Sunday, February 08, 2009

What does it really mean to "do justice?"

Over at Transforming Theology, they are looking for actual "normal" people to ask their most pressing God question. I don't know about "normal", but the question that keeps coming up for me: through working with PACEM & IMPACT, through watching our economy tank, through preparing a reflection about caring for one another for the women's retreat is - what does it really mean to "do justice?"

My "rehearsed" answer is that doing justice means you are willing to stand alongside and help give a voice to those who are struggling every day with local social justice issues. It means being in relationship with and caring for those who are suffering.

What I'm looking for are some insights about caring for others - doing justice, when its difficult and over the long haul. I think there are some clues to how difficult this can be in Job. But the lessons in Job are difficult to grasp because we just can’t relate to or can hardly bear hearing what’s been happening to Job. I think we can relate to the three friends that came to visit Job in the hope to sympathize with and comfort him.

"When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was." [Job 2:12-13, NIV]

Their hearts are in the right place and they let Job vent for a while, but finally his friend Eliphaz interrupts. It seems he wants to shake Job out of his funk by launching into a lecture about how important Job is, how much people look up to him for support and guidance, and that he should view his suffering as some form of discipline from God. Job’s response is filled with pain and loathing and this little zinger:

"Now you too have proved to be of no help; you see something dreadful and are afraid." [Job 6:21]

I think the story of Job and his friends has some parallels to the church and its relationship to those who are enduring long-term suffering, such as the poor. As the church, we are more than willing to provide the poor short-term relief in the form of food, clothes, and even shelter, but getting involved with the poor long-term is distressing because we want the poor to be able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and persevere. Instead, when get beyond the problems on the surface, we see something dreadful and are afraid. This is certainly where I find myself getting stuck personally and where I see us getting stuck as a community of faith. It knocks our preconceived notions, about how God interacts with the world and what God expects of us, out of whack.

What do we do when caring doesn't feel good or doesn't seem to be accomplishing anything? What do we do when the person we are caring for doesn't meet our expectations? What do we do when we see something dreadful and are afraid?

Oops, that's more than one question...

1 comment:

Hunter said...

Nice blog; found it through cvilleblogs.com.

The Trinity Fellows Program tends to have a conference every year dealing with these issues of justice, usually centering around Micah 6:8. Amy Sherman has a lot to say about all of this, as well. :)

- Hunter