Author Archives: Kim Reisman

Balance Is Good Enough by Kim Reisman

Search

  

Balance Is Good Enough by Kim Reisman

Share the post:

Scripture Focus:

In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him. The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. And when they reached Moab, they settled there. Then Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with her two sons. The two sons married Moabite women. One married a woman named Orpah, and the other a woman named Ruth. But about ten years later, both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband.

Then Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had blessed his people in Judah by giving them good crops again. So Naomi and her daughters-in-law got ready to leave Moab to return to her homeland. With her two daughters-in-law she set out from the place where she had been living, and they took the road that would lead them back to Judah. But on the way, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back to your mothers’ homes. And may the Lord reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. May the Lord bless you with the security of another marriage.” Then she kissed them good-bye, and they all broke down and wept. “No,” they said. “We want to go with you to your people.” But Naomi replied, “Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands?”

And again they wept together, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye. But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi. “Look,” Naomi said to her, “your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.” But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more. So the two of them continued on their journey.

Ruth 1:1-11, 14-19 (NLT)

 

 

We’re continuing our focus on temperance by looking at the story of Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah. Make sure you read the entire story because there is much more to it than what we normally tend to focus on. There’s enough to unpack that I’m going to divide our discussion into two parts to finish out our month.

First of all, what an amazing story of courage and commitment! Ruth is understandably the hero of the story, and she is the one who gets most of our attention. She chose the dangerous prospect of leaving her homeland to follow Naomi. Because that choice, she goes on to become the great-grandmother of King David and one of only five women listed in the genealogy of Jesus. She definitely deserves our attention!

As heroic as Ruth is, however, we do ourselves a disservice if we fail to look at the other, often neglected character in this story – Orpah. When Naomi suggests that Ruth and Orpah return to their families, Orpah does just that. It’s a logical and rational choice. Widows in general were in a precarious position during Bible times. If they didn’t have family to care for them, they were often times left out in the cold; and to be a widow in a foreign land added that much more fear, danger, and despair. So Orpah’s decision seems dictated by common sense. The most logical and secure choice is for both Orpah and Ruth to return to the care of their families. But Scripture tells us that what ought to have been an easy choice wasn’t easy at all. Both women cried with sorrow and it takes Orpah a long, long time to decide.

In the end though, Ruth follows Naomi to Judah and Orpah returns home. We don’t know what happens to Orpah after that. We can probably safely assume that when she rejoined her family, she led a secure life.

Naturally, the church has presented Ruth as a model of strength and character, which is perfectly appropriate. And yet, I believe Orpah needs some renewed attention. I believe that as we seek to gain, or regain, as the case may be, the virtue of temperance, of balance in our lives, we need to look at both of these women.

Ruth followed, Orpah did not. There is obvious tension between those two choices just as there is with many of the choices we face throughout our lives. All of our choices are important, even the small ones, because they are intertwined with our faith. The nature of our faith will determine the decisions we make about our commitments, and the decisions we make about our commitments will determine the nature of our faith. But here is the rub. There will always be people out there who will hold up one of our choices as if it were the only one we should choose. This is true for both men and woman and in all the areas of our life.

As we confront the demands of life that pull us in varying directions, we need to remember that both Orpah and Ruth made courageous and good decisions. They did what was right for them; and each of us must do the same. If we must be “Orpahs” in the eyes of a group that thinks we need to be “Ruths,” then so be it. We can’t all be Ruths. And we can’t all be Orpahs. We will never be able to be all things to all people. We are always going to have to make choices about how we live our lives.

As you continue your prayer and fasting journey, spend some time thinking about Orpah. Have you ever stopped to consider her choice as a good one, worthy of affirmation? Where in your life have you experienced the clash of competing demands? I pray that as you reflect on the choices that may be before you, you would be emboldened to make the choice that is right for you, even if that makes you an Orpah in the eyes of all the Ruths, or a Ruth in the eyes of all the Orpahs.

Share the Post:

Subscribe

Get articles about mission, evangelism, leadership, discipleship and prayer delivered directly to your inbox – for free

Christ-Centered and Spirit Filled by Kim Reisman

  

Christ-Centered and Spirit Filled by Kim Reisman

Share the post:

Scripture Focus:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-25 (NIV)

 

 

As we discovered when we explored the virtue of justice, the biblical notion of virtue draws upon and deepens the classical notion. The same holds true with temperance. Scripture raises the stakes of temperance, making it not only more demanding but more meaningful and rewarding as well. From the classical Greek perspective, temperance produces a well-ordered and well-proportioned soul. This is also true of the biblical perspective; however, from the biblical perspective there is a goal to that order. The goal is love. Our souls are not simply to be well-ordered; they are to be well-ordered toward love, the love of God and the love of our neighbor. The order we achieve through temperance isn’t for our own sake; although that’s certainly a benefit. The order that comes to our souls through temperance is for the sake of God and our neighbor.

