someone here and here and go oh no, I’m an agent of reconciliation. I’ve got God behind me. Let’s bring you guys together. The things we love about God are actually the very things he allows us to do. We get to do God things here on earth.
Does the justice of God increase your love for God and correspondingly your love for people? Our goal today is to see God in his justice, love him for it, and love others more because of it. So, to do that, let’s begin at probably the highest visible point of the justice of God.
And that’s truth number three: The clearest demonstration of the justice of God is the cross of His Son Jesus Christ. The clearest demonstration of the justice of God is at the cross of His Son Jesus Christ. And at my very best attempt I could not connect justice and the cross better than a guy named Charles Haddon Spurgeon. This guy was a pastor in the eighteen hundreds. And he was actually very well known. They used to draw cartoons in poses that he would do while he was preaching and print them in the newspaper. So, he was kind of a celebrity pastor before that was a thing, which is a weird thing, but so it is. So, May 29, 1859, 159 years ago, in his sermon Spurgeon has this kind of made-up conversation between himself and Justice and he connects the justice of God and the cross. So, we’re going to follow along.
Now for all of you who may not speak 1800s English, there are some doths and canst types of words in there, there are some weird ones, but you follow along with me. I’m going to read it out loud. We’ll put it up here so whether you’re an auditory or verbal processor, you can read or listen. So here we go. This is Spurgeon.
“Doth Justice come to thee this morning, and say ‘Sinner thou hast sinned, I will punish thee?’
Answer thus – ‘Justice thou hast punished all my sins. All I ought to have suffered has been suffered by my substitute, Jesus.’
But if Justice still accuse, go thou and take Justice with thee to Gethsemane, and stand there with it: ‘See that man so oppressed with grief, that all his head, his hair, his garments bloody be. Dost see that man there! Canst hear his groans, his cries, his earnest intercessions, his strong crying and tears! Canst mark that clotted sweat as it crimsons the frozen soil, strong enough to unloose the curse! Justice, is not that enough? Will not that content thee?’
‘Nothing,’ says Justice but his death.’
‘Come with me, then thou canst see that feeble man hurried through the streets! Seest thou him driven to the top of Calvary, hurled on his back, nailed to the transverse wood? Oh, Justice, canst now see his dislocated bones now that his cross is lifted up? Stand with me O Justice, see him as he weeps, and sighs, and cries; see his soul agonies! And lastly, O Justice, dost thou see him bow his head, and die?’
“Yes,” saith Justice, “and I am satisfied; I have nothing that I can ask more; I am fully content; my uttermost demands are more than satisfied.”
The clearest picture of the justice of God is the cross of Jesus. What we can borrow from Spurgeon’s description is to see that in the justice of God there is judgment, and there is blessing. Now what do I mean by that? Justice contains both judgment and blessing. There is judgment at the cross of Jesus. Paul says that God put Jesus forward to bear the sin of the world, to bear the wrath. So, there is a judgment that happens. But in that judgment, there is also a blessing to those who believe in that. We receive the blessing of that justice contains both judgment and blessing.
Think of it this way. Every decision in a court of law when righteously done places demands of judgment upon someone and a blessing upon another. That is the nature of justice. And too often I think we consider justice only in the terms of judgment, and we miss the blessing that flows out to someone through justice. Justice could be defined as rendering to everyone that which is his due. So, in the cross, God’s justice rendered to Jesus that which was due for the sin of the world. And as a result of the cross God remains just in his justice and through his justice can extend blessing to people who believe in what Jesus did. Justice is judgment and blessing. So, friends when you hear that, when you see the most visible picture of the justice of God, do you say in your heart I love him? I love God for that. And from there do we move to say I love people because of that, because Jesus died for them.
Which leads us to truth number 4: God calls his people to walk in his way of justice. So, whatever we discover about God makes us love him. Whatever we discover about God makes us love our neighbor more. The demonstration of justice at its clearest point is the cross, and God calls God’s people to walk in his way of justice. All of that set up work has now led us to Deuteronomy Chapter 10:12-22. So, go ahead and turn there. We’re actually going to give Deuteronomy a shout out this week. We don’t often go to Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is actually a collection of Moses’s words to God’s people.
