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by Dr. Chris Williamson
Injustice has occurred on the earth ever since Cain killed Abel. Injustice is when one person or group of people marginalizes and mistreats another person or group of people by perverting or denying basic fairness, equity, and justice. Many of us can still relate to what Marvin Gaye sang in 1971, “Oh, make me wanna holler, throw up both my hands! Make me wanna holler, throw up both my hands! Crime is increasing, trigger happy policing, panic is spreading, God knows where we’re heading.”
A quick and objective survey of American history will reveal that many of America’s injustices are of political, racial, religious, sexual, and economic kinds. Many of God’s children see these atrocities being perpetrated against people made in the image of God and they do or say nothing. Others, however, recognize that “the righteous care about justice for the poor (Proverbs 29:7).” We know that God requires His people “to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).” We are compelled to “speak up” for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8-9).
Some of us speak up with a prophetic voice of outrage. Others speak up with a prophetic voice of lamentation. Some of us do both! God created us with a wide range of callings and emotions, and it is always healthy when we can share our thoughts and emotions in ways that are prudent; in ways that honor God, heal our hearts, and help others.
Jeremiah became known as “the weeping prophet” when he witnessed the southern kingdom of Judah moving swiftly towards captivity. Some in the nation joined Jeremiah in lamenting once the Babylonians invaded the land, even killing children. Matthew 2:17-18 says, “Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’”
On the other hand, the prophet Amos is famous for his righteous indignation to confront the corruption of the northern kingdom of Israel when he proclaimed, “Hate evil, love good; Establish justice in the gate. It may be that the Lord God of hosts will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph (Amos 5:15).” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. regularly quoted Amos 5:24, which says, “But let justice roll down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” When addressing national sins, Jeremiah wept while Amos pronounced woes. Both expressions are needed, natural, and biblical.
Jesus began His earthly ministry by announcing how He was anointed to minister the gospel to the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the blind and the oppressed (Luke 4:16-19). He ended His earthly ministry by declaring that true ministry done in His name will serve those who are hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned, and estranged. If our prophetic outrage and laments do not cause our paths to cross with these kinds of people, we are not truly following in the path of our merciful Savior.
Jesus was classified as “The Prophet” (Deuteronomy 18:15, John 7:40, Acts 3:22-26), and as the Prophet, Christ conveyed sorrow (Isaiah 53:3) as well as righteous indignation. He showed sorrow when He wept for Lazarus at his tomb (John 11:35), and He displayed perfect outrage when He physically cleared the temple at the beginning and conclusion of His earthly ministry (John 2:13-17, Matthew 21:12-13).
Jesus once expressed both outrage and sorrow in the same discourse found in Matthew chapter 23. He pronounced eight “woes” against the hypocritical practices of Israel’s religious leaders, and He also asserted a heartfelt lamentation for the city of Jerusalem’s imminent judgment and destruction. In this sermon, Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt (Matthew 23:29-32).”
“…that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord (Matthew 23:35-39)!’”
Last year when a mad man killed nine unsuspecting people in Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, Strong Tower Bible Church opened up our doors for prayer and consolation. Many came. Many cried. Some were sad. Some were angry. Some vented openly while others lamented quietly. Some, like myself, did both. We all bore one another’s burdens, and by the grace of God we left out better than how we came in.
When considering the pride and prosperity of the wicked and how they used violence to oppress the righteous, the psalm writer said in Psalm 73:16-17, “When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me – until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end.”
Our prayer is that today, as a result of spending time with God in His house, you will find the grace, peace, strength, love, truth, and wisdom you need to go forward in a fallen world. Once enlightened, revived, and stirred, may we all move from moments of outrage and lamentation towards biblically sound action and involvement!
POSTED: October 20, 2016