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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Grace In The Midst of Justice

I keep hearing a term running throughout "Christian" circles. Sadly to say, the world has been doing it for us and they try to claim it as their own. That "word" is social justice. For some, it is to take the commandments of Christ and put them into practice in a real way, every single day. For others, it runs up to and knocks on the doors of socialism and communism. Some are so good at it, we assume they are Christians. That's an argument for another blog, but let me just say do the works of Jesus without claiming His Lordship over your life is simply a fallen person doing good works. Since we are saved by grace, none of the best works of man will ever gain us access to the Kingdom of God. Let's not get the cart before the horse.

We could do a study on this and take hours to figure out what is clearly evident, and that is that Jesus was neither a socialist, communist, or capitalist. He simply loved people with the same love that He saw in His Father.

One of the most powerful stories that I have ever read on social justice, or any justice for that matter, is a story that Brennan Manning wrote in his book "A Ragamuffin Gospel." Indulge me for a few lines as I share this story.

Mayor La Guardia, mayor of NYC during the time of the depression was a very flamboyant man who was known to wear a big sombrero and a carnation. He would often take kids in an orphanage out to ball games.
One night, he walked into the courthouse of one of the poorest districts in NYC and relieved the judge of his duties and took his place. One of his first cases was a woman who was caught stealing
bread from a local shop. When the Mayor asked the woman why she stole the bread, she simply explained that her daughter's husband had left and their children were hungry. Mayor La Guardia then asked the shopkeeper if he would drop the charges, to which the shopkeeper replied that he would not because the woman broke the law and if he let her go, others would feel that they had the right to do it. The Mayor turned to the woman and told her that he could not change the law and that her fine would be $10 or ten days in prison. As he said this, he took $10 out of his pocket to pay the fine. He then proceeded to hand his sombrero to the bailiff and told all those who were in the courtroom that he was fining each of them 50 cents for allowing a woman in New York to go hungry. The Mayor received a standing ovation and then he then handed the money to the woman.

The Law demands that we are all punished. Justice demands retribution. The shopkeeper was afraid that grace would run rampant. Now there's something for the church to ponder...grace running wild. God's justice ran wild when Jesus died on the cross. The full penalty was paid and He received the full justice for all of our sins. We can't demand justice any longer because justice is not ours to demand. We can only demand the full grace that God offers to us. Jesus said that He did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. The Law is fulfilled through Grace.

So, instead of social justice, let's proclaim grace to those around us. Do I get ticked off at people and things...more than you know. However, when I allow God's grace to become clear, I realize that I need to do what the King of Love has instructed me to those who hate you, love those who use you, love those who step on my justice and offer them the grace that was so freely given to me.

When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. Adam's sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. And what a difference between our sin and God's generous gift of forgiveness. For this one man, Adam, brought death to many through his sin. But this other man, Jesus Christ, brought forgiveness to many through God's bountiful gift.---Romans 5:12,15 NLT

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