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16th March 2014
Justice is something close to the core of every person, because it's in the heart of God. Moses said of God: “All his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deut. 32:4).
If we feel indignant at injustice, how much more does God?! The ultimate demonstration of justice and mercy is the Cross of Christ, and this is our starting place for standing up for justice and standing against injustice. We can be quick to fight for justice when we are wronged or a family member or friend has been wronged, but how often do we cry out for justice for people we don't know?
Every person should have justice because they are created in the image of God, a masterpiece of unique, irreplaceable value. Justice shouldn't be reserved for the intelligent, wealthy, shrewd or popular. The reason we read so often in the Bible about God's concern for the widow and orphan is because he is passionate about justice for those who cannot get it for themselves.
As Christians we are called to be the “salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13), which includes standing against injustice where we see it. Wherever you are day by day, you are called to be a bright light, burning with compassion and bringing justice to those around you and to your community. How can you bring justice to those around you?
Download the sermon 'Jesus on Justice' and the life application questions here.
Posted by Paul Mann
10th November 2013
How do you feel when you read newspaper headlines such as:
'British jobs for British workers'
'Secret report warns of migration meltdown in Britain'
'A massive rise in immigration next year could trigger a devastating crisis in Britain's schools, housing and welfare services, according to a secret Government report leaked to [this newspaper]'
'One in four adults in Britain are binge-drinkers and the UK recently topped a poll as Europe's heaviest alcohol drinkers'
'Inactivity is "as deadly as smoking" – a lack of exercise is now causing as many deaths as smoking across the world'
How do you react to those headlines? What goes on in your heart?
In Deuteronomy 10:12-22, we read about what God requires of His people. This is a great question to start each day with! The first thing is to fear the Lord – we read elsewhere in the Bible that this is the beginning of wisdom. Christians aren't to fear anything but the Lord. These verses tell us that God owns the highest heavens and the Earth and all creation. He knows what's best for us, and these verses also tell us that God has set His heart to love you!
This passage of the Bible soon moves to the specifics of what it looks like to fear God and follow His ways. We read that God's people are to walk in His ways and to be socially inclusive. God cares about people; He cares deeply about the most vulnerable people in society. He is full of mercy and compassion for the fatherless and the widow, who represent anyone and everyone who is financially vulnerable, has no protection and no voice, is open to exploitation or overlooked in the population, and who is hit hardest in times of crisis.
God's people were told to care for the most vulnerable. He created safeguards for the Israelites so that the poor didn't get poorer: whatever situation someone got into – whether it was their own fault or caused by someone else – they would get a fresh start when the Lord's Year of Jubilee came around. In the New Testament Jesus is even more provoking, saying that how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, strangers, the sick, those without clothes and those in prison, is a test as to whether or not we are following Christ at all! (See Matthew 25)
Who are the socially vulnerable in our society? Perhaps the mentally ill, those who don't fit into mainstream education, the elderly, the long-term unemployed, the poorly educated, victims within broken families… God cares about the socially vulnerable, and His people are to care about them too. We might feel we have good reasons not to -- maybe you think they brought it on themselves, or they may abuse your kindness, or you think it's your money -- but what would Jesus think of those reasons?
"While Romans generally despised the poor and viewed their misery as largely self-inflicted, the early Christians won the [Roman] empire to Christ by demonstrating the gospel by the way they helped the poor." (Phil Moore, Everyday Church, London)
When we encounter those who are poor and vulnerable, are we hard-hearted and cynical? As Christians, our default setting should be compassion. That's where we should start. If we don't start there, we need to ask if we are thinking with a renewed mind, or a polluted one? Are we thinking in a 'merely human' fashion? (See 1 Corinthians 2:4) Or are we following Christ in our attitudes, thoughts and words towards the poor?
As well as being socially inclusive, God's people are to be racially inclusive. God loves the immigrant -- Israel was told to love the immigrants among them too, because they knew what it was to be immigrants themselves when they were in Egypt. Likewise, Christians are described in the Bible as foreigners here on Earth. The purpose of the Church is to be a light to the nations -- this isn't just going to the nations, but as they come to us too!
"I draw a lot of parallels with Wilberforce's battle with slavery: he saw a whole nation and even the Church changed from thinking that slavery was ok to seeing it abolished. There is a lot of prejudice and misunderstanding about asylum and a lot of injustice, but it's my belief that God can turn a nation's attitude around in the space of a lifetime. That's my prayer: that we become a nation that's proud to take care of the most vulnerable once again." (Julian Prior, Action Foundation)
Again, is compassion our default setting? Are we thinking we a renewed mind, or a polluted one? Are we being 'merely human'?
