Doing Biblical Justice is 1) Meeting the needs of the most vulnerable and 2) Righting wrongs done to the most vulnerable. Biblical justice is always directed toward the poor and oppressed. This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. (Zechariah 7:9-10) You never read about God fighting for justice and being a “defender of” the rich or the strong. Now this doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care about justice for ALL people. It just means that as a default, justice usually happens for the strong, rich, powerful and privileged. They have the status and means to defend themselves. So injustice happens less frequently to the strong, rich, powerful and privileged.
But people with less including the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, and the poor as well as migrant workers, some single moms and elderly and minorities – these groups are more vulnerable to injustice particularly because they oftentimes do not have the means or the generational support or the social status or class or level of influence or power to defend themselves. They are more oftentimes victims of crime or violence or corruption and being taken advantage of because they are overlooked or easier prey. So, because they cannot easily defend themselves, God has a special place in his heart for them. That is why God is described as a “defender of the poor” and one who “takes up the cause of the orphan and the widow.” God stands up for the vulnerable because no one else will.
That’s why I’m so proud that today, in one of our General Conference sessions, we voted to add a section to our constitution right after Article IV. Inclusiveness of the Church (which acknowledges that all persons are of sacred worth and all people regardless of race, color, national origin, status or economic condition can participate in the life of the church) and Article V. Racial Justice (recognizing the sin of racism and vowing to confront it in all its forms) providing biblical justice for women! Here’s how the new paragraph will read:
As the Holy Scripture reveals, both men and women are made in the image of God and, therefore, men and women are of equal value in the eyes of God. The United Methodist Church recognizes it is contrary to Scripture and to logic to say that God is male or female, as maleness and femaleness are characteristics of human bodies and cultures, not characteristics of the divine. The United Methodist Church acknowledges the long history of discrimination against women and girls. The United Methodist Church shall confront and seek to eliminate discrimination against women and girls, whether in organizations or in individuals, in every facet of its life and in society at large. The United Methodist Church shall work collaboratively with others to address concerns that threaten women’s and girls’ equality and well being.
The United Methodist Church and its predecessor denominations have historically been doers of biblical justice whether through the abolitionist movement, women’s suffrage or civil rights. United Methodists care for the vulnerable.
After lunch today, there was a protest on the plenary floor. It began as what looked like a march for #blacklivesmatter (which seems to fit all the categories and descriptions of what biblical justice is all about). But it quickly turned into a demonstration for full inclusion of the LGBTQ community. Full inclusion of LGBTQ means openness to ordain self-avowed practicing homosexuals and freedom to perform same-sex weddings. But are these two “issues” the same? Is the LGBTQ church fight a matter of biblical justice? At least according to Bishop Scott Jones, it is not. He says:
“Some violators of our church’s laws will argue they are justified by allegiance to higher principles such as their view of justice…When people justify their actions as “civil disobedience,” they are misusing language. It is not disobedience against the government. It is ecclesial disobedience. They are violating the rules of a church they have freely joined when other, similar churches offer acceptable ways of pursuing their calling.” (See his entire article here.)
Of course the disagreement about full inclusion of LGBTQs and whether or not this is truly a matter of justice may very well blow up The United Methodist Church. More demonstrations are coming in the following days. Chances are they will become more disruptive. One lady was arrested outside the Oregon Convention Center today because she had a bag full of urine she intended to throw on delegates. It’s getting uglier here. There is even rumor of a potential plan to dissolve The United Methodist Church as we know it at a special session of General Conference to be held in 2018.
I don’t have control over everything that happens to the UMC. But I’m committed to biblical justice and being a part of a Church that protects the most vulnerable.