Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 5: 1

 

Justice has become a hot topic in recent days. People’s understanding of it has been demonstrated to be a political issue as well. It would seem that how we view who and what is just is based upon the platform from which we view most of life. Some are standing on the right, some on the left, and others occupy space somewhere in between. All of this debate tends to take something that our society has worked very hard to make completely objective and casts it as almost totally subject to our personal and situational interpretation. This is not how our law codes and system of justice were designed to work, and this is no where near to the way that God engages with us and with our world.

 

First off, what does it mean to be just? A dictionary definition is; “Guided by truth, reason, justice, and fairness.” So, when we are justified we are shown to possess the characteristics of a person who is just. In my experience, this is not who the vast majority of us, myself included, are in fact and in function. It is very hard for people to view our world and the others in it with the sort of unbiased and open-handed acceptance and grace that is at the heart of God’s concept of justice. We always bring our personal fears, concerns, biases, and prejudices to the conversation. Yet, this very human approach to engagement with the world around us puts us at odds with much of it, it makes reconciliation all but impossible, and we are placed in a state of tension and disagreement with God, Himself.

 

Christ came into this world to break through this and all other barriers that sin has built up between people and God. It is in Christ and through the work of His Spirit in us that we have hope of moving from this state of opposition and tension with God and into the peace that is the nature of God’s Kingdom. Christ takes us from a place of guilt and condemnation, and He stands before the judgment seat of God to cover our sin with His own righteousness. This is not only an event that takes place in eternity; rather, it is an action in which Christ brings eternity and its reconciliation into our world and applies the mercy and grace of God’s justice to us. God intends for justification to be transformative. We should be changed and freed from our natural prejudices and fears by it. As we view our world through Christ’s eyes, we need to become people who apply God’s truth to all of life and who reach out in love to make the grace of justice real for others.

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

1 Peter 2: 9

 

Taking pride in the nation of our origin or in the one where we live is something that most people are taught from an early age. We become citizens, and that single word conveys a very wide range of benefits, responsibilities, and affiliations. Sometimes this idea of nation takes on the sort of zeal and boosterism that would normally be reserved for sports teams. We cheer it on, its faults and shortcomings are impossible to see, we support it regardless of its actions, and we are ready to sacrifice all for its causes. Yet, when the nation is being described as holy, it seems that Peter can not be describing anything that is even remotely similar to the sorts of geopolitical entities that we call nation in our world today.

 

There are no holy nations; not one. Each and every one of them exists to serve its own purposes and to promote its own causes. All of the nations, countries, and states that exist on earth owe and pay their highest allegiance to their foundational documents and to the ruling officials that those documents set over their governance. In no case are God and His Word placed in that position of true primary and ultimate authority. So, Peter must have something in mind other than the nations of his time or the ones that have followed in history when he refers to the men and women who follow Christ as a great nation. I believe that he is saying that God has called all people who know Him to a form of allegiance that is higher and greater than our earthly citizenship or physical residency. In fact, God has called us to live in the light of His truth, love, and mercy so that the lands where we reside will be illuminated by the light of God’s glory.

 

Our primary loyalty must be to God and to His Christ. The document that frames our rule of life needs to be God’s Word. When that holy document sets out a course of travel through life and the Holy Spirit directs us to follow, we have no righteous choice but to do so. When that course is contrary to the dictates and the mandates of the rulers of our land or to the laws that they enact; we are compelled to speak out, to stand up and be known, and to work to change the unrighteous path that our nation has elected to follow. If change does not follow, we must seek to change the people who are in power and we must work diligently to remove or to modify the unrighteous laws. There is great strength to be found in the multitude of those who God knows as His chosen people. However, we need to recognize our common bond that is found in our blood of Christ kinship. As we stop defending national borders and stand firm in our true nationhood under God, the light of His righteousness will illuminate darkened corners of our world.

For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach His statutes and rules in Israel.

Ezra 7: 10

 

Ezra was a priest and a prophet who was called by God to serve Him among a people who were living in confused and trying times. Their identity as God’s people had been seriously diluted during the seventy or so years when many of them had been held captive in Babylon. Government had become a worldly process in which God’s Law was given little to no prominence. People were living as they thought best. They were adrift in the moral and the ethical sea of human wisdom and false survival mode convenience. This was an age that clearly fit the description of the times in the middle. That is these days between humanity’s rebellion against God and God’s final restoration of His Creation to its sinless state of being.

 

The first thing that Ezra set his mind on doing in response to the lack of righteousness that he encountered in his world was very personal. He determined that if he was to respond to God’s calling upon him to speak and to teach the truth about God and His Law then Ezra must truly know the Lord.  In order to do this Ezra set out to give his undivided attention to God’s Law, that is, to His Word. He became a dedicated student of its every detail and nuance. He also spent time in listening to God’s voice as He revealed His character and nature and His heart’s intent to Ezra’s open and yielded heart and mind. It was only after he had thoroughly read God’s Word, meditated on it, and contemplated the truths that were revealed by God in this process of study that he set out to teach these truths to the people.

 

Even before Ezra uttered one word of instruction he knew that his credibility as God’s prophet depended upon his own lived out righteousness. For a person who is all lofty words and pronouncements of moral necessity but whose own conduct of life is self-determined and contrary to God’s expressed will lacks credibility and is, in fact, a tool of Satan. Then, with his own life carefully examined and his sinfulness exposed and yielded to the Lord, Ezra was prepared to proclaim God’s Law to others. It is my suspicion that this process of study, contemplation, confession, and taking action upon God’s revealed will was an on-going, probably daily, component of Ezra’s life. He sets out a very sound approach for each of us to take in responding to Christ’s calling. A regular discipline of study, prayer, meditation, confession, and response to God’s calling is transformative in the life of Christ’s followers, and it provides a sound basis for us in living and speaking God’s truth into these middle times where we live.