Doing Justice, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly with God

The prophet Micah builds a case against Israel: “Hear, O mountains the LORD’S accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth. For the LORD has a case against His people, He is lodging a charge against Israel.” (Micah 6:2). He speaks of the ruin they are about to bring upon themselves by their sin. Micah prophesied judgment against the people of Israel because of their idolatry (Micah 1), and against the rulers in Judah because of their injustice (Micah 2,3). Micah described the ultimate triumph of God’s mercy and compassion when Israel is purged of idolatry, peace and justice are restored, and the promises to Abraham are fulfilled (Micah 4,5; 6:18-20).

Micah asks and answers a simple and straightforward question:  “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). God expects those who walk with Him to do justice and love mercy. 

How do we integrate justice and mercy with our faith and ministry in our world today? What role does the church play in bringing about justice for the oppressed and compassion for the sick and hungry? What specific actions can we take that will have the greatest impact? What can I do personally? As Christ followers, we want to explore these ideas in depth and search out practical ways to make justice and compassion an integral part of our walk and witness? 

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The Great Commandment and the Great Commission

Jesus came preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. He proclaimed forgiveness of sins and eternal life through faith in His name. He also brought good news to the poor, recovery of sight for the blind, freedom for prisoners, and release for the oppressed. Followers of Jesus cannot separate evangelism from social action, righteousness from justice, faith from repentance, or concern for the salvation of souls from concern for those who suffer.

Jesus commanded us to love God and our neighbor. This is the great commandment. He illustrated love for neighbor with the story of a man who overcame his fear and prejudice to save the life of a stranger who had been beaten and left for dead.  Jesus also commanded his followers to proclaim the good news of salvation through faith in Christ, and to make disciples of all nations. This is the great commission. Our responsibility is not to choose which of Jesus’ commands is most important, but to commit to obey everything Jesus commanded. 

If the tendency of the last generation of evangelicals was to neglect the great commandment to give priority to evangelism, this next generation might be tempted to neglect the great commission while giving priority to the great commandment. In today’s postmodern culture, it is perfectly acceptable to serve the community but religious views are, and must remain, a private and relative matter.

As the pendulum swings one way and then the other, our challenge is to hold to the middle, and make it our aim to be faithful to everything Jesus commanded.

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A Thanksgiving Blessing for those who Hurt

I was reading of Jesus walking on the water in the Gospel of John this morning, and my eye caught a phrase I hadn’t noticed before. John says “Then some boats for Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.” (John 6:23). The people’s recollection of the feeding of the five thousand was not that Jesus asked the Father to multiply the loaves and fishes, but that He gave thanks for the little bread they had before they ate. The people remembered the thanksgiving as the time of provision.  

Thanksgiving is an expression of trust. It not only looks backward to what God has done, but forward to what he will do. Gratitude recognizes God as the giver of every good gift, and rests with joy and peace knowing that his past gifts are proof of his present love as well as His future provision. When the good things in our life seem small and the problems look big, that is the time more than any other that we need to give thanks.

There are many who experience the Thanksgiving holiday with a great sense of loss,  grieving separation from loved ones through death or alienation or lacking the abundance that the day symbolizes.

Here’s the point: Jesus was experiencing life that way when He gave thanks and broke bread. Angry Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were plotting to kill him (John 5:16-18); his half brothers wished harm on him and were about to encourage him to go to Jerusalem where they knew the Jewish leaders laid wait (John 7:1-5); He did not have enough food to feed the crowd gathered at his table.

Still He gave thanks.

Jesus connects the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand to a promise when He says “I am the bread of life”. Jesus is our one essential for life and well-being. We will still struggle against the torrents of the storm that threatens to consume us, but we know that He can calm the storm and take us safely to shore.

The Lord’s supper is often called the Eucharist, a time for thanksgiving. It is a memorial to what Jesus, the bread of life, has done for us. It is a symbol of his presence with us, and a promise that we will eat with him at a table he is preparing for us in the new earth.

 Perhaps you find yourself where Jesus was today: rejected by those you love, lacking abundance of food, isolated, or hurting. This day is an opportunity for you to be like Jesus and give thanks for the little that you have. God will honor that trust, give you His presence, and walk with you into the future.

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Evangelism in the Context of Love and Good Works

Many evangelicals view evangelism as a rational process. Believers make truth claims. Hearers consider those truth claims and make a decision to believe or reject them.  Working from that assumption, the command to make disciples is a command to teach and preach the truth.

Jonah Lehrer in his book “How We Decide” argues from neuroscience that the decisions we make are a blend of both feeling and reason. In an interview, Lehrer says, “For the first time in human history, we can look inside our mind and see how we actually think. It turns out that we weren’t designed to be rational or logical or even particularly deliberate. Instead, our mind holds a messy network of different areas, many of which are involved with the production of emotion. Whenever we make a decision, the brain is awash in feeling, driven by its inexplicable passions. Even when we try to be reasonable and restrained, these emotional impulses secretly influence our judgment”.

