What does the Lord require of you but to do justice,
and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3)
Have you ever asked God, what do you want me to do?
Before we do anything for God or in God’s name, we need to know that God is love, we need to experience God as love. If we do not know God as love, if we do not experience God as love, we will never know what God truly wants of us and we will most likely do things in God’s name that are far from God’s character and will.
We need to know and experience God as love before we ask the question what do you want me to do? And it is an ongoing question, a question that we continue to ask within a relationship of love. If we are not following in love, we will be driven by all sorts of harmful things that can lead to the hurt and harm of others. If we are not following in love we can be driven by such things as the thirst for power, or greed, the hunger for possessions and money, or prestige, privilege and place or by jealousy, or bitterness, unforgiveness, hatred, fear, revenge and violence. We end up doing things our own way or the way others want us to do things but perhaps not what God may want us to do.
When we know and experience God as love we will seek to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.
To know love and to live in love is to decentre oneself and find fulfillment in loving the other. Love one another as I have loved you – John 13:34. When we put God at the centre of our life we put love at the centre of our life and when we put love at the centre of our life we put God at the centre of our life. A liberating love for the environment, a liberating love for the poor requires a de-centring of self so that love may flow. Just as water always finds its way to the lowest point so love always flows down. God, like water, is found flowing down among the cracks and crevices and depths of human suffering and poverty. Though he was rich, Jesus humbled himself and became poor and lived among us. French Sociologist and Theologian Jacques Ellul says that ‘Love leads us to a deeper understanding of reality. ’A person that has tasted God’s love will have their eyes opened to the poor, to the injustices of this world and that is where their love will flow.
Jesus declared that the kingdom of God is good news for two groupings of people: The first grouping is made up of people who are poor and who are meek, those who are oppressed and downtrodden by others, those who hunger and thirst for justice, those who have lost everything and are paralysed by grief. The second grouping are those who will walk his path and change the way things are in the world, they are people who show mercy, who live a life of total honesty, with no falsehood or pretence, those who are peacemakers, those who are persecuted for trying to follow the ways of Jesus and those who are placed alongside the oppressed because of their attempts to change things.
Things are upside down in the world. To do justice is to turn things the right way up. We can see the evidence of greed and corruption and the misuse of power in the destruction of the environment and in the growing numbers of people who becoming poor. Just as scientists have been warming that global warming has been caused by human actions so too poverty results from the actions of other human beings.
The beatitudes can help us to see what it means to do justice, to love kindness and walk humbly with our God. They give us what Jon Sobrino calls the Christian spiritual mindset. This is how we see things. Everything is turned upside down in the beatitudes. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
The poor in Spirit, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and those who mourn are those crushed by the powers of this world. In the kingdom of heaven, it is the poor who are lifted up as the kingdoms and powers of this world are turned upside down.
So, we always need to see with the eyes of love. Without love we participate in the violent loveless ways of the kingdoms of this world. But with love, the kingdom of heaven comes.
As followers of Jesus, we are the blessed who find ourselves not among the rich and powerful but among the poor and despised peoples of this world. We rejoice and are glad not because everything has already changed to the way it should be but because a different reality is already among us; the kingdom of heaven is at hand, the kingdom of life and love is around and about us, falling like rain, flowing down into the depths of human life and raising the poor, like an ancient shipwreck rising from the bottom of the ocean floor and returning it to its place on the waves, to live again.
When we think of mission and we ask what does God want us to do? Our asking this question must always be a question from the heart, a response of the heart. Any response that does not come from a heart of love will quickly become one that seeks to control and dominate. It won’t last. It will become divisive and end up doing the opposite of the will of God.
Ongoing constant reflection is crucial. Reflect Act Grow. Action must always flow from reflection and action must always be followed by reflection - a constant process.
What does God want us to do? To disrupt the world order, to turn things upside down.
What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? And we will be blessed in the heavenly calling of doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with our God.
Minister of Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Uniting Church Congregation