Purity and justice

See how each of the princes of Israel who are in you uses his power to shed blood. In you they have treated father and mother with contempt; in you they have oppressed the foreigner and mistreated the fatherless and the widow. You have despised my holy things and desecrated my Sabbaths. In you are slanderers who are bent on shedding blood; in you are those who eat at the mountain shrines and commit lewd acts. In you are those who dishonor their father’s bed; in you are those who violate women during their period, when they are ceremonially unclean. In you one man commits a detestable offense with his neighbor’s wife, another shamefully defiles his daughter-in-law, and another violates his sister, his own father’s daughter. In you are people who accept bribes to shed blood; you take interest and make a profit from the poor. You extort unjust gain from your neighbors. And you have forgotten me, declares the Sovereign Lord. (Ezekiel 22:6-12)

I was reading Ezekiel last night. Chapter 22 grabbed my attention in more than one way. In the latter part of the chapter when it talks about God’s wrath refining Israel like silver, I thought of John the Baptist and Jesus. I wonder if they had this chapter in mind when they preached.

But it is the quote above that opened up a question I wanted to share with you.

In the passage above, God lays out a list of offenses including things we divide into different categories. Some are things we might call concerns with purity — ritual or personal — and some are things we might call justice issues.

Jesus does the same in his preaching. The Apostles do as well.

It seems like we tend to separate these things. You find churches where the emphasis falls almost entirely on the need for us to purify our hearts and conduct. You find other churches where the emphasis falls almost exclusively on care for the poor and vulnerable.

Righteousness in the Bible strikes me as involving both things.

How do we hold these two things together and so honor God?


3 thoughts on “Purity and justice

  1. “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27).

    Anyone can feed the hungry or help the vulnerable. But the problem that comes in when people who are not pure in heart and conduct try to do this is seen, for example, in the call for the so-called “reproductive justice” of abortion on demand. Under the guise of taking care of vulnerable women, the most helpless and innocent of human beings–the unborn–are slaughtered, and women are left with all kinds of physical and psychological problems as a result of abortion.

    On the other hand, I firmly believe that if a person is really pure in heart and conduct, that will automatically include taking care of the hungry and the vulnerable. Those who claim to be holy and pure while neglecting the needy and neglecting justice may be fooling themselves but they are probably not fooling anyone else

  2. You are right, that as Wesleyans, it is about both. After delving into Wesley and then spending a significant amount of time monitoring a myriad of voices engaged in the same sex debate, I found myself coming to the conclusion that where the church is no longer united but untied is that the individual and social aspects of Wesleyan Christianity have become disconnected. Wesley maintained both in proper balance; what he called holiness of heart and life. There is room for both personal holiness and addressing social justice issues, but in proper balance to each other. Wesley said something along the lines of you can have all the external actions down pat, but if a person is not transformed from the inside out, they are as “orthodox as the devil”.

    I have a very short list of people I have encountered that I consider to be seriously in the pursuit of holiness. And what impresses me most is not the way holiness plays out in large and obvious ways, but in the smallest and subtle details of their lives. It has led me to wonder how holy can I be in the “big things” if I am not holy in the “small things”.

    If you truly pay attention to what Wesley did, he did not transform the world by addressing perceived social justice issues, inst4ead, his focus was connecting individuals to the triune God of holy love and enabling them to live their individual lives centered in God 24/7 and thus God was able to transform communities one person at a time. And furthermore, Wesley himself never set out to change anything. He started exploring what it meant to live a holy life; that quest led him to unexpected places and the rest is history!

    Wesley is proof positive of something C.S. Lewis stated: Christianity is effective only when people aim their lives “at heaven.” If you aim your life at heaven the world is “thrown in”. If you aim your life at the world, you get neither heaven nor the world.

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