Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Justice or Gospel

In listening to those around me who oppose same - sex blessings, I have notice how they seem to close down when you mention justice or human rights. It's as if these concepts have no place in the dialogue. It is as if gospel is separate from the issue of human rights and justice.

Now it may be because I was brought up by parents who have a keen sense of social justice but I cannot see, for the life of me, how you can separate the idea of justice from the Scriptures.

I will admit that my understanding of the Bible is strongly influenced by the prophets. And thus, my reading of the gospel is also influenced by the prophets. Add to that my upbringing with social justice issues and you can see why I don't see the separation of either. I'm really not sure why the church has so many either/or scenarios rather than both/and so much more.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour. (Luke 4:18-19).
My understanding of the gospel is very much based on the reading for Epiphany C (which I have to preach on this Sunday - thanks C.)

I have always read this passage in the light of Jesus ministry with those excluded by the purity system in place at the time of his earthly ministry. I have read books which speak to the oppression and exclusion of people due to the unrealistic and unfair requirements placed on them by a system that wished to set itself apart. I have read about the exclusion of people based on things that they could not change or control. And I have read the gospels in the light of Jesus freeing human kind from such requirements and giving us the example of a personal and loving relationship with our Creator. And still we wish to exclude - homosexuals from being able to experience loving relationships and women from participating fully in the life of the church.

But then, I have never believed that being a Christian is just about belief. I take to heart seriously the words of James that faith without works is dead. How can we help people understand how deep the love of God is if we show them exclusion rather than lovingly guide them into a better life, not through fear of God but in response to the love of God.

"He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)

And there we have it. Justice is not separate from our faith or our service to God. Jesus did not preach injustice nor does the Bible condone it. If we are hesitant to deal with an issue of justice because it appears to contradict our interpretation of the scriptures, maybe we had best look at those scriptures again - this time through the eyes of Jesus rather than through the eyes of humankind.

To deny people access to something whether it be a relationship blessed in community or women in ordained ministry is to go against the Word of the Lord for it is imposing on them the purity system that Jesus saw as unjust and that he worked to abolish. To claim that those who support the blessing of same sex unions and/or the ordination of women as people who do not follow the Bible is to do a serious injustice. Jesus asked that we look at those words a life giving manner not in a life denying manner and each time we deny an expression of love or the call to serve God based on an interpretation of the scriptures we are using the text in a manner contrary to that of Jesus.

1 comment:

shawn said...

I remember the first time I heard the phrase "human rights agenda". It was at a meeting of clergy in our diocese, and I knew then and there that we were in trouble. Of course, I was familiar with the phrases "liberal agenda", "women's agenda" and "gay agenda" as expressions of conservative paranoia, but when I heard "human rights agenda", my blood ran cold. I too have always assumed that everyone in the mainline churches believed that human rights are INTRINSICALLY related to the proclamation and prophetic embodiment of the gospel, even if our practice has not yet caught up with our convictions. So to hear church leaders begin to distance themselves from human rights was really disturbing to me.
Frankly, I think that human rights discourse is the secular translation and legitimate inheritor of our whole biblical/prophetic corpus. While I wouldn't claim that human rights constitutes the whole of the gospel, it is certainly an integral part.
Thanks, Ann Marie, for pointing this out again.
Shawn +