In classical Greek thinking, the mind conquers all problems; thus, the root of evil is ignorance. Reason is what saves us; therefore, temperance is the rational ordering that comes through an exercise of the mind. On the surface, Christian temperance is quite similar; but it has a completely different foundation. The biblical notion of temperance asserts that it’s not ignorance but sin, that distortion or our heart, that’s the root of evil. Reason alone is unable to save us. Reason can fix ignorance, but it can’t fix sin. Only Christ can fix sin. Therefore, it’s not reason that produces temperance, but the Holy Spirit that indwells us when we come into relationship with Jesus Christ. Temperance, then, is the living of a Spirit-filled, Christ-centered life.

Creating the balance that is temperance has always been a challenge; yet these days the challenge seems greater than ever. We live in an age where there are so many things competing for our time, attention, and energy that we can often become numb from stimulation overload. It’s imperative that we find our center and order our lives around it.

As Christians, Christ is our center. He is the one to whom we look to provide the order for our souls. Taking on the yoke of Christ guards us against intemperance. When Christ is Lord of our lives, nothing else can be; when Christ is not Lord of our lives, anything and everything else will be. With Christ as our center we’re oriented toward wholeness, which prevents the whole form being ruled by a part, or from being fragmented by the excess of many things. With Christ as our center, the order that comes to our lives is oriented toward love. Stephen Shoemaker said it well:

You have been created in the image of Christ; He is your secret self, the truest truth about who you are. This real self gets overlaid by many layers of false selves; your true self stays a secret even from you. When you receive Christ and invite him to be Savior, Lord, and Friend, you get in touch with your true self. Because you know who you are, the compulsions of the false self fade away. When Christ is Lord, then all the good desires and appetites God has given us find their frightful place and stay as good as God made them. [1]

Placing Christ at the center of our lives allows the Holy Spirit’s power to move us toward temperance. It also makes us aware that temperance doesn’t stem from the law. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.” We cannot enforce temperance by strict rules and regulations. The law forces an ordering that is external rather than internal, and therefore is never successful for very long. The temperance that springs from a Spirit-filled, Christ-centered life is one of joyful obedience rather than grim obligation. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) Taking on the yoke of Christ, making him Lord of our life helps us to organize our life toward the love of God and neighbor. It isn’t a yoke of abstinence or a denial of life; it’s a yoke that reorders our life so we’re able to experience the deep happiness, the blessedness, we talked about earlier this year. With Christ as our center, we make decisions because of what is right for us, not by anyone else’s law or rule. In this way we’re able to live happily; freely, and responsibly. We’re able to live temperately, in joyful obedience, affirming the abundant life to which Christ has called us.

As you continue to pray and fast, reflect on what you might need to do to be more Christ-centered and Spirit-filled, and this will be my prayer for you: Gracious God, enable each of us to live by the Spirit. Help us, Lord, to keep in step with the Spirit. Amen.

 

 

 

[1] Shoemaker, p157

Share the Post:

Subscribe

Get articles about mission, evangelism, leadership, discipleship and prayer delivered directly to your inbox – for free

   

   

Temperance: Nothing Overmuch by Kim Reisman

  

Temperance: Nothing Overmuch by Kim Reisman

Share the post:

Scripture Focus:

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with excellence, and excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:5-8 (NRSV)

This month we turn our attention to temperance. In our modern world, temperance is the virtue that seems to be the least popular and the most ridiculed. Many of us, however, don’t actually understand what is meant by the word temperance. In a nutshell, it simply means moderation. The ancient maxim was “nothing overmuch.” Rather than being viewed as the elimination of all our natural inclinations or “appetites,” temperance was seen as the proper ordering of what is good within our natures. The maxim, nothing overmuch, applied then to temperance itself. Thus, temperance excluded prideful abstinence as well as joyless asceticism, and strove for a healthy balance.

Over time, philosophers and theologians have come to view temperance as one of the most important virtues. The Greeks believed it was necessary to produce a well-ordered soul, a well-balanced self, and a well-proportioned life. Plato wrote that temperance was the rational ordering of the soul that kept it free. If the soul is to remain free and not in bondage to a particular impulse or appetite, temperance is crucial. Aristotle even went so far as to assert that temperance was the prerequisite for all the other virtues. For instance, temperance was required to produce courage, because courage is the balance between cowardice and rashness.