To listen to the sermon and download the life application PDF, click here.
Posted by Paul Mann
24th September 2012
San and I were asked this question recently: "So go on then, what's Jonah's gourd all about?" Er... What exactly is a gourd when it's at home? Well, I've had a look.
Jonah was sitting in the desert waiting to see what God was going to do with Ninevah. He'd disobeyed God, ended up in a fish, and seen God extend grace and mercy to the Ninevites. It was hot and he was cross. Jonah did not feel that justice had been done. But what would happen if God only exercised justice apart from grace and mercy? None of us would survive!
God graciously finds a way to show Jonah his error and put him on the right path, yet again. He allows a vine (gourd) to grow over Jonah providing him with shade, but God also allows a worm to eat the vine. Jonah is furious.
What's so amazing about this passage is God's response to Jonah's anger. He does not condemn him for it, but neither does he condone it. He asks, simply, "Is it right for you to be angry?" (Jonah 4:4). He acknowledges it, He understands it, and He wants to talk about it. What a patient Heavenly Father!
I know there have been times in my life when I've deserved rebuke, but instead I've received God's grace and mercy. Like Jonah, I can selfishly pout about small things in life that go wrong, but remain blind to the deep need of those around me in a town (like Ninevah) that needs His mercy. Like Jonah, I am sometimes consumed by concern for my own comfort, rather than the needs of a dying world. But there's something wrong when we place personal comfort over human souls. We so easily become dependent on circumstances, not the One who controls the circumstance.
The Bible tells us to be content no matter what the circumstance (Phil 4:11-13). It also says that we are each made for a unique purpose (2 Cor 5:5). Like Jonah, God wants to use us to grow his Kingdom. What a challenge, but what a calling!
Reading: Jonah 4:4-11
Question: What steps can we take to ensure that we don't prioritise personal comfort over the extension of God's Kingdom?
Next prayer meetings: 12.30pm tomorrow and 7.30pm Wednesday (both at THC)
Posted by Emma Hamberis
29th July 2012
The first two verses of 1 Timothy 6 can be difficult for us to understand, because when we see the word 'slaves', we are likely to think immediately of the African slave trade and/or people trafficked against their will and forced into unpaid labour or prostitution. But this text – and the Bible as a whole – does not advocate this type of slavery at all!
Andrew Wilson, who is based at King's Church Eastbourne and spoke here in Hastings recently, has written about how we can easily see from the Bible that forced slavery is wrong. (Click here to read his post.) Jesus said that he came to preach the good news and release the captives (see Luke 4 and Isaiah 61), so we know that he was against forced entrapment. But in contrast to our understanding of slavery, in Jesus' day and culture, it was a choice (like working as a servant or butler is today), it was temporary and it came with significant legal protections. (For an interesting debate on the word 'slavery' in the Bible, click here.)
But in the opening verses of 1 Timothy 6, Paul is not addressing which form of slavery is right or wrong – rather he is addressing how we, as followers of Jesus, are to respond to those in authority over us ('masters', in the passage, but today we can apply this to our bosses and group/team leaders).
In one sense we are all slaves: the Bible tells us that we were once slaves to sin, but now we are slaves to righteousness and to God (see Romans 6). Instead of being 'yoked' to sin – pulled along with it, following its direction – we are now 'yoked' to Christ. We have a new identity, a new security, and an inheritance to come. We belong to a loving master, our Father in heaven, who says, "…you are no longer a slave, but a son" (John 15:15).
The purpose of the apostle Paul's instructions in 1 Timothy 6 is to speak into the attitudes that we can so easily develop. We can often decide how to respect and respond to our bosses and those in authority over us by how they treat us, but we are called to a higher standard: we are called to respect them and work for them as if we are working for Jesus (Ephesians 6:5-8). Of course, we are also called to stand up against injustice (Micah 6:8), so this isn't saying we turn a blind eye to mistreatment. But we also don't fight fire with fire. We value all people. Regardless of who they are and what they have done, our responsibility is to reflect Jesus and be 'salt and light'.
Jesus has set us an example so that we can follow in his footsteps: "'He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.' When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly…" (1 Peter 2:22-25). Whatever we face – whether it's being honoured or mistreated, whether it's joyful or difficult – let's always ask ourselves, 'What would Jesus do?'
Verses: 1 Timothy 6:1-2
Food for thought:
Posted by Santino Hamberis