I was walking by the online alley and heard some folks talking about the failure of “the church” or severally referring to its shortcomings and seeming division. On closer examination, I discovered that they have been confusing the object of their reference with what the LORD Jesus meant when He used or uses the word.
This is my brief attempt at a conceptual clarification so we also do to conflate the issues. This is not exegesis, but a mere ideological clarification and correction in a few sentences.
In understanding what “the church” is, we must look to its origin, particularly in scraping from the thoughts of its founder, through the documented words we have. When Jesus used the term “my church”, it was very personal and flowed from a deep conversation He had with His disciples. The Bible only records Jesus using the term twice; once for a personal cause, the other as a generally understood reference.
A few weeks ago, on a Saturday morning, I heard a sharp tweet by my bedroom window and stood up to see what it was. At first, I could not figure out through the dusty window net where the tiny high-pitched sound was coming from. Then I heard the chirp again as if to say “I am here, check me out.” Perched vertically on my window frame, was a tiny bird, so beautiful and alluring that I was frozen by its color and the shape of its beak. I begged it not to move so I could reach for my cellphone to violate this precious moment. It agreed and allowed a few clicks before it flew off. For some reason, to date, I just cannot stop thinking about what the little creature was trying to tell me.
Recently, while in continuous mediation of that encounter, I got a Netflix recommendation for a new science documentary called Connected. As though to keep me focused on the subject matter of birds, the very first episode of the series focused on the curious intuition of a specie called the Veery, a North American thrush with a brown back and speckled breast. In the program, the ornithologist and his team are trying to understand the migration pattern of Veeries from the North Eastern forests of the US. They migrated every year in a very unpredictable pattern, sometimes even cutting short their breeding season to migrate south.
As a Christian, if you are having problems understanding why you should be very concerned and involved with demanding justice for the oppressed, let me help you understand this from a higher perspective.
You see, God hates injustice. Injustice is a direct assault on the personality of the Divine Head of all things. The scriptures declare that “Righteousness and Justice are the foundation of His throne” (Psalm 89:14), which means that the authority of God rests on the twin virtues of righteousness and justice. Another verse declares that “Your throne, O God,[a] will last forever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.” (Psalm 45:6).
You should then imagine how passionate your God will be about this matter.
The one you call Lord and Saviour has at the heart of His earthly mandate, the undoing of the systems of injustice in the world. God in sending Jesus, does not leave a doubt as to what is His most important assignment on the earth, so I list seven verses to this point among the several others in the Bible.
For to us, a child is born, to us, a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of His government and peace, there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness, he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. (Isaiah 11:3-4)
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.” (Isaiah 42:1)
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. (Jeremiah 23:5)
“For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness, I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.” (Isaiah 61:1-8)
The Lord reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. He rules the world in righteousness and judges the peoples with equity. (Psalm 9:7-8)
“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:5)
Therefore you cannot be a disciple of Jesus and serving His cause on the earth if you aren’t concerned about injustice in any form and wherever it manifests.
Yes, He is your personal savior no doubt, but He is first, and most important, The King! A king must rule by righteousness and justice (Isaiah 32:1), and His subjects must, therefore, be the agents through which such righteousness and justice are established in the King’s territory.
So if you are going about and denying the existence of injustices around, you are part of the main problem. Your case is even worse if you have been given a position through which you can deliver justice yet you use that for your personal gain and for the oppression of others. Like we say in local parlance, the punishment that awaits you is gathering muscles.
Please, we must wake up to the reality of the oppressed around us. Whether in our homes, offices, schools, religious centers, or families, we must be the portal through which the oppressed are delivered and justice is served.
We must dismantle systems and traditions that subtly empowers the oppression of women and people of other tribes or races. We must abolish laws that replace competence with relevance. Unjust laws are those which institutionalize injustice and corrupts human behavior to the point where we are indifferent to the suffering it causes to the poor.
Start from where you are. Stop oppressing your maids, drivers, cooks, messengers, cleaners, security guards, staff, or anyone you exercise authority over. Stop brandishing your biological parts as a power factor. Heck! Stop promoting a culture that reinforces ethnic or religious supremacy. If you are doing all these or just a part, you are directly opposing the authority of Jesus and telling God that some of the things He made are not good.
While we await the ultimate manifestation of the fulness of the Kingdom of God on earth and the dismantling of all unjust systems of the world, let us allow ourselves to be used by God to deliver justice. Like the Prophet Amos says: “Let justice roll like a river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream” (Amos 5:24). Oppose injustice wherever you see it and bring an end to the laws or systems that perpetrates it.
But for those who will not pursue justice and seek righteousness, here is a word for you:
There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court and detest the one who tells the truth. You levy a straw tax on the poor and impose a tax on their grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil. Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph. (Amos 5:10-15)