The opposite of temperance, of the balance we seek in our lives, is intemperance, or a lack of balance. The intemperate person is like a pot that is full of holes. It can never be satisfied because it can never be full. Intemperance occurs in two ways. The first is when part of the self rules the whole self. Examples of this would be alcoholism and other addictions. The addicted person is ruled by the part of the self that desires the source of the addiction. There is no ordering of that desire in relation to the other needs and desires of the self. The addicted desire is all-consuming. While addiction is a good example of this first type of intemperance, we should not make the mistake of thinking that intemperance occurs only in these extremes. Whether it be the drive to succeed in a career which puts us in conflict with our commitments at home, or the desire to be everything for our families which often places us at odds with our desire for personal fulfillment, anyone who has ever been torn by competing desires has experienced periods of intemperance.

And yet, intemperance isn’t merely the domination of the whole self by one part; it can also be a fragmentation of the self. When we don’t truly know ourselves, we can become pulled in too many different directions. Rather than one excess ruining the whole, it’s the excess of many things that pulls us apart. When our lives become filled with too many competing demands, we fall into the trap of intemperance. We’re unable to find balance because we’re unable to find our center and order our lives around it. Prioritizing becomes difficult and as a result we’re pulled apart.

As we seek to find balance in our lives, we must be careful to avoid confusing temperance with asceticism. Asceticism views the natural world as evil and thus demands abstinence. Temperance sees all creation as good, including our inner desires, but seeks to order those desires to that we remain free and productive.

The temperate person knows herself. She knows what is important and sets priorities and goals. The temperate person understands the idea of delayed gratification and is willing to make sacrifices for what he wants. Temperate people tend to make wise judgments about what to do and not do in order to achieve their goals. They’re willing to make choices and commitments as they seek to order their souls.

Temperance is the art of finding balance within yourself. It’s a blessing when achieved and a burden when it’s not. The balance of temperance will be different for each of us. For some, it may involve abstinence in a particular area, where for others it may involve a seeming indulgence. For us all, it involves prayer for discernment and hard work to balance and order our souls.

As you pray and fast this month, think about the two types of intemperance – when one part of the self rules the whole, and when the excess of many things pulls us a part. Reflect on how you might need to cultivate temperance (nothing overmuch) in relation one or both of these circumstances. As you reflect and ponder, I will be praying that you would be sensitive to your tendencies toward intemperance and be empowered to move closer to the balance that God desires for your life.

Share the Post:

Subscribe

Get articles about mission, evangelism, leadership, discipleship and prayer delivered directly to your inbox – for free

   

   

Personal and Social Righteousness by Kim Reisman

  

Personal and Social Righteousness by Kim Reisman

Share the post:

Scripture Focus:

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

I John 3:16-18 (NLV)

 

 

At its very core, righteousness has to do with love. Love expands our hearts. It deepens our compassion and heightens our sensitivities. Therefore, if we exercise the virtue of love, justice and righteousness will follow naturally in its wake. In strengthening our capacity to love, we strengthen and encourage righteousness within ourselves. Then, when we respond to God’s love for us with love for each other, justice takes care of itself. We all know this is easier said than done. If it were as simple as it sounds, my family never would have had to leave Mississippi. But we all know that’s not how it is. It’s definitely not like that outside of the church; and unfortunately, it’s not even like that inside the church. So where do we begin

We begin with ourselves. Social righteousness cannot be achieved without personal righteousness as its foundation. Yet personal righteousness does not mean private righteousness. The values we commit ourselves to in our personal lives must emanate outward from us to the world. Only then will our love be more than words and talk; it will be true love, which shows itself in action. When our love is made manifest in action, then the prophet Amos’ word will be true: Justice will “roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream” (Amos 5:24).

The love that we speak of is more than ritualistic kindness. Amos was talking about an everflowing stream, not short spurts or trickles here and there. A bonus at Christmas is no substitute for a living wage. A homeless shelter is not a legitimate replacement for affordable housing. Short bursts of compassion in response to situational needs such as famine or disaster are not an adequate alternative to ongoing support and development.

