As many of you know, for Lent I gave up political news and things of the sort. Of course, it’s hard to completely avoid, as my friends and others post things about news stories on Facebook and Twitter. It’s been a real act of my will to stay away from my news apps on my phone and tablet, but God is truly making it easier. I’ve gotten a new opportunity to seek God and to hear Him speak to me about things I’ve needed clarity about.
In light of my distance from the political world and its innate craziness, I’ve only been able to glean a few things from what others say to me or from headlines I see. I’ve never been one for controversy, but the time has come for me to care a little less and to stop being afraid of my values and how they’re influenced by my faith. I’m already aware that some will disagree with me, but that’s the risk I have to take. I’m being pulled from the sidelines and called into a new grace for social justice.
People read the words social justice and, from an American standpoint that is, we automatically assume that it has to do with all the most controversial social issues we’re dealing with in the United States. There’s some truth to that assumption, but true social justice is making a difference in the places no one dares to go. It’s making a step towards God by taking a step towards your fellow man. It’s about loving each other beyond agreement and seeking to change lives.
As America undergoes what some would call a “change of values”, I’m put in mind of a certain parable from St. Luke 10: The Good Samaritan.
We often look at this story as a simple example of why we should have good neighborly behavior, but there’s so much more than that. This story was a challenge to the very foundations of the Jewish religion and culture of the time. Jesus knew that He’d be turning some heads and causing many others to walk away wondering what He was talking about. The man is travelling down a dark and twisting road from Jerusalem to Jericho. On his journey, he is overtaken by robbers and left half dead. In time, a priest comes near and then passes by him on the other side of the road. Then comes a Levite and he follows suit. But, in the end, it was a Samaritan man that sees him and goes to him. It was man with no status or title. He simply had compassion on him. This Samaritan man was characteristically demonized by the Judean people as an idol worshiper and pagan, that still supposedly worshiped the same God. He traced his blood line all the way back to Abraham, but he was not respected by the Jewish people. But it was THIS man–not the priest, nor the Levite that stopped to help. Is Jesus trying to tell us something?
Is it possible that those we disagree with most have the greatest possibility of being the biggest blessing to us? Is it possible that the people we disregard are going to be the ones we need a year from now? Five years from now? Ten years from now?
Is it possible that that young black man that made one bad decision and you chose not to show a thread of compassion to will be your caretaker one day? Is it possible that young gay man or woman is going to be fighting for your rights one day in the corridors of our Capitol, but you’re more than willing to deny them right to experience some human decency? Is it possible that man asking for a few bucks on the corner is going to be transformed into a person of influence and you may need them to work on your behalf? Is it possible?
There is grace for our debates and disagreements, but justice still calls us to recognize it in all of these situations. Justice is not not about compromising your values, it’s about allowing love to move us beyond the bonds of details and into a spiritual awareness that allows God to work through us. God can’t work when we confine Him to our ideals instead to His own Word and Spirit.
We have to fight for each other. We might not agree about everything, but can we start treating each other with respect? Every side of a debate has made missteps and often demonizes the other side, but if we say we’re doing it out of love, we have to start by loving the people we disagree with. We have the grace and it starts at the table.