"It's not fair. It is just not fair." These were words suggested to me as the first sentences we speak. At the heart of our angst, are our individual creation and deep-seated belief in what is justice. Rarely are they consistent with our Biblical heritage.
As God revealed to the Prophet Amos: "Let justice roll down like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (5:24), a powerful statement of community unity and equality. Rivers and streams were created for all living organisms and are critical to survival as is justice.
As human beings struggled with justice, God revealed to the prophet Jeremiah that God felt the need to create another covenant with the people: "I will put my law in their hearts, and I will be their God and they will be my people" (31:33).
The South African word used to describe that covenant with God and our neighbors and justice is "ubuntu." Translated into English it means, "I am in you and you are in me. We are all one."
I am reminded of Harold Kushner's comments to his critics that thought he had made a mistake by naming his book, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People." They wanted the title to be "Why Bad Things Happen to Good People." He replied that he didn't know "Why," but he did know that when bad things happen, it is a call for action, compassion, healing -- justice. Justice can be hard work and can take time, but it is holy work. Justice is how we, working together, can restore an imbalance that has occurred in the community.
There are many examples of justice you have experienced. An example from my experience was a plea for help from the Roman Catholic Bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas, to Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The homeless population had exploded and, after being with Mother Teresa, he knew her sense of justice could restore critical healing and a new balance for the city.
A month later, six nuns came to Corpus Christi and, with the help of the bishop, set about refurbishing a decaying building in the heart of the city where the homeless gathered. Other denominations were invited to participate. St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church, my congregation, immediately accepted their invitation.
The first step was to restore the dignity of our homeless neighbors by offering them a free shower or bath. They were asked by one of the sisters if it would be ok to repair their clothes and then wash and dry them. They were handed a clean towel and a robe to wear until their clothes were dry. There was a waiting area where there was free coffee, doughnuts and other snacks. The local newspaper made daily deliveries. Everything was free.
The ministry grew and the unemployment and the homeless rates dropped. A new peace descended on the city. Justice was and still is being lived according to Psalm 51:10: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."
Ken Parks is the former rector of St. Theodore's Episcopal Church in Bella Vista. He can be reached by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.Religion on 02/12/2020
Print Headline: Dignity