The rolling waters of justice depend on our personal commitment to righteousness. We are to be the everflowing stream, through our living out of the Ten Commandments, through our commitment to treating others as we would want them to treat us, through our loving of neighbors as we love ourselves. When we become the everflowing stream, rather than trickling it fits and starts, the marks of God’s righteousness will be seen in our world: justice that is blind to color or gender; protection for the weak, fairness in the courts, the opportunity for honest work for all who are willing, greater care of the earth. It is the virtue of love that must be translated into action if righteousness, both personal and social, is to prevail. In a few months we’ll explore the virtue of love at greater depth; for now, however, I want to focus on three important marks of personal and social righteousness: truth-telling, forgiveness, and promise-keeping.

Truthfulness is a dying art. Recall the striking image of Isaiah from the beginning of this month: “Truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter” (Isaiah 59:14, NIV). A sociologist once estimated that the average American tells 200 lies a day. I hope that’s not true in every country! But the norms of politeness in many of our societies can encourage lying. I recall a time when I changed the way I cut my hair. I was nervous about how it looked but when people began telling me they liked it, I felt slightly more comfortable. Until the day my husband finally told me the truth – it was not a flattering style at all! Surprisingly, instead of being upset, I was grateful and immediately scheduled an appointment for another cut.

Truth-telling is essential for healthy relationships. Wedges are driven into relationships when people lie. This is true not only in our relationships with other individuals, but in our relationship with God, in the relationships between various groups, and in relationships between governments and nations. Righteousness is the power of God that makes relationships healthy. Truth-telling is the deliberate act of the will that enhances our personal righteousness and makes us partners with God in doing justice in our world.

A second aspect of personal righteousness is forgiveness. Forgiveness is crucial to God’s justice. Experiencing God’s forgiveness in our own lives is the first step in experiencing God’s justice. So too, if we are to be instruments of God’s justice in the world, forgiveness must be a crucial part. If we are unable to forgive, we will continue to fight. This is true in our personal lives as much as it is in the lives of competing groups and nations. Witness all the racially motivated and hate-instigated violence, as well as all the stockpiled weaponry lying in wait for destruction. We must decide to live by mercy or die. Forgiveness is the answer to the dilemma of war – war between nations, war between groups, war within families, war between persons.

Justice without mercy is too harsh; it is demanding and uncreative; it becomes life-denying rather than life-giving. Both justice and mercy are attributes of God. Therefore, justice without mercy is not God’s justice at all. There is a story from The Midrash that tells of the integration of these attributes.

Justice and mercy are also attributes of God. How does God exercise these divine attributes? The case is like that of a king who had some empty goblets. He said, “If I put hot water in them, they will burst. If I put cold water in, they will crack.” So the king mixed cold and hot water together and poured it in and the goblets were uninjured.

Even so, God said, “If I create the world with the attribute of mercy alone, sin will multiply; if I create it with the attribute of justice alone, how can it endure? So I will create it with both, and thus it will endure.”[1]

True righteousness is justice tempered by mercy.

Finally, promise-keeping, like truth-telling, is necessary for the health of all types of relationships. If we don’t hold ourselves accountable to the commitments we make to others, we have no reason to be surprised when others do not keep their commitments to us.

Isaiah points us in the right direction when he says, “This is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.” (Isaiah 58:6-7, NLT)

If this is the task of justice, then we must stand as ones who are trustworthy to accomplish the task. If we don’t stand with integrity, so that all who know us know that we are promise-keepers, then how can the hungry trust we will feed them or the oppressed that we will remove their chains?

Personal righteousness is a supreme act of the will, empowered by God. It takes effort – effort to tell the truth, effort to forgive others, effort to keep promises. Yet, if we rise to the challenge, our personal righteousness can affect others and thus be transformed into social righteousness.

This process of translating personal righteousness into social righteousness is not an easy task. There are many pitfalls that can entrap us and misdirect us; two are worth noting. The first is the assertion that one particular group is the instrument of God’s righteousness. This is the scenario that is played out time and again on political stages around the world. While God has always worked and continues to work in our lives and history, it’s dangerous for a political party or any other group to claim that they are the instrument of God’s righteousness. The Bible refers to this as blasphemy. The second pitfall is closely tied to the first and involves the church. When the church identifies God’s will with the activity of a particular political party or group, they are in a spiritually dangerous situation because of the subtle sacrifice of religious freedom in favor of political religion. The Bible calls this idolatry.

Justice is a gift of God to us that evidences God’s power to make things right, to heal relationships between persons, within communities and nations, and the world. When we commit ourselves to personal righteousness and become the everflowing stream, God’s righteous power will become more evident and justice will indeed roll down like waters to refresh and renew our barren lives and land.

