Sunday, July 19, 2009


Before I came to the Philippines, the FH staff recommended listening to a sermon by Dr. Tim Keller called, “Doing Justice.” I loved it the first time I listened to it but was also packing at the same time and was a tad distracted, so I listened again today and it was just as awesome. I want to share with you my reflections and some notes I took from it.

Keller asks and answers 4 questions:
1. What is justice?
2. What is doing justice?
3. Who is supposed to do justice?
4. How can we be people who are doing justice?

He begins by saying the word justice in the Old Testament is highly related to the Hebrew word, shalom. Now this shalom is translated into peace, but the Hebrew word is far more dense than the English word of peace.

Shalom= “the webbing together of God, humans and all creation, in equity, fulfillment and light”
• Beyond peace of mind or cease-fire; universal flourishing, wholeness, delight, natural needs satisfied under the arch of God
o The way things ought to be
o God’s design, the world is intricately woven together, a fabric (not a hodge-podge)
• Physical, psychological, emotional, etc. types of shalom.
o Ex: Socially, when those who have money, power, status and they invest in the community for everyone to share, that is social shalom; no one is going hungry, everyone has opportunities for good schooling, the neighborhood is safe, etc.

So, to answer Question #1: Justice is re-weaving shalom. Such a cool concept that I’d never thought of before. Also such a great word, shalom. Proverbs 29:7: “The righteous care about justice/shalom for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.”

Now, to follow similarly, Question #2’s answer: Doing justice is repairing the fabric where it’s breaking apart. Here it’s all about community, where the fabric is breaking apart in the community and world. Doing justice is not individualistic. Proverbs 3:27: “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” Who deserves good? Everyone.

Keller brought up such a good point:
• The western idea of justice is removing individuals from their networks so that they have the rights to do whatever they want to do.
o Forget about family commitments, forget about the tribe, etc., you have the right to do what you want
o I worked for my money/what I have, so it’s my right… Let them (the poor/others in general) work for it too
• Biblical understanding is the opposite; we owe one another what we have, we need to spread it around
• Ex: Kids in the inner city who are stuck in difficult neighborhoods with poor schooling, and as a result have few skills and bleak futures. Why are they there?
• Liberals say: systemic racism; not enough money in the schools, structural evil
• Conservatives say: family values were inadequate; families aren’t investing in them
• Both agree it’s not the kid’s fault; they didn’t ask to be born into this situation
• You work hard with what you get, but everyone has the right to the opportunity of “success” (a paying job, food on the table, roof over the head, an education, etc.). Some are born into worse situations than others.
• Thus, failure to be involved in the poor is not just a lack of compassion, it’s a lack of justice!

In Filipino culture, children do grow up with a deep respect for their parents and a profound feeling of being indebted as well. Family is highly important, much more so than the individual. In this way, the Filipino idea of the older siblings sacrificing and working to take care of the younger ones (both financially and physically), is Biblically doing justice. I, on the other hand, do not have the same feeling of indebtedness, and did not have to drop out of school to get a job to support Corrie through her schooling, and this probably would not be condoned by my family or friends (although I would for my baby sis). When Mom and Dad grow old and need some help living day by day, our culture is more apt to put our elderly loved ones into nursing homes than invite them into our own homes (not that this is a negative thing). Nursing homes are absolutely unheard of here, because no question about it, you will take in your needy parents and grandparents, no matter how much of an inconvenience it is for you. That is also doing justice. In that way, as a result of western influence in my thought process, I am more prone to think that I have the right to do what I want to do in spite of what is best for my family or community. I literally thought as a teenager that going to college would be great because I could forget about my familial responsibilities (sorry fam, this was when I was very angst-y and clueless!). I’m sure Filipinos get tired of their family responsibilities, I’m sure not all practice this servant hood, but culturally, they are much closer to the Bible than Americans in this way.

Now, Question #3: who is supposed to do justice? Quite obviously, everyone. Keller talks a lot about Bible verses that tell of righteous people serving the poor (such as the 1st quoted one, Proverbs 29:7). What is righteous? Righteous= those are willing to disadvantage themselves for the advantage of the community. [Am I righteous?]

And Question #4: we can be people that do justice by being righteous with the help and power of God behind us.
• Guilt will not motivate you; it takes too much energy, too much ingenuity, too much creativity, too much work
• God identifies with the poor
• God says: The way you treat the poor and the way you treat me, are linked (Matthew 25)
• If you have a bad relationship with God, you have a bad relationship with the poor; if you aren’t treating the poor as you ought to it’s because you are not treating God the way you ought to whether we know it or not
• Only if you look at Jesus will you know how much God identifies with the poor (Jesus was a victim of injustice, he was poor. Jesus was a victim of human injustice)
• When we look at the poor, we are looking in a mirror; we are poor in spirit, saved by grace.
• The poor are socially and economically what we were (at least) morally and spiritually

I loved this message and am motivated by his ideas! What do you think?

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