Tag Archives: Injustice

Namaste God

Namaste God (CaD Gen 16) Wayfarer

[Hagar] gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
Genesis 16:13 (NIV)

Our dear friend has a yoga studio in town. Wendy has actively been assisting our friend with her business. And so, I even attend a class now and then. Given the increased stiffening of the muscles and joints one experiences with age, I really should go more often. It is really good for my body.

One of the traditions of yoga is that of ending a class with the word “namaste.” The literal translation is “I bow to you” and it is a traditional, humble salutation used in greeting and parting. Many people speak of the word’s broader definition as “I see you,” or “The divine in me sees the divine in you” and I find the concept quite lovely.

Today’s chapter is downright Shakespearean when bookended with yesterday’s chapter. Yesterday’s chapter was about Abram’s simple belief of God’s promises being “credited to him as righteousness.” Of course, the promise God has made Abram from the very beginning was that His descendants would be as numerous as stars in the sky and the sand on the beach. Today’s chapter begins with the harsh reality of his wife Sara being old and childless. Sara, who is tired of waiting, tired of believing, and tired of trusting, takes matters into her own hands. She tells Abram to do what was very common in the culture of that day. She tells her husband to sleep with her servant, Hagar, and have a child by her so that he would have an heir. Abram goes along with it.

Sara and Abram’s act intersect with me and my own story on multiple levels. Along my journey I have had my own experiences with God’s promises given and the long-suffering required to see the promise fulfilled. The questions of “How long do I wait?” and “Should I be doing something to make this thing happen?” are very real. Abram and Sara’s impatience and exasperation resonate deeply with me.

And then, of course, there is the journey of infertility that Wendy and I walked together for many years (though much shorter than Abram and Sara). There are emotions, questions, and struggles that one experiences on the journey of infertility (for both a woman and a man) that are unlike anything else I’ve experienced in life. I’ve observed that those who have not experienced it are largely unaware of the intensity of the ordeal, and most are reluctant to even engage in an empathetic conversation about it. I get Sara and Abram’s desperation, and their desire to make this thing happen once and for all.

Then there is Hagar, who is the oft ignored victim of this desperate act. In all my years studying the Great Story, I regularly find Hagar to be regarded with either ignorance (e.g. she’s not considered at all) or subtle contempt (e.g. she’s viewed contemptuously as “the other woman”). In the quiet this morning, I couldn’t ignore her. Hagar was a slave. She had no choice in the matter. She suffered a gross injustice that was compounded by Sara’s antipathy and mistreatment, along with Abram’s indifference (e.g. “Do with her whatever you think best.”). Hagar flees the abusive situation. She’s homeless, penniless, defenseless, directionless, and pregnant.

Then God shows up.

God blesses Hagar. He gives Hagar a carbon-copy promise that He gave to Abram and Sara: “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” God comforts Hagar in her misery. God directs Hagar to return to Sara because sometimes in the Great Story one must face injustice rather than flee it in order for the larger Story to unfold.

Then Hagar says something amazing: “You are the God who sees me. I have seen the One who sees me.”

As I read these words this morning my soul whispered “Namaste.”

In the quiet this morning, I stand humbled and amazed at the lengths to which God regarded Hagar and the injustice done to her. God appears to this poor, pregnant slave girl in a way that He rarely appears to anyone. It echoes of Jesus’ regard for a poor, publicly shamed and naked woman caught in the act of adultery, and His regard for a half-breed, divorced and segregated Samaritan woman at the well.

“I see you.”

The God who sees Abram and Sara in the intense struggles of their infertility journey. The God who sees Hagar in the suffering of the injustices done to her. The God who sees me in both my joys and my long-sufferings. God sees me. Do I, like Hagar, see the God who sees me, or, like Sara and Abram, am I blinded by my doubts, fears, and frustrations?

And the Shakespearean story is about to unfold.

Two sons by different women.

Two numerous peoples, the countless descendants of Hagar and Sara.

Arabs and Hebrews.

Both peoples honoring Abraham as their father.

Read the headlines. The story continues to unfold to this day.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Pursued

source: spencerslife via flickr
source: spencerslife via flickr

Since you did not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you.”
Ezekiel 35:6b (NIV)

This I have observed along my life journey, that we are pursued by the powers of darkness which we refuse to stand against.

  • If we refuse to stand against hatred, it will pursue us.
  • If we refuse to stand against injustice, it will pursue us.
  • If we refuse to stand against violence, it will pursue us.
  • If we refuse to stand against ignorance, it will pursue us.
  • If we refuse to stand against bigotry, it will pursue us.
  • If we refuse to stand against prejudice, it will pursue us.
  • If we refuse to stand against misogyny, it will pursue us.
  • If we refuse to stand against misandry, it will pursue us.

The things of darkness respond only to a forceful assault of Light.

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”   – Jesus

Rambling Thoughts on Time, Suffering, and Eternity

Source: Pink Sherbet via Flickr
Source: Pink Sherbet via Flickr

The groans of the dying rise from the city,
    and the souls of the wounded cry out for help.
    But God charges no one with wrongdoing.
Job 24:12 (NIV)

My thoughts feel kind of disjointed this morning. Oh well.