 

 

 

[1] William B. Silverman, Rabbinic Stories for Christian Ministers and Teachers (New York: Abingdon Press, 1958), p35.

Share the Post:

Subscribe

Get articles about mission, evangelism, leadership, discipleship and prayer delivered directly to your inbox – for free

   

   

Biblical Justice by Kim Reisman

  

Biblical Justice by Kim Reisman

Share the Post:

Scripture Focus:

I will test you with the measuring line of justice and the plumb line of righteousness.

Isaiah 28:17 (NLT)

 

 

While the classical idea of justice, giving each person their due, is important, it only scratches the surface of what justice actually means. The biblical sense of justice, what we call righteousness, goes much deeper.

It’s easy for Christians to think that Judaism’s greatest contribution is the notion of monotheism (belief in one God). William Silverman has written:

The Shema is the first word of the Hebrew sentence: Shema Yisroel Adonoi Elohaynu Adonoi Echod. Translated it means: “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One.” This is the watchword, the motto, and the foundation of the Jewish faith. It is the first prayer that the Jewish child learns to utter. It is the last prayer the dying Jew repeats before he yields his soul to God. Historically, the Shema was repeated in every crisis. It is the Jewish affirmation of faith in God. [1]

And yet, Silverman also reminds us that to think monotheism is the greatest contribution of Judaism is a mistake:

The greatest contribution of Judaism is not the belief in one God – monotheism – but rather the belief in ethical monotheism – one moral God who demands morality from those who worship Him. The scriptural keynote of this divine imitation is sounded in Lev. 19:2: “Ye shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy.”

The rabbis amplified this by the following comment: “Even as He is merciful, so be thou merciful; even as He clothes the naked, buries the dead, and dispenses charity to all, do thou likewise.” [2]

Thus, while in the classical sense justice begins with the individual, in the biblical sense, justice begins with God.

Classical justice, particularly as it has come to be understood in our day, has a pronounced legal flavor to it. It’s concerned with the individual and his or her rights within the context of society. Biblical justice, however, has far more of a relational flavor. It’s concerned with what goes on among people and nations as well as the power of God in our life and history. Righteousness is connected with the biblical notion of justice. “But the Lord of hosts is exalted by justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy by righteousness.” (Isaiah 5:16, NRSV)

Righteousness focuses on the power of God that sets things right and heals relationships, communities, nations, and the world. “This is what the Lord says: ‘Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.’” (Isaiah 56:1, NIV) Where classical justice emphasizes the exterior dimension, how individuals are related to and exist within society, righteousness emphasizes both the exterior and the interior dimensions. Righteousness is concerned not only with the individual’s relationship with society, but the individual’s relationship to God. Thus, while we usually speak about justice in social terms, when speaking about righteousness, we must speak of personal righteousness as well as social righteousness. These two dimensions of righteousness, personal and social, are necessary if we are to gain a full understanding of biblical justice. They’re necessary not only for our understanding, but in order for the power of God’s righteousness to work in us and through us to heal relationships, communities, and the world.

One of the most telling illustrations of the difference between the secular and the biblical senses of justice is seen in the way we speak about it. While in secular society we talk about “getting justice,” the Bible speaks of “doing justice.” One of the Proverbs puts it into perspective: To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. (Proverbs 21:3, NRSV)

There is a story in the Jewish Talmud that answers the question, “how may man work for God and demonstrate his love?” A king’s subjects came to him and said:

“Oh, our King, we would show our love for thee. What shall we say unto thee? What gifts may we give thee?”

The king answered: “My subjects, I am grateful for your goodness in coming before me to show your love. But what words shall you utter? I know the sentiments of your hearts. What gifts may you give me? Am I not the king, the ruler of the entire realm? If you would show your love for me, attend to my words. I have children, and I cherish them dearly. If you would show your love for me, then go forth and serve my children.”

When we come before God, the King of all Kings, to express our love by words and gifts alone, will this be acceptable before him? We may imagine that God responds by saying: “I am grateful for the expressions of your love, but do I not know the sentiments of your hearts, both the hidden and the revealed? What gifts may you give me? Am I not the Ruler of heaven and earth? If you would show your love for Me, the Father, then go forth and serve My children.” [3]

We “do justice” when we work to set things right or maintain what is already right. This involves our personal lives as well as our communal lives. At its very core, justice refers to love made manifest in spirit and action. We are acting justly, and we show our love of God the Father, by loving kindness and service to God’s children.

As you continue your journey of prayer and fasting, reflect on your life stance. Are you more interested in getting justice than in doing justice? I pray that you would come to a full understanding of biblical justice so that the power of God’s righteousness would work in you and through you to heal relationships, communities, and the world.