Interestingly, Jesus seemed to really love this book. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy more than any other book except Psalms. And there’s this one moment that’s recorded for us in the Gospels where Jesus is kind of going toe to toe with Satan, Satan is attempting to, is trying to tempt Jesus, and all of Jesus’s responses are from the Book of Deuteronomy. So, Jesus loved this book. And what we’re going to do in one section of Deuteronomy is ask ourselves the question, what can we discover about God? Real general still. What can we discover about him that will make us love him more? And then we’re going to narrow it down and search out one part of that from Deuteronomy.
So, at the beginning, just what’s true about God in this passage? You listen along as I read. Deuteronomy 10.
“And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God, require of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?”
Three important words there. God’s commands and statutes are always for the good of his people.
“Behold to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, and the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the Lord your God is a God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.
Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.”
Those are God’s words about God. If God is perfect, whatever we discover about him will make us love him more.
So, what do we see about him in here? I’m going to name several things, and you just kind of take it in and hopefully by the end we’ll all love God more. So here are some discoveries about God. Verse 12, God has expectations of his people. Moses starts with the question, what does the Lord your God require of you? God is not distant from his people. God is not far away. He’s actually told us how he wants us to live. Verse 14, God owns everything everywhere. I wish I had time to do a sermon on just this phrase. I don’t, but if I did I would say something like, he owns everything everywhere. The text says that God owns heaven and the heavens, an exaggeration just to make a point, the earth with all that is in it. All the peoples of the world are God’s peoples.
Ever thought about that? There’s not one group of people that are God’s peoples. All that is in it, he owns it all. Verse 15, God loves and chose a people to demonstrate his love to the world. Verse 17, God is awesome. That’s shorthand for all the God of gods, Lord of lords, awesome, might, great. He’s just humongous. If you have a big powerful God, he can change big, powerful issues. If your view of God is, he’s out there somewhere, then you’ve got no shot of having power. He’s great, mighty, awesome. Verse 17, God is not partial or bribable. Verse 18, God executes justice for the needy. Verse 18, God loves the sojourner, the foreigner, the alien, or the powerless. Verse 21, God is our praise. Verse 21, God has done great and terrifying things, and in verse 22, God keeps his promises. That’s God.
All of those things we could talk about, but we’re going to go to one key discovery, and that’s the portrait of God in his justice in verses 17 and 18. That’s what we’re going to look at today. This portrait of God in his justice in verses 17 and 18. We’re going to get to that after we make discoveries about ourselves. What does Deuteronomy 10 say about us? I’m going to work through this even faster, very little commentary. Verse 12, we are to fear the Lord, and then a biggie, we are to walk in all his ways. We are to serve the Lord. Verse 13, we are to keep his commandments and statutes. Verse 16, we are to follow without stubbornness. Verse 19, we are to love the sojourner. Verse 20, we are to fear the Lord, serve the Lord, hold fast to the Lord, and hold allegiance to only his name.
One key discovery – the privilege to walk in all of God’s ways. So, the key discovery about God that will make us love him is the portrait of justice in verses 17 and 18. The key discovery about ourselves is we are able to walk in all of God’s ways. So, what is God like in his justice? In this passage we are given three things. Number 1, God is not partial or bribable. The opposite of justice is partiality. To be partial to people is not justice. The opposite of a righteous, just decision is a bribed judgment. D.A. Carson says,
“Partiality is favoritism that is corrupted by a willingness to pervert justice for the sake of the favored few.”
I am staying away from politics on purpose today. But you can see this in our world not just in politics but partiality. We can conclude God only does just things. God is only ever just. He’s never improperly swayed. Those with means don’t have the power to sway God to their side. As God views decisions that have to be rendered between two people, he’s never swayed by their position, their status or their ethnicity. Consider just this one scripture. 2 Chronicles 19:7. We get Deuteronomy and Chronicles in one message. “Now then, let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Be careful what you do” Why? “for there is no injustice with the Lord our God, or partiality or taking bribes.”
The writers of the New Testament latch onto this idea of God not being partial and connect it to the demonstration of the gospel to all people. A friend of Jesus named Peter said this in Acts 10. “So, Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality,” get this next part “but in any nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” The gospel is not partial. No one has an advantage or a leg up, and notice in this context that he connects it to the nations and to peoples. It’s any nation and anyone in that nation. He cannot make more of a generalization. It’s everyone. The gospel is for all the death of Jesus is the greatest evidence ever of God’s righteous justice for all peoples.
