Righteousness, Justice More Powerful Than Hatred
A joint statement from the Offices of Diversity & Inclusion and Campus Ministries
“Human anger does not produce the righteousness [justice] God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” James 1:20-22, NLT (emphasis ours).
体育滚球投注appDuring the remote learning period of this past spring semester, our team of chaplains led us through a powerful vespers series to end our pandemic-shortened school year called “The Disruption: Finding Joy in the Unknown.” The series took a closer look at the book of James as we wrestled through our ever-growing season of complexity and uncertainty. As a part of that series, I had the privilege of speaking on these verses towards the end of Chapter 1. As I reflected in the Friday night vespers on the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic’s threats to our lives, our communities, and our world, we certainly have a lot to be angry about. In my vespers talk, I wrestled with the assurance that God resonated with our anger as He invites us to channel that anger in a way that would produce the righteousness and justice that God desires. It remains a challenging and complex message for me to digest, and that complexity has only increased in recent weeks.
体育滚球投注app during this unsettling time, our country has been rocked yet again by the killing of unarmed black citizens in this country.
first, earlier this month, a video of the february 23 killing of ahmaud arbery, in brunswick, ga., was leaked on may 5. it was not until two days after this video was released that the father and son involved in arbery’s killing, travis & gregory mcmichael, were arrested and subsequently charged with murder and aggravated assault. this past week, the motorist who took the video of the attack was also arrested for his involvement in the murder.
体育滚球投注app as i was still attempting to process the killing of ahmaud, we were all also made aware of the killing on march 13, of breonna taylor, a former emt working in louisville, ky. the killing occurred when taylor was asleep in her apartment around 1 a.m. along with her boyfriend, kenneth walker, when three plainclothes police officers reportedly broke down taylor’s apartment door while attempting to execute a “no-knock” search warrant and shot more than twenty bullets into the apartment. eight of those bullets hit taylor, killing her. walker, who thought they were being robbed, called 911 immediately, grabbed his licensed firearm and shot one of the officers in the leg. tragically, the warrant the officers were attempting to execute was actually for a house more than ten miles away from taylor’s apartment, and the man that they were looking for with that warrant was already in custody, as were the drugs and firearms that the police were looking for. taylor and walker both had no criminal history.
体育滚球投注app walker was arrested that evening and charged with assault and attempted murder of a police officer. in this case, the officers have not been criminally charged with taylor’s killing, and have instead been reassigned pending the results of the investigation. the louisville metro police department has not yet commented on taylor or her killing as that investigation continues.
this week, deep anger and riots have flared in minneapolis and across our country following the death of george floyd, who had been detained by police for allegedly attempting to use a $20 counterfeit bill at a grocery store.
it’s another tragic story where the release of a viral video provides tragic details. in this case, the video shows officer derek m. chauvin kneeling on floyd’s neck for more than seven minutes (a technique that is not a part of the minneapolis police department’s training), even as bystanders urged the police to release him as floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe, and that he was dying. for the final moments of his life, floyd was immobilized.
following the release of the video, all four policemen involved in the arrest were fired by the minneapolis police department. we also learned that chauvin has had a number of disciplinary issues including 12 previous police brutality complaints (all led to no discipline).
体育滚球投注app as we’ve all seen in the last 72 hours, anger and even violence has spread across the country in response to these deaths. protestors have been shot, and in one case, killed during those riots in minneapolis and elsewhere (seven protestors were shot in louisville last night in protests related to breonna taylor’s death). additionally, businesses, apartment buildings and a police department office have been destroyed by fires lit during these riots.
体育滚球投注app i am angry.
as james baldwin poignantly stated, “to be black in america is to be in a constant state of rage.”
体育滚球投注app it would seem biblically accurate to just discount this rage as the human anger that james is describing in the text i shared in that friday night vespers earlier this year. i would challenge you to read the text more closely. if we keep reading in james, we find this caution against discrimination and prejudice:
“My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, ‘You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor’—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him?... Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law… So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you. James 2:1-5, 8-9, 12-13, NLT (emphasis mine).
I believe that the Bible makes it clear that God is just as angry about these recent killings as many of us are. Therefore, that anger and frustration cannot just be discounted as the kind of human anger that James cautions us against. In fact, in other translations of James 1:20, the righteousness or justice of God is also phrased as the wrath of God体育滚球投注app. The question that I have been left to wrestle with, and the one that I will challenge you to consider as well, is are we willing to submit our anger to God and allow His righteousness, justice, and wrath to be manifested according to His perfect will? If I am not - if we are not - willing to do that, then our anger remains in our flesh (human anger) and that anger will motivate us into ungodly actions that would not produce the righteousness, justice, and wrath that God would intend as His will is carried out in our world.
