For today’s devotion, I simply invite you to wonder with me, for I realize that this is about all that I can do. With uncertainty, I prayerfully enter into discussing a subject that incites both anxiety and fervid sentiment in our current social climate. This topic is social justice, and I must admit that in facing the influence of a myriad of positions, it is usually easiest to succumb to feelings of reluctance and to avoid the conversation altogether. Even so, with fear and trembling, I remember the One under whom I stand. I know that God never calls us to action without first making us capable, so perhaps my motivation to write is to be found in trustful response to the free gift of an incorruptible relationship with the Creator of all. So, having made a case for my own limitations, I now present a statement that the Holy Spirit compels me to consider: God’s call to social justice is the call to human relationship, grounded in part to maintaining a reverent stance to the inherent dignity of each and every human being. This is a stance of response to and recognition of God’s creative design, and is therefore unyielding to the comparably menial human powers of justification. Even still, we forget. First and foremost, we forget where we came from and that it is only by God relating us to him, that we are who we are.
I hope you will not receive it in poor taste that I am transparent in revealing the deepest and most painful questions that I have come to ask myself, as my truest intention is to maintain the integrity of this invitation to readers. Allow me, if you will, to reach deep within my own mind to ask, “How can a sinner saved by grace, a once hopeless sojourner wandering aimlessly and alone, decide that she now possesses the authority and the discernment to determine the deservedness of another?” In and of themselves, works become rather meaningless and often require that we enter into binding and damaging cycles of analyses and rationale. We believe that we must know if a person is deserving of our considerations and, thus, acceptable within our communities. But God’s command speaks to a different position, and this is one of remembering our own plight. “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21, ESV]. Perhaps God is warning us, we who so often claim the privileged security that we experience in community to be our right, to return to gratitude for that which is actually freely given to us. I wonder how much time we spend in praying for the lonely and vulnerable stranger when, in fact, the blessing that God longs to impart to him or her is contained in the very abundance of our own lives. The time that I refuse to respond is the moment in which I decide that I have the right to hoard blessings.
Please do not mistake what I express as a claim that some of us “have more.” Rather, what I am suggesting is that none of us actually “have” anything. We are created to receive and to share rather than to possess and accumulate. “If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep?” (Exodus 22:26-27, ESV]. The cloak is to be exchanged in such a way as to fulfill the need, wherever the need is present—perhaps the exchange, and the manner of such an exchange, is indeed the purpose for this partnership. In this agreement, both persons meet twice per day, to physically manifest the mutual commitment that is necessary to sustain the relationship between them. The cloak, rather than becoming an item to possess and to signify the power of one human being over another, is a substance for connection. This is in fact a partnership, and though the needs for assistance and assurance are present, such needs are not manipulated to cause one person to be enslaved to the other. In reverence to the inherent dignity of every human being, a child of God lives in knowing that resources are shared with and between human beings by the Creator, and hence should be shared freely and justly. And this is God’s calling to us, this relational God who has gone so far as to take on the form of humanity himself: to be a people who values the humanity whom he loves so dearly.