If we love God, and He sent his son for all people, how can we not love people, anyone, any nation? Partiality in light of the gospel is perversion. And I use the word perversion because it’s a nasty word. You could hear a couple of groans when I said it. In the Old Testament at least nine times if I remember correctly, God uses that word, God’s people do not pervert justice. To be partial towards people in either the rendering of justice or in the gospel, if you do that you are biblically a pervert. Our God is not bribable or partial. God is justice, and for that we should love him and love our neighbor.
Image number two of this portrait of God and justice, God executes justice for the powerless. God seems really concerned that those without power receive equitable treatment. Pastor Leonce Crump from Atlanta in a sermon from 2016 said, he defined justice this way, to treat people equitably and to ensure equitability. Equitability is dealing fairly and equally with all concerned. That’s what God does. He executes justice for everyone. But he has a mindset that is specific towards the powerless.
We’re going to discover we are to walk in all of his ways. So, if God has a mindset of justice towards the powerless, guess what God’s people have? A mindset of justice towards the powerless. Based upon repetition it would appear God has a target audience for justice. And I want you to see who these people are. These are all the words that are connected with people and justice: the fatherless and orphan, the widow, the sojourner or the resident alien or the stranger, the oppressed, the poor, the weak, the afflicted, the destitute, the hungry, the needy, prisoners, the robbed the strayed and the injured. Can I make one observation from our modern day.
How many of those terms in our culture are connected to race? Look at it. Fatherless, poor, prisoners, guess what? if God draws a bull’s eye on the people he wants to receive justice, it’s them. I love it.
Different communities and cultures and systems, God wants these people to receive equitable treatment. Why? Because the structures that are made up in our world are made up of sinners. There obviously, because of that heart problem they’re going to move to serve themselves. They’re not going to immediately move towards the powerless. And God is saying to his people watch out for this group, the people of God, the rulers of the people of God, community officials in general are told in the Scriptures to ensure the powerless are not robbed of justice by the powerful.
Number 3, in this portrait of God in His justice, God loves the sojourner. Who’s the sojourner? In the context, this is the definition: a foreign, dependent resident without land. It’s someone who’s not Jewish. They were outsiders and immigrants.
So, think about this for a moment. God loves the world, John 3:16. At a moment in time when God is thinking of foreign people coming into a land to live who don’t have land, do you do what God says about them? You know what God’s posture is? Man, I love those people. I love those kinds of people. I love sojourners.
I wish I could be more profound. I feel like just repeating that over and over and over ten times in a row. Guess what. God loves immigrants. I’m done. It’s not that hard to preach actually, apparently you just reread the text. He loves them.
The key discovery about God for us today in this passage is his portrait of justice. He is not partial you can’t buy him off. He manufactures justice for the powerless. That’s what execute means. He has a warehouse where he is continually making justice for that big group of people, and God loves the alien. So, if that’s God in his justice, what does it mean that we are commanded to walk and all of his ways?
First, I want us to understand this idea of walk. Walk in the Scriptures is really just a metaphor for how we live. It’s not training and taking one step in front of another, it’s just talking about how we live. Example, Paul in the New Testament does this about 29 times where he just explains to people, this is how you ought to walk. He’s just saying this is how you live. I’ll give you one example 1 Thessalonians 4:1, “Finally then brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that as you received from us how you ought to walk.”
Paul told these people this is how you live in Jesus, “and to please God just as you are doing that you do so more and more.” We are to walk in all of God’s ways. We’ve been taught how to walk through the Scriptures as people who follow Jesus, so Deuteronomy and Paul agree that as God’s people, we have to consider how we live. And in Deuteronomy, the picture closest to the idea of walking in all of God’s ways is God in his justice. If God is passionate about the justice of the powerless, then so should we be. If God loves the foreigner, then so should we. So, let’s see if we can take this big funnel of loving God all the way down to Deuteronomy and kick it into the real world.
So first, the big reminder, love God. Allow God’s justice to build your love for God. You know Jesus was asked one time by a lawyer, kind of a tricky question. The guy was doing it on purpose. The guy asked Jesus, hey which is the greatest commandment? You can find this in Matthew 22. Jesus responds and actually kind of partially quotes from our passage in Deuteronomy, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”
So, the greatest commandment that was given is to love God. We have no hope of changing our view of other people in any way, race or any other way, if our love for God is not huge. We love people because we love God.