 

 

[1] William Silverman, Rabbinic Stories for Christian Ministers and Teachers, (Abingdon Press, 1958), p. 30.

[2] Ibid, p. 34-35.

[3] Ibid, p. 33.

Share the Post:

Subscribe

Get articles about mission, evangelism, leadership, discipleship and prayer delivered directly to your inbox – for free

   

Justice is a Natural Grace Marred by Sin by Kim Reisman

  

Justice is a Natural Grace Marred by Sin by Kim Reisman

Share the Post:

Scripture Focus:

But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”

Jeremiah 31:33-34 (NLT)

 

One of the blessings God has given all of humanity is an intrinsic sense of justice. It’s a natural grace that God freely gives to all people. God created each of us with a finely tuned mechanism that senses when things are unfair. Though not fully realized, God’s law is within us. God has written it on our hearts. Over the years people have referred to it as our “moral compass.” It’s our built-in guide to “rightness” and “oughtness.” To a certain extent, all of us instinctively know what is right and wrong.

In his bo0k, The Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome, Stephen Shoemaker offered another way of looking at justice. He talked about a kind of “fairness meter.” Each of us has the ability to measure fairness. We have an internal meter, or indicator if you will. Originally God created our fairness indicators so that they were sensitive to all types of fairness, whether we were treating others fairly and whether we were being treated fairly.

Of course, like most things God created, over the years we have messed it up. That’s what we call sin! Sin entered our lives and tinkered with that finely-tuned mechanism. Now, when other people are wronged before our very eyes, the meter barely registers a tiny blip and there may be only a hint of moral outrage. But watch out if we are the persons being wronged! The indicator sounds off louder than a fire alarm. Unfortunately, because of sin, not only is the indicator no longer sensitive to justice for others, but a subtle dysfunction is also at work. The fairness indicator is no longer very good at telling us whether we are really being wronged. It can’t help us discern whether we just think we’re being wronged.

It’s much like the two little boys who went to the dentist one day and waited until all the patients had been seen. When the dentist came out, the older boy spoke up, “Doctor, I want a tooth taken out, and I don’t want any gas and I don’t want it deadened because we’re in a hurry.” The dentist was very impressed and smiled at the little boy and said, “Well, you’re a very brave young man. You want a tooth pulled but you don’t want any gas and you don’t want it deadened.” And the little boy said, “That’s right, ‘cause we’re in a hurry.” “Well, okay,” said the dentist, “but first, which tooth is it?” And the little boy turned to his smaller buddy and said, “Show him your tooth, Albert!”

This is the way our fairness indicators are calibrated. We don’t mind pain or mistreatment, as long as it’s not our own. When others suffer under the strains of injustice and oppression, our sense of outrage is never completely kindled. However, if it is us, or someone in our group, then the matter takes on grave importance. Recalibrating our fairness indicators, getting them back into good working order, is the goal of kindling the virtue of justice.

Last week we reflected on the classical definition of justice: giving each person their due. As y0u pray and fast this week, press the justice issue to a more personal level. How finely tuned to you believe your “fairness meter” to be? Reflect on how sensitive you are to things not being right or just. When was the last time you felt you were treated unjustly? When was the last time you observed that someone else was being treated unjustly?

I’m praying that you will become deeply aware of the calibration of your “fairness indicator,” and that it would become so finely tuned that you would sense not only personal injustice, but that it would sound off loudly for others as well.

Share the Post:

Subscribe

Get articles about mission, evangelism, leadership, discipleship and prayer delivered directly to your inbox – for free

   

Justice: Giving Each Person Their Due by Kim Reisman

  

Justice: Giving Each Person Their Due by Kim Reisman

Share the Post:

Scripture Focus:

So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene.

Isaiah 59:14-16 (NIV)

 

 

In 1963 my family moved from Mississippi to California because of the racial tension at that time and in that place. My father was a pastor and was supportive of the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King, Jr.: unfortunately, the church was not.

I used to think that things had changed a lot since then, at least on the surface. But over the last few years, I’ve come to believe that even on the surface, things haven’t changed. And deep down? Definitely not.

At my ordination service in 1996, Bishop Woodie White, an African American, said that he was welcomed in many churches because he was the bishop, but if he were to be appointed as pastor, many of those same churches wouldn’t accept him because he’s black.

