Monday, June 21, 2010

Grace and Social Justice

I read this post on Internet Monk awhile back. He writes that the beatitudes are pronouncements of grace. He says that Jesus is announcing God's undeserved love to the mourners, the poor, the meek, the hungry, and so on. This interpretation differs from my own understanding, but since I read it, I've been thinking about it. I think Chaplain Mike may be on to something.

Let me start by giving you my own understanding. I believe that this passage speaks primarily to issues of injustice. It speaks to people who seek justice in the world or who suffer from injustice. Jesus is saying that they are blessed because they will see God's justice.

When I first read that the beatitudes are pronouncements of grace, it seemed strange to me. It seemed out of place, like he was reading Paul's ideas into the words of Jesus. As I thought about it some more, I started to think about the role of grace in God's justice. I began to realize that grace is really important to understanding God's justice.

Grace, as I have written before, is God's undeserved mercy. It is the love and kindness that he shows to everyone, whether they deserve it or not. It is this love that gives justice it's true shape.

Think about what justice looks like among people. How often do we see a person begging for money? How do we respond? How do we justify our response?

First of all, most people, and I'm included in this group, don't give money to beggars. And how do we justify that decision? We think to ourselves, "She's just a scam artist," or, "He'll just spend it all on drugs." We tell ourselves that they don't deserve our help.

A similar thing happens when we consider programs aimed at helping the poor. We wonder if our tax dollars might be better spent elsewhere. We worry that the poor will become dependent on government handouts; that they won't learn to work or provide for themselves. Once again, we don't believe that they deserve it.

The beauty of God's grace is that it cuts through all of these arguments. God's justice is about loving people and providing for them, whether or not they deserve it or even need it. This is what God's justice looks like.

I'm grateful that Chaplain Mike helped me to see the purpose of God's grace in the midst of it.

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