Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Story of God | The God Who Loves Kindness, Justice, and Righteousness Part 1 of 2

A Genesis-Through-Revelation Exploration of God's Justice for People and the World Part 1 of 2

Our passion for the needs of this world must be grounded in the reality of who God is and what God's vision for justice is and always has been. We've written this book as a Genesis-through-Revelation exploration of God's justice calling upon his people, God's invitation to us to participate in his work of healing what is broken and setting things right in this world. As we've wrestled with the enormity of the needs of the world, we've become convinced that Scripture is as essential a guide that each of us needs; through Scripture God offers us an ever-unfolding invitation to know God's love for justice and strength to respond to his calling. – pg. 4

What a great purpose for a book! And thank God that this book exists in the form of The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance by Bethany Hanke Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson.

If you've read up on Emmaus City Church, you have most likely seen or heard that we enjoy learning the Story of God found in the Scriptures. Each human on this earth is a story-formed person. What does that mean? It means some greater story will shape our life, whether it's we only have one life to live and then we die and that's it; or we have many lives to live through reincarnation so if we don't get this one right we'll come back; or there may be some God or truth out there but we can never really know or choose the right way or religion so it's a free-for-all based on preference; or  there is a God who pursues us and comes to us by grace to offer redemption and restoration. Within these stories we find not only our identity, but also an abundance of purpose(s) for life.

As a Christian, I resonate with these words when Bethany and Kristen write:

From the beginning of Scripture until the end we see a God who longs for justice and righteousness in this world and who calls his people to join him in seeking it. God is alive and active in this world; his light blazes in the darkness. And God calls us to join what he is doing through his strength, his presence, and his grace.  pg. 5

And I resonated even more when they broke the Scriptures down into six movements along with key "watchwords" to showcase God's justice in the story I believe is the one we're all living in. 

The Whole Six Movement Story of Justice and the "Watchwords" in Scripture

Each movement of the biblical story opens the door to a deeper understanding and invitation to respond to who God is; who God calls his people to be; and the justice, righteousness, and shalom that God longs to see in this world. At each turn in the story we find God beckoning us further into the justice calling he has placed upon our lives.  pg. 6 

In The Justice Calling, Hoang and Johnson organize the six movements of Scripture into (1) creation, (2) the fall, (3) Israel, (4) Jesus, (5) the church, and (6) all things being made new. The five key words, or "watchwords" as they call them, that emerge as essential and interconnected for understanding who God is and who God calls his people to be are: (1) holiness, (2) hesed (faithful and active loving-kindness), (3) justice, (4) righteousness, and (5) shalom (flourishing wholeness). They bring these "watchwords" together by writing:

From the beginning of Scripture through to the end, the Bible reveals a God whose holiness and active loving-kindness (hesed) lead him to care deeply about justice, righteousness, and the flourishing of all that he has created. We see these passions of God most clearly in the person of Jesus Christ as our holy and loving God enters this world in human flesh. God in Jesus Christ personally and powerfully takes the fullness of the world's injustice, unrighteousness, and brokenness upon himself in order to overcome the sin that prevents humanity and creation from flourishing. Jesus Christ will come again to complete this victory and fully usher in his kingdom of justice, righteousness, and shalom. In the meantime, God calls us to live as his holy people. Empowered by the grace of God in Christ, as we wait for the fullness of his kingdom, we live his justice and righteousness, actively loving and seeking the flourishing of all. And while we passionately respond to the justice calling as the people of God, we remember that the battle and the victory ultimately belong to the Lord.  pgs. 5-6 

As for the movements, I've slightly re-labeled them for the sake of alliteration and provided brief summary descriptions from the book below. 

In the following blog post entitled, "The God Who Loves Kindness, Justice, and Righteousness Part 2 of 2," I will provide a more detailed narrative from Hoang and Johnson in The Justice Calling for how these six movements showcase the story of God and His justice for people and the world throughout all of the Scriptures.

(1) Creation

Creation involves understanding justice in the context of God's original vision for creation, leading us to a counterintuitive invitation to rest. God is continually inviting us, even commanding us, to receive and extend Sabbath rest as a gift.

(2) Crisis

Justice is juxtaposed with crisis, and we seek to understand God's invitation to move toward the darkness of this world, in the light of Christ.

(3) Covenant People

We consider what we can learn about God's commitment to justice from his covenant relationship with Israel. God invites us to lament rather than despair as we face suffering and injustice in our own lives and communities and throughout the world.

(4) Christ

We look deeply into who Jesus is as he enters and redeems this fallen, broken world of suffering and injustice. As we look to Jesus, we are invited to consider how we are being formed as we follow him. Are we seeking justice by the power of Jesus Christ, whose victory over sin and evil enables us to receive and seek God's justice and righteousness as God's beloved saints?

(5) Church

We explore what it means for the church today to respond to God's invitation to be sanctified and sent in kingdom mission.

(6) New Creation

As we look to the end of the biblical story (which is only the beginning of all things being made new), we remember that Jesus Christ will fully usher in his kingdom of justice and righteousness in the age to come and how this invites us to be a people of persevering hope as we pursue our callings in the midst of injustice.

We consider what it means to live this story in our daily lives, embracing Scripture and the practices we have learned from Scripture as gifts that draw us deeper into communion with God, knowing that only as we abide in Jesus Christ will God bring lasting fruit from our lives. Remember that this calling is about real people. People suffering from injustice are our neighbors, both nearby and throughout the world, right at this moment. Each person has a name, a face, a family, and dreams. In sharing stories of suffering, rescue, healing, and following Jesus our hope is that ideas will spark as to how God is inviting you and others in your community to respond to the justice calling. God calls us to engage people, places, and structures both near and far with a persevering passion for justice, and we encourage you to consider how God is opening our eyes and hearts and lives to injustice and where specifically to focus your actions. There is far more that is broken than any of us could ever piece back together, and there is far more beauty in the healing that God will bring than we could ever ask or imagine. As we enter into the stories of injustice in our world and as we enter into the biblical story with its persistent call for us to seek justice and righteousness in this world, God himself will lead us by the sun of righteousness that comes with healing in its wings (Malachi 4:2).  pgs. 7-8

I pray for for each person God calls to be part of Emmaus City in following Jesus in Worcester that we would have the privilege to seek His calling in our city in the areas of systemic poverty, prejudice, racism, trafficking, mass incarceration, etc., and answer Him as we become more like Jesus together, the embodiment of a just community in a world longing for it.

– Sully

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