Wash yourselves; and make yourselves clean;

remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;

cease to do evil,

learn to do good;

seek justice,

correct oppression;

bring justice to the fatherless,

plead the widow’s cause.

Isaiah 1: 16, 17

 

Most of us can say with all honesty that we did not cause the problems and troubles that are running loose over the face of our world. The roots of these troubles go far down into history, and they usually have very complicated beginnings so that solutions to them seem to be beyond comprehension and to defy accomplishment. Yet, that is not a sufficient reason for us to throw up our hands in surrender to the situation as it is and to attempt to ignore what is happening in the daily lives of millions of people. You and I may not be able to stop a civil war or turn back the hatred driven forces of genocide as they seek to obliterate every trace of an entire group of humans from the face of the earth. What we can do is love those who escape from this sort of evil. We can accept them, set aside our fears for the good of humanity, enter into their life stories, and give them a sense of their worth in the world where we live. We can grant then the honor and the dignity of having the thing that God grants to anyone who comes to Him, and that is a dwelling place in the presence of the Great King.

 

I mention Syrians and Rohingyans specifically, but All of this applies to people from numerous other locations and situations in their home lands. There is violence of the armed sort in many places in our world, there are many others who face dire economic and societal troubles and challenges that make it impossible to live in those counties, and religious and cultural prejudices make some locals untenable for those who are in the weaker positions. The politics of our world are overrun by the ways that we do harm to some of the people in our midst. So, what can we do about all of this? We can seek for our governments to be active voices for change in places where justice does not prevail. We can speak out to let our legislators know that God’s will is for us as a nation to set human rights and care for people as higher priorities than economic gain or military power. We can also support efforts that are undertaken by nongovernmental organizations to provide care, comfort, and safety to people who are being oppressed around the world.

 

The first step in this redemptive process is to stop doing harm. This is best accomplished with a repentant heart, for whatever is angry, fearful, proud, and defensive in us when it comes to the way that we view other people is coming from a source other than God’s word of truth, and these attitudes are almost always sinful at their core. A repentant heart is one that can turn these thoughts, words, and actions over to the Lord and yield them to Him so that His Spirit can begin to do His transformative and redemptive miracles of change within us. From this point, we can learn to do what is good by listening to the Lord and seeking His heart in His Word and by seeking out people of faith who are engaged in acts of mercy, in peacemaking efforts, and with serving the needs of people who have come to us as refugees and as immigrants. There is much to be done, and there are many people who need to know the love of Christ as given to them in the acts, the words, and the companionship of people who serve Christ. When we allow the weak, the broken, or the foreigner a place at our table of grace, we are truly joining together with Christ in His great love feast of grace, mercy, and hope. Then we are dining in the Hall of Redemption with Christ blessing us all from His place at the head of the table.

And I said, “Woe is me! For I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seem the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips, your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

Isaiah 6: 5-7

 

It is not hard for Christians to find sin in our world. It is all around us. Unrighteous thoughts and actions fill out news and impact our lives on a continual basis. Inside of our halls of faith gathering we talk with our friends and acquaintances about the sad and disturbing direction that our world, our government, and our culture are headed. The trajectory of society seems to be pointed straight toward hell, or so we would say. This is exactly what Isaiah encountered as well. Perhaps we should listen to what he tells us God said and did to him.

 

As the prophet became increasingly aware of the evil that was filling his world, God turned his focus inward. There Isaiah saw something that was even more disturbing than what was going on in his land. For inside his own heart Isaiah encountered anger, lust, greed, stubborn pride, and all of the rest of creation’s fallen condition. These were the very things that were bringing him to tears for his nation and were raising up his anger at the injustice in his world. Yet, now he was seeing it all dwelling in himself, and now, in his Spirit led introspection, Isaiah saw just how far removed he was from the holiness and the righteousness of God. This was a sobering and a humbling truth to face for him, and it should be the same for us.

 

As we look at our world and seek to enter into its chaotic lostness for the sake of Christ and His gospel, we need to start our quest on our knees in repentance for our own sinful thoughts and deeds. I am not pure, and no one else is, either. We are sinners who rely on the same grace that granted acceptance to Isaiah. Like him we need the atonement for those sins that comes from God through Jesus Christ. Yet this is God’s gift to all who will turn to Him. We are cleansed, our lips and our hearts are seared clean by the work of Christ on the cross and we are called to draw near to that altar of grace so that the holy fragrance of God will surround us as we follow Christ into serving Him in our world.

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he has already seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Romans 8: 24, 25

 

This may seem ridiculous or even crazy in our world, but there is a lot to hope for today. Now, think about that for a moment. If Paul is right in his perspective on God’s view of what hope is all about, then the more challenging or troubling the situation or circumstance, the more we have to hope for in the midst of it. Hope is based upon trust and faith. That is, it is founded upon our trust in God and anticipated through our faith in His character and commitment to creation and to His people. God has promised to set all of creation right at the end of days, and Christ came to set each of us right with God in these days of our earthly lives. In addition, God grants each of His people, those who know Christ, the authority and the capacity to do restorative work in our world during this life.

 

There is much to hope for in all of that. The hope that arises out of knowing Christ is sufficient to make each new dawn a bright and glorious one in anticipation of that day’s journey and of the events that will come along the way. The hope that Christ provides to the heart is of a nature that it transcends all that is known about the hours to come. It can overtake and subdue any fears and troubles that lie out there in the near or in the distant future. This hope that comes from Christ is made fresh each day in us by engaging with Him in God’s Word and in prayer and by the presence of Christ’s Spirit within us. Hope is a tangible outworking of the new person that Christ has created out of the one that we were from birth.

 

Now, in Christ, we can travel the road that life has given to us with renewed vision and invigorated steps. We can leave behind the old songs of slavery and the thinking of the lost and stride out with a hymn of salvation on our lips and a mind that is filled with love, grace, and the righteous truth of the Gospel of Christ. Christ has given to each of us the hours of this day. We can fill them with His presence regardless of what they may hold. The hope that followers of Christ can bring to the world that we encounter is a testimony to our Lord, and it can be the strength that we require to walk the steps that Christ has given to us for this day.