Early in my ministry, I was described as an “out of control little girl” because I was exercising strong and capable leadership. Even now, when I make the necessary decisions that come with good leadership, I can tell when it’s strategically wise to send a man to deliver news. I suppose this is what we mean when we say the more things change the more they stay the same.

We have a crisis today, a crisis of justice. For those of us in the United States, it’s easy to understand this as a global crisis (which it is). But it seems much harder to grasp the depth of the crisis here at home. After all, the United States was founded on the principle of “liberty and justice for all.” We are the country of free speech and the right to assemble for protest. But then suddenly masked protesters decide freedom of speech means freedom to commit violence, and protest means intimidation and calling for the elimination of an entire people group. Our heads reel and we wonder, how could this be happening?

We’re in a crisis of justice, here in the United States, and everywhere else in the world. How easily the modern-day prophet might cry out with Isaiah: “Justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets.” And God must certainly be appalled that there is no one to intervene for the sake of righteousness.

Justice has to do with what we feel, how we relate to one another, what we value, the priorities we set. As we will see, justice has to do with our faith and at its very center, justice has to do with love. And yet, in the classical sense of Plato and Aristotle, justice is simply a matter of giving each person his or her due. It’s a civic virtue that a civil society depends upon.

This sounds simple enough, giving each person his or her due; but history – and current world events – has shown it to be an elusive and difficult concept to put into practice. As Christians, particularly, it helps us to remember that our duty to act justly is derived from the requirement to be just because justice is an attribute of God. When we fail “to give each person their due,” when we ignore the calls of those who are suffering injustice, we are ignoring the cry and supplication of God.

This is a challenging word for us in these days of violence and war, racial and ethnic strife, mass migration and economic instability. And yet, it is a word we cannot ignore. As you pray and fast this month, bring to mind a person in your community who may not be getting their due. What is going on with this person? Are they being denied their due by family? By work? By the larger social system? How might you intervene for the sake of righteousness?

Share the Post:

Subscribe

Get articles about mission, evangelism, leadership, discipleship and prayer delivered directly to your inbox – for free

   

Courage, Will and Freedom by Kim Reisman

  

Courage, Will and Freedom by Kim Reisman

Share the Post:

Scripture Focus:

Daniel soon proved himself more capable than all the other administrators and high officers. Because of Daniel’s great ability, the king made plans to place him over the entire empire. Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn. He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy. So they concluded, “Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.” So the administrators and high officers went to the king and said, “Long live King Darius! We are all in agreement—we administrators, officials, high officers, advisers, and governors—that the king should make a law that will be strictly enforced. Give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions. And now, Your Majesty, issue and sign this law so it cannot be changed, an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be revoked.” So King Darius signed the law. But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. 

Daniel 6:3-10 (NLT)



When my kids were little, we would read them The Story of Ruby Bridges, written by Robert Coles, and illustrated by George Ford. It’s the moving story of a little girl named Ruby Bridges who was the first black child to attend an all-white elementary school in New Orleans, Louisiana. Each day, escorted by federal marshals, she would walk to school, through mobs of angry people shouting and spitting at her. Each day, on her way to school, a few blocks before she got there, and again on her way home, a few blocks after she left, she would stop and pray for the crowd. In her prayer, young Ruby asked God to forgive the angry mob.

Earlier this month I talked about courage being more than physical bravery but being a power of the heart. A couple of weeks ago, I talked about the hope that enables us to act despite our fear. Yet the question remains – how does courage, this power of our hearts, get into us? How is it that Daniel had the courage to continue to pray after it became outlawed? How is it that little Ruby Bridges had the courage, not only to be the only black child to attend an all-white school day after day, but to pray for those who were persecuting her? I believe the answer is that courage is a strength of the heart that resides in our will. Daniel used his will to break the law and continue praying. Ruby exercised her will, in determining that each day she would go to school and that each day she would pray.

Courage is an act of the will; and as an act of the will, it’s the exercise of choice. We choose to be courageous or not be courageous. We make a deliberate effort of our will to act according to our principles. If he had chosen to, Daniel could have obeyed the edict. He could have stopped praying. If they had chosen to, the administrators and high officers could have respected Daniel for the committed Jew that he was. If she had chosen to, Ruby could have decided to stay home. If they had chosen to, those in the mob who taunted her could have been supportive, could have chosen not to gather, could have chosen to send their own children to school along with Ruby. Each person makes choices, exercises his or her will in ways that show courage or cowardice.