I had a great conversation over morning coffee with my friend Matthew yesterday. We began to press into the concepts of time and eternity as God reveals it in His Message. I don’t often stop to realize how transformative the concept of eternity truly is. I say I believe in eternity, but I wonder if I truly comprehend what that should mean to my daily life.

If I believe in eternity, I realize the span of my earthly life is a mere speck on a time line that goes on forever.

If I believe in eternity, I will invest time, energy, and resources in matters of eternal value.

If I believe in eternity, I know that this life is a mere shadow of what is truly real.

If I believe in eternity, I know that all suffering is momentary in a grander scheme, including injustice.

I returned to that conversation in my thoughts this morning as I mulled over Job’s observations. I do not have to look farther than my television or smartphone to be confronted with the hard realities of suffering and injustice. I can scroll, click and view it in the palm of my hand 24/7/365. It’s depressing and it lends itself to the feelings of hopelessness and despair that Job communicates. But, then I found myself thinking about eternity once again.

Eternity does not negate pain or diminish the feelings and emotions which emanate from suffering and injustice, but it does provide context. My suffering is a small part of a larger reality which I cannot fully see or perceive in this moment. Faith in eternity as God reveals it transforms my suffering from senseless to purposeful, even if I can’t quite grasp exactly what that is amidst the painful chaos of this moment in time. That’s what faith is: evidence of that which I cannot see.

Dirty Harry Blues

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 58

Then at last everyone will say,
    “There truly is a reward for those who live for God;
    surely there is a God who judges justly here on earth.”
Psalm 58:11 (NLT)

I was reading a college paper my daughter wrote just the other day about human trafficking and slavery in today’s world. The numbers were depressing. Close to two million human beings enslaved in the world and most of them falling under the designation of the sex slave trade. Even here in the “land of the free” the number of human beings enslaved and trafficked for the sex slave trade is estimated to be 10,000 or more. And, this is just the tip of the injustice iceberg when you start talking about slave labor, corrupt governments, organized crime, drug cartels, religious intolerance, and genocide. The weight of it all is enough to make a person’s blood boil with righteous anger.

Today’s chapter is what scholars call an “imprecatory” psalm. That’s a fancy word meaning to call down a curse on someone. David is calling on God to violently destroy those who do evil in this world, and it’s a bit difficult for some people to reconcile with Jesus’ call to love our enemies and bless those who persecute us.

Great songwriters know how to express the breadth of the human experience in the language of music. David was not just a warrior; He was an artist, as well. When he wrote his songs, which we now refer to as psalms, he covered his own emotional spectrum from A to Z. When David was feeling good, he wrote a rockin’ song of praise. When David got angry, he wrote the blues. Because he was both an artist and a warrior, his blues lyrics didn’t come out sounding like a helpless victim, they came out sounding like Dirty Harry.

From the time David was a kid he faced injustice with a sling and a sword.  When he saw the injustice of the way Goliath was mocking God, David killed the giant and cut off his head. David was a soldier and a warrior and his first instinct was to exact justice with capital punishment. Therefore, when he looked at the injustice of the world, his warrior heart wanted God to show up with a sword and destroy the guilty. David was expressing a very real emotion that is part of the human experience – to see those who do evil punished and destroyed. It’s the same satisfaction we feel when we see the evil villain taken out at the end of the movie.

Yesterday we talked about the fact that being a Jesus follower means choosing to swim against the tide of our emotions and circumstances. Because we’re called on to love our enemies doesn’t mean our natural emotions aren’t going want to see them dead. That’s what makes Jesus followers different. There is a difference between feeling anger about the corporate evil of injustice and acting out in anger against an individual. We may feel David’s righteous anger and desire to see all who do evil destroyed. We might even sing right along with him. When faced with how we respond to an individual who has wronged us, it our conscious choice to act against anger and vengeance and to inexplicably choose forgiveness and grace that reveals our faith and marks us as followers of Jesus. That is what Jesus meant when He said that the world will know His followers by their love.

 

Chapter-a-Day Esther 3

English: Vashti Refuses the King's Summons, pa...
English: Vashti Refuses the King’s Summons, painting by Edwin Long (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All the king’s officials would bow down before Haman to show him respect whenever he passed by, for so the king had commanded. But Mordecai refused to bow down or show him respect. Esther 3:2 (NLT)

Two days ago, we read about Queen Vashti refusing to come to the King and how it led to her being deposed. I couldn’t help thinking about Vashti as I read this morning about Mordecai’s conscientious objection to bowing down before Haman. Thousands of years later, we continue to honor Mordecai for his refusal to bow before Haman, but we think very little of Vashti’s refusal to be summoned like a trained dog to be paraded like a stripper before her drunk husband and his cronies.

So it is when we choose to make a lonely stand against tyranny, dishonor or injustice. You can’t predict the results. People might shake their heads and roll their eyes in mockery. You might end up losing everything and suffering incredible personal loss (even your life). Or, you might end up changing the course of history and being honored through the centuries.

When we are called to, or choose to, conscientiously object we must do so out of obedience with a willingness to accept the consequences whatever they may be.