Pastor Mark’s Blog

 
EQUITY, JUSTICE, RIGHT, WRONG
    I have been wondering if we know what these words mean today. Do we think them
important anymore? Just in case, here is a refresher. Equity refers to fairness and conformity to
rules and standards. In the Hebrew Scriptures it is about rightness and fair treatment of others
according to God’s standards and rules. Justice is about the determination of what is legally and
ethically right and proper. The Hebrew equates this word with righteousness, or right in the eyes
of God. What does God think versus what we think or what we can get away with. Psalm 99:4
tells us that God establishes equity, justice and righteousness (doing right) in the people He loves
because these values are the very foundation of His throne. Simply, those who call themselves
the people of God should reflect the very glory of God in their everyday behavior and treatment
of others. Are we being fair in our treatment of others? Are we conforming our lives to the rules
and standards of God’s righteousness and His teachings, or are we content to do as we please as
long as it is “legal” by man’s standards and just “the way the game is played?”
    Let me illustrate. If a person robs your home and takes all you have, and then is caught
by the law, do we want justice, or are we content to say, “That’s okay. Let’s just move on. They
were making a living the only way they could.” If someone lies, cheats or manipulates in a real
estate transaction, or takes advantage of another, is that just good business and “buyer beware?”
It is just the way the game is played. If someone or business overcharges beyond fair market
prices and proper profit, is it just being a savvy business and good capitalist?
    Somewhere along the way our sense of what is right and wrong, fair and just, has lost its
way. Maybe it is because our “winner take all” and “survival of the fittest” practices and
treatment of others is no longer grounded in God’s standards and rules. In fact, these new
“virtues” have obscured our Scriptural understanding of God’s righteousness – right and
equitable treatment, just and holy standards. God is clear. He is a holy God and His judgment is
based on justice, equity, right and wrong. You won’t be able to say, “I was just exercising good
business practices!” Nor can you argue that you were victimized by the capitalist system that
pushed you to succeed above the rest at any price. God will check the ledgers in the end.
But lest all this be misunderstood, one would certainly expect non-believers in God who
don’t fear God to move in these inequitable circles. What is abundantly clear is that today I see
many who call themselves “Christian” acting just as worldly, unjust and unfair in their treatment
of others, conveniently setting aside the right and wrong – “I’m just a poor sinner doing the best
I can!” Or, “It’s my right” which appears to take precedence over God’s standard of right. This is
disappointing. When we take advantage of the poor and the immigrant, and pay less than
minimum wage, are we being just and fair? When we can sell an item or product way above
market value “just because we can”, have we lost our mooring in equitable treatment of others?
    Should we use our wealth or status to bully others in our pursuit of gain and personal comforts?
Isaiah 56:1 says, “Keep justice and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come…”
What our Lord wants to see when He returns is for His people to be practicing justice and
behaving righteously. Church attendance on Sunday won’t amount to a lot if on Monday
through Saturday we are unjust, inequitable, and unfair in our treatment of others. We must
remember that God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness are only exercised by repentance. Without
genuine repentance – turning from our sin – we are left with God’s justice. And in His holiness,
sin will be judged unless you claim forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Christians are to be just in
their dealings with others, grant mercy, forgiveness and restitution when those who act unjustly
seek it. But absent these, there is nothing left but God’s justice and at times the laws of our land.
“For what you sow, you will reap.” “God has told you, O man, what is good: and what does
your God require of you but to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your
God” (Micah 6:8).
 
Whatever Happened to Kindness?
    I see a problem today in our world – or should I say I’m experiencing a problem. Kindness appears to be a rare commodity. Pragmatism and power usurp kindness and compassion in terms of the geopolitical in our world and among nations. In our nation the political divide is driven by angry words, tit-for-tat, and unyielding ideologies that make no room for compromise and benevolent, considerate, and gentle behavior. This same spirit of contrariness appears to be at work in various ways in our communities and even what should be the bastions of kindness – our churches and the pews. You can feel it and witness it on our roads, our schools and places of business from people who claim the title “Christian.”
But don’t get me wrong. I understand that as Christians we are to be a people of principles and values. We are to be unyielding in our stands for righteousness, truth and equity. We must balance our kindness with firmness – to make clear our stand on the inerrancy of the Word of God and what it teaches. We need to be uncompromising in our convictions given to us from that Word as it regards issues like protecting the unborn and advocating for purity and opposition to sexual immorality. Reams of paper could be inked on what true Christians rightly stand for and stand against. But my subject matter is kindness. How does kindness fit into our agenda to be “Christ-like?”
    We are taught in the Scriptures that kindness in an attribute of God. It is a quality desirable but not consistently found in humans. It is found in some listings of Christian virtues (I Cor. 13:4; Col. 3:12). We find kindness linked with goodness, mercy, love, grace, compassion, gentleness, tenderness and so forth. For some reason, kindness along with gentleness, and tenderness is not often distinguished in our vocabulary or behavior. It is submerged under those other virtues because it requires us to lay aside our own pride and sense of indignation. Scriptures command us to be kind, gentle, compassionate and tender toward others in particular ways that we can’t generalize like love, grace or mercy. You hear people say, “I love everybody!” but find it hard to be kind and gentle toward even co-workers, their own family or church family!
God’s kindness is extended to all – even the ungrateful and wicked (Lk. 6:35). We call this “common grace.” But this same kindness is intended to lead to repentance, not rejection of Him (Rom. 2:4). Think about this the next time your kindness is rejected. As Christians, we celebrate God’s kindness for not only His daily grace extended to all, but His deliverance of His people in terms of our salvation. Beyond this we continue to praise Him for His kindness in our daily lives in delivering us from afflictions, fear and troubles. We even praise Him for His kindness in showing us grace in the midst of afflictions and troubles. We should know all about kindness, for we experience it daily by our great Example!
    The Scriptures make it clear that divine kindness is to be reflected in human experience and our very salvation is derived from God’s kindness (Eph. 2:7-8; Rom. 11:22). I would say that kindness is more important than any ritual practices of our faith (Hosea 6:6; Mt. 9:13; 12:7). We are even told to “love kindness” (Micah 6:8). Maybe this is because God is kind! But to be explicit, we are commanded to be kind (Eph. 4:32). It should be said that the imitation of God’s kindness does not come naturally. It only comes as a fruit of the Spirit at work in us. But I still want to know. Where is kindness given the number of people who claim to be the people of God and possess His Spirit in their lives? Kindness allows for truth to be unwaveringly declared and defended. But kindness forbids being rude, ugly, indignant and self-righteous. If you are not kind, are you truly one of His kind?