This may sound like an intimidating word; but in actuality it’s quite liberating. We don’t have to be conformed to this world. Because courage is an act of the will, it will not always be seen in the same way. Courage can, in fact, be shown in many different ways. You can show courage by moving forward, or by moving back. You can show courage by speaking out, or by remaining quiet. You can show courage by bearing your burdens or by throwing them off. You can show courage by dying for a good cause or by living for a good cause. Simply put, you can show courage by saying yes, or by saying no.

Courage is a power of the will that keeps us free. Courage exercised through our will moves us closer to our true selves. Wisdom is a necessary ingredient of courage at this point. Without wisdom, using our will to make choices may or may not be courageous. If we always say no, we aren’t necessarily courageous; we may simply be stubborn. If we always say yes, we’re merely a reflection of our culture. We need wisdom to discern what the courageous choices will be in our lives; wisdom informs us about when to say yes and when to say no.

Life will always provide us with opportunities for courage or cowardice. Our lives are filled with choice after choice after choice; so it’s important for us to foster areas of our lives that encourage courageous choices. We must develop and strengthen our wills so we will be up to the challenge of exercising our wills courageously.

Two ways courage can be fostered in our lives are through stories and community. Plato taught that the way to teach courage to children was to tell them stories. God knew this and thus instructed the Hebrews to tell the stories of the faith over and over to their children. As Israelite children grew, they heard, again and again, how God brought their people out of bondage and into freedom, how God had guided and blessed them, and how God had remained faithful even when they had not.

Sandor Ungvari was an elderly Hungarian scholar who wrote a book called Life and Death of Hungarian Nazism that marked him for trouble when the Nazi armies invaded Hungary in 1939. He was arrested, sentenced, tortured; but he survived. Then the Communists came. They assumed since he had been tortured by the Nazis he would support the new regime; but they were wrong. Sandor organized an underground resistance movement composed of fellow intellectuals. For this he was arrested, charged with sixty counts of spying for the United States, and sentenced to death by hanging.

Fortunately, Sandor’s lawyer was able to negotiate his sentence down to eight years in the notorious Gherla prison, an island prison with the reputation that no one left alive. With the help of three nationalist guards, Sandor escaped. Outside the walls, he swam across the freezing Szamos River and walked at night, from village to village, locating a pastor in each place who would send him on to the pastor in the next town. Through this pastoral underground, he made it to the Austrian border and to freedom. When asked, “Why did you do it? Why did you resist so openly?” Sandor replied, “It was my family. They were all resisters, all of them, right from the beginning – from Janos Ungvari, a Magyar galley slave, to Adreas Ungvari, who was a leader in the Hungarian Reformation. I heard their stories over and over all my childhood days. With such family memories, could I do anything else?

Courage comes into our hearts almost by osmosis when we hear and rehear stories of courage: the remarkable stories of our faith, the extraordinary stories of others. Courage grows and forms within us even as ordinary parents pass on to their children the stories of heroes in their own families.

Our will must be formed to include the strength of courage. That can occur through storytelling; and it’s fostered through community. Courage is an individual thing; no one can have courage for us; yet, behind each courageous person stands a community of people. While courage may be singular, it’s also infectious. When we’re close to others, courage spreads. When we’re part of a community that’s grounded on trust – that provides us with the encouragement and support we need in times of crisis – then courage is fostered. Certainly it takes courage simply to be part of an intimate community. It takes courage to relate to others honestly and openly, to make ourselves vulnerable and to respond with sensitivity to the unguarded openness of others. Yet, once we have the courage to be part of a real community, we will be surprised to find a new source of courage beyond ourselves, hope. Community is the home of hope; and as we already know, hope is the source of courage.

Do you know some stories of courage from your family or community? Reflect on those stories. What role did faith, hope, and will/choice play in each? How were these stories of courage fostered by community

As you continue to pray and fast, I pray you will develop and strengthen your will so you will be up to the challenge of exercising courageous choices. And that you will be empowered by stories of courage and guided by God’s wisdom to know when to say yes, and whey to say no.

Share the Post:

Subscribe

Get articles about mission, evangelism, leadership, discipleship and prayer delivered directly to your inbox – for free

   

Courage, Fear and Hope by Kim Reisman

  

Courage, Fear and Hope by Kim Reisman

Share the Post:
Share the Post:

Subscribe

Get articles about mission, evangelism, leadership, discipleship and prayer delivered directly to your inbox – for free

   

Courage: Strength of Heart by Kim Reisman

  

Courage: Strength of Heart by Kim Reisman

Share the Post:
 
 
 
 
Share the Post:

Subscribe

Get articles about mission, evangelism, leadership, discipleship and prayer delivered directly to your inbox – for free