April 29, Monday

The AMI QT Devotionals from April 29-May 5 are provided by Cami King.  Cami, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), was a staff at Symphony Church (Boston) and Journey Community Church (Raleigh) for nearly eight years. Currently, she is on home assignment, waiting on the Lord His next assignment for her.  

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“God is a god of…”

Exodus 23:1-9 (NIV)

“Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness. 2 “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, 3 and do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit. 4 “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. 5 If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it. 6 “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. 7 Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty. 8 “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the innocent. 9 “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.

If you were to list three words describing God or things most important to God, what words come to mind? Or, to put it another way, how would you finish this statement: “God is a god of _______”?

Love, mercy, grace, faithfulness, forgiveness, kindness, holiness, righteousness, and even judgment are words I hear often in response to this question (and understandably so). But one attribute of God that I take every opportunity to highlight is justice. “Indeed, God is a god of justice.” (Isaiah 30:18b) The laws given to God’s people (like those above), the words recorded in the prophets, and the witness of the life of Jesus all scream that justice is central to God’s character and a priority in God’s heart.

So what is justice? One theologian describes righteousness (which is often mentioned in the same breath as justice in the biblical text) as “conformity to God’s character.” It speaks to our likeness to God, our ethics and character formation. Justice, on the other hand, speaks to our dealings with other persons and flows from a heart of righteousness. Righteous is something we are (we are like God) and justice is something we do (we do as God does).

Oftentimes Christians describe our mission in the world this way: we’re called to love, share the Good News, and build God’s Kingdom. But what does that look like? What does love look like in a broken world? What does God’s Kingdom look like in the face of the world’s broken kingdoms? It looks a lot like justice.    

Recently, I spent a week with Christian artists and influencers brainstorming ways to use their public platforms to advance the cause of education equity. After learning about the problems facing the most vulnerable among us (children), we prayerfully considered how we can get to work making a better world (as it relates to education). The efforts of these artists and influencers are just one example of what it looks like for Christians to begin to do justice.

We are transformed into Christ’s likeness and empowered by God’s Spirit to do good. This requires a willingness to confront interpersonal injustices (when we wrong one another) as well as unjust systems (that are structured to disadvantage and dishonor certain parts of our community). And we do all this because it matters to God how we treat one another. It matters to God that we create societal systems and structures that are equitable and honoring to all those whom God has made… and dismantle any that are not.

If God is a god of justice and we are God’s children, what does it mean for us to “be about our Father’s business” (Luke 2:49) in our world today?  

Prayer: Gracious God, You have made it clear in the Scriptures that You are a God of justice. Open my eyes to areas of interpersonal and systemic brokenness and inequity in my life and community. Give me the courage and creativity to intentionally leverage my resources toward the ends of  justice. Your Kingdom come. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Corinthians 14


Lunch Break Study

Read Amos 5:21-24 (NIV): “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. 22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. 23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Micah 6:6-8 (NIV):  With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Question to Consider

  1. What do these two passages have in common?
  2. What is the content of each prophet’s rebuke of the people? What were they doing wrong and what was God asking them to do instead?
  3. If God sent a prophet to the church today, what might be the content of the prophet’s rebuke to us? Knowing that we serve the same God we find in the passages above, what might God have to say to us today? What would it look like for us to repent and respond favorably to this rebuke?

Notes

  1. In both passages, God’s prophet is delivering a rebuke or correction to the people of God. God wants them to understand what true worship looks like. And God is very upset (particularly in Amos) – so upset that God will not accept their empty religious rituals (their offerings) and later threatens to send them into exile as punishment.
  2. The people of God were settling for empty religious behavior (festivals and sacrifices) instead of wholistic lives to truly honor God. They were worshiping and praising God in their religious gatherings and making offerings according to the law, but God’s heart had not become their heart. More so than the outward rituals, God wanted them to allow righteousness to penetrate their hearts and justice to mark their dealings with one another. God’s people were supposed to build a community marked by righteousness and justice (as a society) and they failed to do so.
  3. Personal reflection

Evening Reflection

Phil. 2:5-11:  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

A dear friend of mine often says that a good place to begin the work of justice and reconciliation (I add reconciliation because injustice breeds fragmentation that doing justice begins to repair) is to take inventory of our privilege and look for ways to divest. By that she means: see what we have that others don’t have (advantages, resources, access, etc.), and find ways to not just share, but to empty ourselves for the sake of those around us.  Spend time reflecting on the passage above. What would it mean for you to “have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” in your present context? Who are the disenfranchised in your community? What would it look like to do justice with them in mind? What resources do you have that you can leverage toward that end?

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