The AMI QT devotionals from July 16-22 are provided by Cami King. Cami, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), is currently serving as a staff at Journey Community Church in Raleigh.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
“Guardians of Justice”
Jeremiah 22:1-5 (NET Bible)
The Lord told me, “Go down to the palace of the king of Judah. Give him a message from me there. 2 Say: ‘Listen, O king of Judah who follows in David’s succession. You, your officials, and your subjects who pass through the gates of this palace must listen to what the Lord says. 3 The Lord says, “Do what is just and right. Deliver those who have been robbed from those who oppress them. Do not exploit or mistreat foreigners who live in your land, children who have no fathers, or widows. Do not kill innocent people in this land. 4 If you are careful to obey these commands, then the kings who follow in David’s succession and ride in chariots or on horses will continue to come through the gates of this palace, as will their officials and their subjects. 5 But, if you do not obey these commands, I solemnly swear that this palace will become a pile of rubble. I, the Lord, affirm it!”
“The administration of justice was one of the main duties of kings all over the Near East. The king was the guardian of justice.” (Thompson)
Think about that for a moment—those in power are charged by God with the responsibility of guarding justice for all. We no longer have a monarchy with inherited leadership. We have the freedom (privilege and responsibility) to choose our leaders. And, if our hearts are aligned to the heart of God, justice toward the oppressed and vulnerable should be as high on our list of priorities for leaders as it is on God’s. Leadership comes in many forms, and whether it’s in our churches, companies, local or national governments, our leaders should be those whom we trust to faithfully serve as “Guardians of Justice.”
Furthermore, God offers a very specific list of people in need of special care as it relates to the administration of justice (v.3). This list is not arbitrary—it includes the most vulnerable and most likely to be exploited and denied justice.
(1) Those robbed by oppressors: This is not incidental stealing (e.g. someone steals your wallet), but systemic oppression where people (particularly laborers) are unfairly compensated and defrauded by those in power.
(2) Foreigners: Throughout the Scriptures God takes very seriously the way in which a nation cares for those who’ve come to them from other lands, peoples, and cultures.
(3) Those without protection and provision: In Jeremiah’s society, where men served as providers and protectors of the family (i.e. those with power), children without fathers and women without husbands were extremely vulnerable and therefore demanded special care.
With this specific list in mind, let’s revisit a question we considered yesterday. Who are the vulnerable in our world today (those who fit into the categories God gives us in the verses above)? And are we a people who take seriously the cause of justice for exploited laborers, immigrants, orphans, and vulnerable women and children? What would it look like to hold our leaders in various arenas accountable for their role as “Guardians of Justice”?
Prayer: Almighty God, open my eyes to see those in need of justice in my community and the society in which I live. Help me to not only personally exercise the justice You require, but to also wield my agency to demand that those in leadership to do the same. May Your Church be “guardians of justice” in the world. Forgive us for the ways we’ve fallen short. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Daniel 12
Lunch Break Study
Read Romans 13:1-10 (NRSV): Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; 4 for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. 6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. 8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
Questions to Consider
- What are Paul’s instructions regarding the believer’s posture toward governing authorities? What do you think about what he says? How do these instructions affect how you understand the weight of responsibility we have in selecting or electing leadership in various arenas?
- How do Paul’s words guide us when we are dealing with corrupt governing authorities (e.g. those who are “a terror to good conduct” or who refuse to approve what is good – v.3)? With the overall witness of Scripture (and God’s call for justice that we’ve discussed this week) in mind, what do you think should be your response/posture in those cases?
- How does Paul end these instructions? Why is this important? Spend some time reflecting on vv.8-10—how would you summarize these instructions in your own words?
- Paul suggests that believers should be subject to the laws of the land (and by extension those who govern/make the laws). He believes that God “institutes” authorities (via passive allowing or active willing, Paul does not specify). I do find that Scripture suggest that God affirms culture and societies (the space and place where peoples come together to do life and build community in the fullness of their unique histories and gifts)—included in which are the languages, cultural milieu, and, of course, government structures—because God affirms the integrity and agency of humans created in the image of God. // This is a sobering reality when we think about our responsibility in electing governing officials. Societies have a real and profound impact on the people within them (and around them), and we are to take that impact very seriously.
- Consider one commentator’s reflections on this question. These reflections are, of course, not exhaustive (and admittedly moderate).
- “The problem, of course, is that rulers are sometimes, perhaps often, a cause of fear for those who do right. Government authorities sometimes abuse their powers for selfish ends. If they do not but serve the welfare of the people as they should, we have no fear of them and can submit to them fairly easily. What if they are evil?
- “The first way some people have interpreted this verse is to assume that Paul was speaking only of the norm. The normal situation would be a good government that punishes evil and rewards good. Obviously rebellion and revolution would be wrong in such a situation. However those actions might not be wrong if the state ceased to serve its God-given function and began denying the rights and removing the liberties of its citizens. Moderate advocates of this interpretation usually do not suggest that the church as an institution should lead a revolution. Most of them would say, however, that Christians as individuals could justifiably participate in a revolution against such a government. Christians should speak out against such abuses at least. We must be careful not to confuse submission with silence. Silence can express approval.
- “The second way of interpreting this verse is to take Paul’s words at face value and trust in the fact expressed in 8:28. The Christian who takes this view would not participate in a revolution though he might speak out against a government’s evils. He should prepare himself to accept the consequences of his actions. Such was the position of some pastors in Nazi Germany during World War II, for example, who went to prison not for revolting against the government but for speaking out against it. Another alternative might be to flee from the persecution of a hostile government (cf. Matt. 10:23). This is what the Huguenots, who fled from France to England, and the Puritans, who fled from England to America, did.” (Constable)
- Jesus summed up the law in two moves: love God and love your neighbor. In the commentary on social/horizontal interactions (our relationships with one another as opposed to our relationship with God) in Romans 13, Paul summarizes the law very similarly—“love your neighbor as yourself.” In other words, every commandment given from God finds its origin and telos, it’s purpose and meaning, in God’s intent that we love our neighbor as ourselves. This is important because any interpretation or application of God’s commands that do not align with this central mandate (to love our neighbor) cannot be what God intended. Please see Luke 10:29-37 for help with understanding the term “neighbor” in the New Testament.
Twentieth century German pastor, Lutheran theologian, and anti-Nazi dissident Dietrich Bonhoeffer said:
“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”
Consider Bonhoeffer’s statement above. What do you think about his assertion? How do you think it aligns with the heart of God? How might God empower you to “drive a spoke into the wheel [of injustice]”? Spend some time considering these things with the Lord this evening.