And what does the Lord require of you but
to do justice,
and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
There are three requirements spelled out in Micah 6:8 - justice, mercy, and faithfulness. How are we, as a general faith community, doing on these requirements?
For faithfulness, we engage in activities that encourage one another to grow in their relationship with God; this includes worship, scripture studies, and prayer. Most congregations are doing faithfulness well. We gather at least 52 times a year for worship and provide many other opportunities for prayer and study.
Mercy programs or ministries are the ways in which we help individuals with immediate needs. This includes serving at soup kitchens, volunteering at homeless shelters, and giving money to organizations that provide services for those in need. Most congregations are doing mercy well.
Justice, on the other hand, addresses systems rather than individuals. The distinction between justice and mercy is important.
A mercy response to homelessness involves contributing to food programs and maintaining shelters.
A justice response takes action to address the underlying questions:
◦ Why are there so many homeless people in our community?
◦ Why are many families unable to afford a decent place to live?
◦ Why are so many people with mental health problems ending up on the streets?
Both mercy and justice are required by God; mercy helps individuals, justice seeks systemic improvements. So how are our congregations doing with justice ministries? Probably not as well as we would like.
There is a good reason for this: no congregation has enough leverage to effectively do justice on its own.
In the public arena where decisions that impact communities are made, we often see two types of power: organized money and organized people. Many are familiar with the leverage that organized money yields.
Lobbyists, lawyers, paid advertising, campaign contributions, etc. are often utilized to impact public decisions. Our congregations do not possess this type of money. But we can bring together large numbers of passionate, informed people committed to seeing justice in our community. The Good Faith Network is a vehicle for congregations to do justice through the power of large numbers of organized people. For people of faith, this means we can fulfill our requirement to 'do justice' as laid before us in Micah.
We use the example of Nehemiah as a model on how to 'do justice.'
THE STORY OF NEHEMIAH
The fifth chapter of Nehemiah is a great example of God’s people organizing in large numbers to do justice.
Nehemiah, Cupbearer to the King of Persia, goes to Jerusalem to restore its identity by rebuilding the wall around the city. During construction, there is an outcry among the people. There has been a drought in the land and the people of Jerusalem have been forced to take out loans to do basic things like buy food and pay taxes. As the drought continued, the money lenders took everything: the people's fields, vineyards, orchards, and even forced the people to sell their children into debt slavery.
Nehemiah hears this cry of injustice from the people, he feels a righteous anger that compels him to act. He considers his options: He can choose to do mercy ministry by opening a food pantry or credit counseling program, or he can choose to do justice by changing the lending system and shifting the imbalance of power. Scripture tells us he chooses the latter.
Despite possessing status as the Cupbearer to the King, Nehemiah doesn't have enough power to challenge the system alone. So he organizes a “great assembly” of people and brings forth the money lenders to be held accountable. When pressed during this assembly, the money lenders agree to restore everything they have taken from the people, and then they follow through on their promises.
This is a basic introduction to the imperative to do justice, the distinction between justice and mercy, and the strength that comes from organized people.
Patterned after this story, the Good Faith Network will listen to people's stories and concerns; research solutions that will have a system-wide impact and improve the lives of many; bring specific proposals to the appropriate decision-makers during a "great assembly" of people, and; monitor progress to ensure positive impact.
Our first Nehemiah Assembly will be held on May 3rd, 2022.
"Justice, Equity, and Compassion in Human Relations."
- Second Principle
While our primary scriptures are taken from the Hebrew Bible or the Christian Old Testament, similar scriptures are found in many religions:
Though we belong to diverse faith traditions, our members find common ground in values of justice and fairness. We build power and take direct action on problems facing our community so that all people are treated with the respect and dignity that our faith traditions tell us they deserve.