体育滚球投注app so, if that’s true, what can we do with the anger and the pain that we are feeling? how do we personally ensure that we do not allow our anger to manifest itself in the wrong actions? i believe the last verse of james chapter 1 provides us with the proper blueprint:
“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” James 1:27, NLT
I believe in these texts, God is telling each one of us that if we are truly Christ-followers, we will channel our energy into helping those who are the most vulnerable and in need. The example provided by the book of James is to care for orphans and widows - some of the most marginalized and oppressed persons of his time. As a result, I believe that the message for us here is to open our eyes to the plight of those who are similarly marginalized and oppressed right now — here on our campus, in our communities, and in our world. I believe we should actively seek the ways in which we can not just meet the temporal needs of our family, our neighbors, but also stand in solidarity with them and seek justice and liberation from systems and attitudes that devalue the humanity, the rights to freedom, and the dignity of all persons, particularly for the marginalized in our midst. In particular, I believe that if our religion is truly pure and genuine, we will put ourselves on the line for the other - wherever they may be. As my former colleague Chaplain June Price used to say, it means “putting feet to our faith.”
in closing, i have been talking passionately and praying deeply about these issues for year now, and especially in these recent and tragic days, with my friend colleague josé bourget, our university chaplain.
he’s shared his own thoughts on these tragic deaths, and their implications for our community as god’s children seeking to uphold his kingdom, in a letter which follows immediately below.
体育滚球投注app in turn, both josé and i would like to invite you to join us for “against the wall: #runstandbreath4justice” which is intended as a time to gather as a community, a time to lament, contemplation and constructive discussion next friday, june 5, at 8:30 pm on andrews university’s facebook .
体育滚球投注app we will seek to understand, honor and uphold god’s wisdom, justice and righteousness, to pray and call upon him to ultimately prevail in this unjust and troubled world.
Michael Nixon, Vice President
Diversity & Inclusion
体育滚球投注app i’ve thought a lot about this text recently — and it’s a text that is inspiring deep and personal anguish as i consider its implications for god’s kingdom and his children — especially at this urgent moment in our earth’s history.
“Do you think I have come to bring peace to earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other!” Jesus
Jesus divides us?
actually, no, i don’t believe that jesus divides us. however, christ and his disciples definitely stand apart from the rest of the world.
体育滚球投注app if that’s true, what could that possibly look like right now in a time of great anger for our country and our world? i think of that amazing text from micah 6:8
He has told you, O mankind, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
So what do we do now?
体育滚球投注app what do god’s people do in response to the admonition of micah 6:8?
in the book “twelve prophets,” bible commentator p.c. craigie shares this perspective on this text:
No amount of frenzied temple activity could fill the vacuum of justice. While injustice ruled in Israel, every moment of temple worship was a mockery of Israel’s faith. God was just and had always acted in justice with his people; in return he required them to act and live in justice. And, as Micah’s earlier preaching has indicated, justice was notable by its absence in Israel. Yet justice is a paramount virtue, without which human beings cannot live together in the manner that God intended.
As I reflect on Micah 6:8, I think we have to allow the text to be honest about our present reality with the identities crisis that we struggle with in our larger faith community. And it’s not just about whether we should reopen our churches for worship gatherings.
体育滚球投注app instead, i believe we need to be vocally and actively rooting out racism wherever it can be found in our communities and our institutions. i believe that those sorts of acts of justice on our part will help demonstrate to the world that to be a peculiar people, is also to be anti-racist.
as we pursue justice in this tragic and challenging world, sheep will be sheep and goats will be goats.
but i’m convinced that the day is here when our faith community needs to decisively fight, monitor, and act against racism. our own prophetic voice and spiritual movement that influences our life journey, and our faith, needs to be uncompromising in its efforts to save the lives of people of color in our communities, and around the world.
体育滚球投注app i’d like to echo michael’s invitation for you to join us for “against the wall: #runstandbreath4justice,” which is intended as a time to gather as a community, a time to lament, contemplation and constructive discussion next friday, june 5, at 8:30 pm on andrews university’s facebook .
and i want to join with michael in inviting you to run, stand, breathe in our passionate and profoundly urgent wish for justice in a world where justice is so desperately needed.