So, when it comes to this idea of justice, my challenge to us as a people is, let’s grab onto this one attribute of God for a little bit and chew on it. Search out every reference about the justice of God, and if you don’t know how to do that you email me (email@example.com). I will send you a PDF of every reference of justice. Figure out what it means that the foundation of God’s throne is justice. Find out what it means in Isaiah when we call Jesus the branch who will uphold his kingdom in justice. We discover that all of God’s ways are justice. Learn what it means that God feeds his people in justice, and then love God because of it.
And when it comes to this idea of love God, here’s a challenge. I think some of us have actually got to figure out how to use language like that in life. Is that language that flows off your tongue towards God, Jesus the Holy Spirit, Love. I love you. Look at who you are. Look at what you’ve done. Man, I love you.
I think some of us are a little bit more comfortable with that type, in your brain you go, well I was raised in a family where we didn’t really do the feelings thing. Look at who God is and let’s wake those feelings up, man. Because when you see him it’s crazy how he loves me. I love him.
Second part is to love neighbor. Allow God’s love for people to be the primary lens through which you view the world. It’s the greatest commandment. Love God, love neighbor because Jesus had a second response for this lawyer. Jesus continued like this. And the second is like it. So, the first and greatest is love God. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these commandments, love God, love neighbor, hang the law and the prophets. So, think of it this way, a mental image, a picture.
The commands of love God, love neighbor are a coat hook, and hanging on that coat hook is the law and the prophets, which in a sense is shorthand for all of the Old Testament. All of this is held on by love God, love neighbor. God’s love is recklessly aggressive, even towards his enemies, and God calls us to walk in all of his ways. So, as we narrow this funnel down, I think what we have to do is answer whether a love for people is the first lens through which we view the issues in the culture and world in which we live.
Now up until this point I haven’t really spoken about racism. I’ve tried to deliver the text as faithfully as I could, but now we’re going to look at our world through the lens of these discoveries about God and his justice and that we get to walk in all of his ways, that we are to love God and love neighbor. So, what does that mean for our world? So, let’s talk about some specific realms. Here we go.
Immigration. When we think of immigration, is our first response to think that the justice of God drove him to love the foreigner who possessed no land? Is that where we begin? Do we love immigrants and refugees?Now. lease don’t freak out on me here. This in my opinion at this point has nothing to do with safe borders or enforcing law. Boy it got quiet.
What’s our first posture? Those are valid issues, but I think for God’s people the answers and opinions about those issues must flow out of their primary call to love God and love neighbor. As Christians, I don’t think can have a view on immigration that is uninformed by the love of God as demonstrated in the justice of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Further in one body as big as North Hills is, can we have one person who begins with love God love neighbor, another person who begins with love God and love neighbor, and they come to a different choice about the issue and all of the outflow wings of the topic of immigration?
I sure hope so. We’re not all going to believe the same thing except love God, love neighbor.It’s where we begin. I shared this in first service with Northwest when we were streaming, over where we are at Northwest we’re in the Berea area. We’re not in Travelers Rest. We’re really close to Berea. Do you know what a lot of people call Berea? Little Mexico. What do you think God thinks about that? I’m not sure that term is done in honor to value a culture. God would look at them and go, I love those people.
What about Black Lives Matter? When you hear of Black Lives Matter holding a rally in downtown Greenville, is your first response, I love them? And I know that’s a really polarizing statement. I know there are political implications. I know research can be done pro and con about who started it and why it started and the results and all of that. I know. But again, for me, love God love neighbor preempts all the complexity. Is the posture of God’s people in Greenville when they’re there, I love those people? Why? Because God loves those people. He sent Jesus for those people. Do we even have the courage to go and listen? Because what if there’s someone in there who has a real story of hurt, and we can begin listening and lamenting and loving.
What about welfare? Welfare is so tied to race, it’s unbelievable. When you think of people on welfare, do you begin with the love of god demonstrated in the cross of Christ?
Homeless. If you drive over where I live near the Lowes in Cherrydale, you will run into somebody either in the Lowe’s parking lot, the Olive Garden or right there by little small Japanese place, and they will come out and ask you. They live in the tent city behind Lowe’s. You may not know there is one there. When we see people like that, messed up dirty, is our first thought, get a job, you lazy bum? Remember that list? Destitute, hungry, weak.
We love God and we love people before politics. We love God and we love people before policies. We love God and we love people before presidents. In some ways I wish I could be a little bit more profound again. Love God, love neighbor. Finally, how do we walk and all of his ways? We do justice. These are the words from Micah 6:8, we do justice. We allow love for God and love for people to move us to act.
