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Living the Word

Securing Justice
By Peter B. Price

"God’s saving justice is never served by human anger," points out James in his letter to Christians struggling against the power structures that threatened to consume the Christian community. The readings of the next few weeks reveal the struggle between the forces of sins in the human heart, the principalities and powers, the saving grace of God, and the vision of a restored and renewed creation.

We shall have to face choices: whether to place our trust in the political, economic, social, and eccleisal structures that offer us the promise of security now, or to opt for the One who has the words of eternal life. We too will need to face our sin, our complicity, our own betrayal of the One who "came to bring the good news of peace" (Ephesians 2:17). The only justice worth securing is that of God’s saving justice. May God’s strength be made perfect in our weakness.

August 10
Speak Truth to one Another
Psalm 130; 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33; Ephesians 4:25-5:2; John 6:35, 41-51

"For my sake treat young Absalom gently." The heartfelt cry of a father, David, toward a devious and rebellious son is unheeded by those who have been charged with putting down a costly rebellion. In their heart of hearts they are glad to see Absalom dead, and the words of one messenger sums up all their feelings: "May all who rise up to harm you share the fate of that young man" (2 Samuel 18:5, 32).

It is uncertain whether or not there is a connection between Psalm 130, David's reaction to the death of his son, and the impact of the destructiveness unleashed in his kingdom, first through his own actions, and then those of his offspring. But the question raised, "If you kept a record of our sins, Lord, who could stand their ground?" (Psalm 130:3) is a salutary reminder of the deadliness of sin in the human condition and our constant need for grace.

Paul requires of the faith communities a reordering of behavior. From now on there must be no more lies. Speak the truth to one another. Lying, anger, theft, foul talk, bitterness, anger, bad temper, shouting, and abuse (Ephesians 4:25-30) are all prohibited behavior for the Christian community. Oh! that it were so! During the movement to end nuclear weapons and the arms trade, one wise observer reflected, "There is enough anger in the peace movement to start World War III all by itself!" The priority of the people of God is generosity, sympathy, and forgiveness in the way that God forgave us in Christ.

The community of God's people is also to be a place of sexual integrity (Ephesians 5:1-5). Sexual behavior that runs counter to the gospel provides a constant challenge to the community of faith. We are bidden to recall that our gratification is the bread of life, which is given for the life of the world (John 6:51). The behavior of Christians in all matters should not hinder the feeding of the world; and where it has, we should cry from the depths for God's forgiveness in order that God may be revered.

Reflection and Action

How is your faith community obeying the injunctions of Paul in its lifestyle and behavior? How do you deal with behavior that exposes the community to criticism, ridicule, or the dishonoring of God's name?

PETER B. PRICE is general secretary of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, an Anglican mission agency based in London, and practices—with his wife, Dee—a ministry of hospitality.

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From Sojourners Online, copyright 1997 Sojourners, July-August 1997, Vol. 26, No. 4.