Thursday, December 10, 2015

Advent Week Two: Justice

The second idea of Advent this year is that of justice.  Justice is a word thrown around all too easily and cheaply these days.  People use the word justice when they mean either retribution or revenge.  Justice is not always what we would prefer, but it is a powerful idea.

The prophet Amos speaks of justice "rolling down like waters" (Amos 5:24).  He is speaking to a divided country.  Israel is no longer a united kingdom, but has divided into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judea.  Both kingdoms, of course, believe themselves to be the 'correct' kingdom.

Amos was sent as a messenger to Israel,  His task was to point out to the people that the day of the Lord would indeed arrive, but it would not be a pleasant event.  The reason for its unpleasantness was that Israel had forgotten its relationship with God.  They believed that God was on their side and had stopped worrying about their own relationship with God.

As Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have responded when asked which side God was on in the Civil War, "The question is, 'are we on the side of God?'"

The people of Israel had merely been going through the motions of worship.  According to the prophet, the rituals of worship were empty.  As such, the day of the Lord would be a triumph for God but not so much for the people.

This comes from a flawed idea of justice.  In this day and age we want to see our enemies dealt with severely.  We may even hope that God will judge them particularly harshly.  In our own minds we judge and condemn people but feel a strange sense of security in thinking that the same judgement and justice will not have to apply to ourselves.  Amos states that this understanding just isn't the case.  God speaks through Amos telling the people to remove their noisy songs and preconceived ideas.  Justice will roll down like waters, but it will cover everything and everyone.

Thus, God's perfect justice means that judgment is not just against our enemies, but of our own hearts as well.  Therefore in our hearts we should seek justice.  We have to look at that justice, though, as being just.

Perhaps as we light the candle, we may want to consider approaching the idea of justice with far more humility.

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