So, here’s the deal. I think we Christians are weird people. We face issues like that and we immediately feel like there’s this pressure to solve it all. That’s what we have to do. So, here’s what we’re going to we’re going to unhook that. Your role is to not solve all the issues of the world. I think your role when it comes to do justice, walking in the ways of God and His justice is within your sphere of power and influence whatever that might be.
And hey if you’re a kid in here, don’t tune us out. I know I’ve used a lot of big words, but if you’re a kid in here, you have power and influence too. You’re going to face it in your school. This issue, this topic within your realm, how do you do justice? How do you long for righteous judgments?
Let me begin with this. Let me begin with a great big encouragement for all of God’s people when it comes to justice. You have got to recognize you are uniquely equipped to know justice. Proverbs 28:5 says this.
“Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.”
Christians, people who seek the Lord, God’s people, we actually are uniquely equipped to know justice. We get it. We understand it. We see it in the picture of Jesus on the cross. We see it in the character of God Himself as we seek the Lord. We are actually the ones who can look at the world and go, not just! Justice finally we see one. You’re equipped to do it. You see it through the lens of loving God, loving neighbor and the cross of Jesus. So, when that sense of it rises up in you, that’s because you’re uniquely equipped to deal with it.
Number 2, how do we do justice? We adopt the posture of a sojourner to love the foreigner. By foreigner, this is anyone who isn’t like us. So, when Moses is speaking to Israel in this passage we’ve looked at in Deuteronomy, he says that God loves the sojourner. Our simple statement, God loves those people. He then moves to a command and tells Israel, you should love the sojourner as well because you all used to be sojourners in Egypt. So, God gives them a command to love because he loved them. But then he also calls upon a memory to say, hey remember you guys were just like these people, so you can’t think of yourself as different. You love them because of your experience. So, for us, we can love the sojourner, the foreigner, the landed resident with no land because God does.
The second part is a little bit harder because we haven’t been sojourners in the land of Egypt. The closest I can figure out for me to be a sojourner is when I moved from the north to the south in the mid-80s. I was the Yankee the northerner I said yins guys instead of y’all, I hate hoagies instead of subs. And I was weird. But even then, that is such a wimpy example. I still had rights, power, my parents were citizens.
So, how can we mirror that idea of hey, we were like you. And I think what we do as followers of Jesus, is we borrow or we adopt the posture of a sojourner like the people in the book of Hebrews. So, there are these people in the book of Hebrews that God talks about who, when they left their homeland to follow after God, they did it because they were seeking an eternal city. God tells them, because if they had been thinking of their homeland back here wherever they were from, they could have stayed there. But as it is, the Scriptures say, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one, and because they desire a better country, a heavenly one, the text says God is not ashamed to be called their God. Why? He’s prepared for them a city. Guess what. You’re not American you’re a foreigner here. If you follow Jesus you’re as much a stranger and an alien as someone who moved into Jewish land back in Deuteronomy. This isn’t where we’re from. If you desire a better city, that is a heavenly one. Every time I long for heaven, whether that’s because of good or ill, that I have the posture of, oh that’s what people in Berea feel like. They want a home. That’s what hurting people feel like, the suffering, destitute, weak. They want that sense of home.
God walks in all his ways of justice and looks at them and goes, I love them. I want them to have justice. Christian folk, don’t pervert justice. Do it. Love them. We’re all foreigners. I think it would be really cool, it would be so awkward and odd, if we walked out of this series saying, “I’m a foreigner. I’m actually from a place that doesn’t quite exist yet in reality, but that’s where I’m headed.” It changes everything. You adopt this posture of a sojourner, and all of a sudden lights start going on. You see disenfranchised people and think, “I love them. I love God.”
Love God, love neighbor. See in the cross of Christ the justice of God walking in all of his ways. Walk in justice. We can change this town. We can’t solve every issue. But we can change within the sphere of power that we have what’s going on. And while we do it, do you know what we long for? The day when Jesus comes back, and we get to see and enter this picture that we see in revelation of all tribes, tongues, and nations, and peoples gathered together before the throne and the Lamb praising God together. Guess what. Ethnicity is in heaven. Amen?
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good, that you may do his will, and if I could insert you make do his will in the realm of justice and race on this earth. May God empower you to do that. May you go in peace this week, walking in all of his ways. Blessings on you. Amen.