(Part 24)


February 23, 2016

Today’s readings:

Isaiah 1:10-20

Psalm 50:8-23

Matthew 23:1-12

Mercy and justice go together. There can be no true mercy if there is no justice. Mercy is freely given by God, but one has to accept that mercy. Mercy is always an invitation to repentance. “Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow” (Is 1:18a). If one refuses to repent, then the justice of God kicks in, with the attendant punishment that mercy would have forgone. “But if you refuse and resist, you shall be eaten by the sword” (Is 1:20a).

What is justice? It is giving to the other person what is his due.

  • To God is due awe and worship. “Those who offer praise as a sacrifice honor me” (Ps 50:23a).
  • To Jesus is due his proper place in our life and service, and not usurping that place. “As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher” (Mt 23:8a). “Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah.” (Mt 23:10).
  • To the poor and oppressed is due relief and help. “Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.” (Is 1:17b).
  • To fellow human beings is due respect and not being subject to slander and deceit. “You give your mouth free rein for evil; you yoke your tongue to deceit. You sit and speak against your brother, slandering your mother’s son. When you do these things should I be silent? Do you think that I am like you? I accuse you, I lay out the matter before your eyes.” (Ps 50:19-21).
  • To servant leaders is due submission and obedience. They are there as appointed by God to care for His flock. “Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you” (Mt 23:3a). This is for the sake of the life and mission of the body, and for there to be peace and unity. Unfortunately, there are those servant leaders who are not good examples to the flock. Jesus then says, “do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.” (Mt 23:3b). In other words, follow the good things they say but do not follow the bad example they show.
  • To subordinates of servant leaders is due pastoral care and accompaniment. It is not for leaders to be like the scribes and Pharisees who “tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.” (Mt 23:4). Servant leaders teach about righteousness, holiness and Christian perfection, which are all heavy burdens hard to carry and live out. They should then also pastor, counsel, encourage, explain, journey with, charitably rebuke, and intercede for them.
  • To ourselves is due the salvation won for us by Jesus on the cross. “I will let him whose way is steadfast look upon the salvation of God.” (Ps 50:23b). Jesus has already shown mercy. We respond with justice, obeying God’s commands and avoiding sin. “Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good.” (Is 1:16-17a).

Practicing justice in the ways above enables us to become agents of God’s mercy.

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