By Vernon Martin, Worship leader and Life Group leader, Jubilee Church Wirral
No justice; no peace.
At work there are a few events planned as part of this month’s initiative to celebrate or commemorate LGBT history and create a greater awareness of what it means to identify as an LGBTQI+ individual.
With the current lockdown it’s obviously been impossible for people to meet so work has inundated the email inboxes with online seminars, workshops and meetings to support this drive.
And whether it is equal rights for any disenfranchised group in society or any other form of injustice, the ‘fight for equality’ is not new – sexual discrimination, racial discrimination, religious freedom, class discrimination, cultural intolerance – ANY discrimination on ANY basis – we can all think of numerous examples throughout history; spanning from last week or last year to thousands of years back.
Last year during the BLM protests, people took to the streets with: ‘No Justice, No peace, No Racist police’. The first part of that slogan is in fact an anthem for any injustice we may come across.
Whatever has shaped our morality. Whatever we think social justice looks like. Whatever has formed our cultural identity and the worldview we have. When we see an injustice; peace is the first thing that escapes us. No justice; No peace.
Where does Jesus fit in?
I remember one incident as an adolescent in high school, growing up in apartheid South Africa.
I was becoming more aware of the fight for freedom from the oppressive regime in the country and I remember trying to understand what that all meant for me.
I recall one debate on religion and politics and being told that ‘Jesus was the biggest socialist who ever lived’.
I was clueless what all these political labels meant, but in hindsight, the important thing about that statement is that the person who said it got Jesus SO WRONG! He tried to put Jesus in neat little socialist box. Jesus wasn’t a mere socialist, promoting love and tolerance. He wasn’t only a teacher that signalled the way to achieve social justice or equality! He was SO MUCH MORE THAN ALL THAT!
Jesus walked this earth for one reason alone – to deal with the single leveller of ALL man. When John the Baptist saw Jesus for the first time, he said "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).
And in speaking about Justice and Peace – Paul writes to the Ephesian church in Ephesians 2:14 and he says:
“14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…..”
It is Christ himself who is our peace.
But more than that; it is Christ who also has made peace not just between God and us; but between us and our fellow man.
This passage teaches us that we can’t fix our relationships with our fellow man and have peace with our neighbour without addressing our need to get right with God first!
Jesus was asked: "Which is the greatest commandment in the law?" (Matthew 22:36-40). He proceeded to answer the pharisee who was trying to trick him with the question; saying that the greatest commandments are (in order of importance):
- Love the Lord your God with all our heart, soul and mind…. And
- Love your neighbour as yourself.
I will attempt to paraphrase and emphasise in a few different ways…..
- Our reconciliation cannot start with our fellow man - we can’t love our neighbour as ourselves UNLESS we have learnt how to love God first.
- There’s a reason Jesus said that loving God with all we have is the greatest commandment - only once we’ve done that, are we able to do what is supposed to follow.
- We cannot do number 2 until we’ve learned how to do number 1.
So…to get back to where I started. I’m trying to say that to have justice and equality in this world we first need to deal with our own status before God - we need to see our own sinfulness for what it is.
We need salvation. That is the leveller of us all before God – our sin.
The good news is that Jesus came to sort both of those things out – restore our relationship with God and on that basis, restore our relationship with those around us.
And whether it is the peace needed for problems like the ones we see in the news on an ongoing basis….or whether it is the kind of discontent or restlessness we feel in our heart and mind; in our conscience and conduct…. Both kinds of peace come from God. Both are found in Jesus.
We can be encouraged today! Whatever you’re facing during this time, lockdown-related or otherwise, any anxiety or worry you may have, whether it is due to illness, something you are struggling with mentally or more practically, something you are having difficulty with understanding or coming to terms with, KNOW this – He Himself is our Peace.
Hold fast to that. Whatever you are facing, be encouraged by that and keep going back to the truth of His salvation.
We’re made right with God himself and that truth forms the basis for every other peace and assurance that is available for us in life!
Image By Lorie Shaull from Washington, United States
Vernon Martin, worship leader and Life Group leader, Jubilee Church Wirral