I have just finished reading “The Universe Bends Toward Justice” by Obery M. Hendricks, Jr. (Orbis Books, 2011). It is a book of radical reflections on the Bible, the church and the body politic. I recommend it highly.
Today we will focus on Chapter 6: ‘A Manifesto. Practicing the Politics of Jesus.’ Hendricks begins the chapter with a rebuke of the majority of politicians, who may mouth the sayings of Jesus but who have little regard for the people that Jesus was most concerned about: the poor, the weak, the folks on the margins of society. “The principles of Jesus’ politics are rooted in the most foundational ethics of the Hebrew Bible,” according the Hendricks.
He presents three principles: The first is mishpat, “justice.” In its purest form, this principle “holds that everyone has the same inalienable right as anyone else to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and wholeness; the same right of freedom from exploitation and oppression and every form of victimization.”
The second principle is sadiqah, “righteousness.” This righteousness “is the loving and just fulfillment of our responsibilities to others as the ultimate fulfillment of our responsibility to God.”
The third principle of Jesus’ foundational ethic is hesed, “steadfast love,” as Jesus preached in Matthew 22: 37-40: “You shall love your lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind….And…you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” These were the greatest of all God’s commandments and the foundation for the politics of Jesus, a politics that held to the mandate: “Treat the people and their needs as holy.”
To be faithful to the principles of ethics laid down by Jesus, our politicians and many of us will need a true conversion! Now it seems that we place ourselves first and rewrite the Scriptures to fit our own needs and wants. As Hendricks states, we often say, “love yourself and those who are like you.” Or, we say “our will be done.”
Now is a good time for all of us to refocus and engage in the struggle for true justice and peace in our home, city and world. And central to our refocusing will be to imprint on our hearts and minds the truth that Jesus came to make things right, to place people first, all people. And for that he died! He did not just talk the talk, he walked the walk even unto death.
With God’s good grace and our willingness to risk some of our own wellbeing for others, 2012 can be a year of prayer and action toward bringing justice and peace for all God’s children.
Happy New Year!