Researcher John Pijanowski at the University of Arkansas developed eight stages of decision making Pijanowski (2009, p.7). He describes the first stage as “establishing community: creating and nurturing relationships, norms, and procedures that will influence how problems are understood and communicated. This stage takes place prior to and during a moral dilemma”. In other words, the first stage of the decision making process is not intellectual, but relational. In establishing community, we choose who we will trust and what assumptions we will bring to the table.

My intention here is not to delve into psychology or neuroscience, but to raise the question: “Is evangelism an entirely rational process of making truth claims, or is there more to it than that?” What more could there be?

Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35). Could it be that our most convincing argument is the quality of our relationships more than the logic of our propositions?

Jesus also said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:18. Could it be that our actions speak louder than words, and that the most convincing argument for faith in Christ might be our charity?

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Marion’s Story: The Wholistic Transformation of a Disabled Women in Sierra Leone

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Marion got polio as a young girl that left her crippled. When her parents talked about the number of children they had, they excluded her. They told her she would never amount to anything and there were no other people with a disability like hers in the village, so she thought she was not human.

At a young age Marion and a friend ran away to Makeni to find a new life. Her friend ended up abandoning her and she was left homeless. Marion begged in the streets, and found a different place to sleep every night. Then she heard about Women of Hope and some of the people she begged with invited her to go with them to a Women of Hope meeting. She discovered that she was not alone, that there were many women who had disabilities like hers.

Marion made friends through Women of Hope, and learned to make greeting cards and sell them through the Fair Trade Initiative. Now she has a house, and she pays the rent herself because her income is larger than her husband’s. Marion was selected by her peers to be trained as a Community Health Evangelist (CHE). In the eight-month training she learned basic community development principles, disease prevention, disability awareness and about her identity in Christ.

Marion’s Thoughts on CHE Training….
The training helped me because it taught me about God. I did not know who God was and that is why I thought I was not a human being, because I didn’t understand that God is a good Creator and made me this way for a purpose. Now I understand that the sickness that crippled me is just a sickness; it wasn’t God cursing me and telling me that I am worthless. I understand that sickness happens, but it doesn’t mean that I am a bad person.

I used to never wash or take care of myself. I neglected my body because I didn’t believe I was worth anything. If you had met me then, you wouldn’t have wanted to sit here and talk to me because I smelled and I was dirty. I learned that I should think better of myself and of other people and not cause trouble. I used to cause trouble because I didn’t care. It used to be that nothing mattered because I wasn’t worth anything anyway. Now I respect others and they show respect back to me.

I never knew that when you come out of the latrine you should wash your hands and I was always sick. Now I will never leave the latrine without washing my hands. I will never touch food if coming from the toilet without washing my hands first. Because I didn’t know about God and how God felt about me, I didn’t take care for myself. I was so dirty that no one would ever think to eat my food. Now I cook for the neighbors and they eat it and are grateful. Before they wouldn’t touch it because I was so dirty they thought they would be contaminated by my food. All of these are changes I have learned from CHE training.

Now I talk to “walkafut” (her term for people without disabilities) and they listen to me. Originally they thought that if your feet were damaged, your brain must also be damaged. Now they stand there and gape at me because I am articulate and know what I am talking about. I am surprising people all the time because I have sense and they thought I didn’t have sense.

My prayer now is that God will give WOH leaders the strength to continue even though it is hard, because the things I am learning are so important and are changing my life and the lives of people around me. I want to learn more. What I am learning I am sharing with other people, and I do not want to give up even though it is hard. I was once in a bad condition and very depressed. I used to pray, “God please take my life”. Now I pray that God will give me longer life so I can serve him and help others.

My real parents died, and I was given over to step-parents. It was hard. Marion started to cry, but through the tears she concluded: God has rescued me because He is my Father.

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Transformation

God always transforms from the inside out. His work begins in our hearts and works itself out in our lives. He works in us before he works through us.

As followers of Jesus, we have all experienced the transforming power of God at work in us – that quiet work of the Holy Spirit convicting us of wrongdoing, cleansing our hearts, shaping our character, changing our attitudes, and influencing our actions. We also look forward to a time when our lives and communities are completely transformed in the new heaven and the new earth. Biblical transformation is that quiet work of the Holy Spirit, and it is the loud-sounding of the trumpet at the return of our Lord Jesus: shutting up evil and establishing righteousness, justice, and peace for all eternity.

Jesus taught us to pray “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-11). Transformation is God’s kingdom work. This transformation is a process and an ideal, a present experience and a future hope, a means and an end, a struggle and a victory. God is at work in us and through us today, and he will bring what he has started to completion when the Lord Jesus returns in all his glory.

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Fifth Annual North American CHE Network Meeting

We are excited to announce that registration for the fifth annual North American CHE Network Meeting in Louisville, KY on November 6-7, 2013 is open. Network members gather to exchange ideas, encourage and work together to achieve our goals of strengthening our ministries and the expansion of the CHE movement.

Our format will be new this year. We will spend the first day in three working groups aimed at answering the following questions:

  • How can we use CHE to make Public Health a major mission strategy?
  • How can we use Public Health Professionals to strengthen CHE programs?
  • How can GCN members serve each other and still meet organizational goals?
  • What kinds of things keep missionaries from serving each other?
  • What defines whether a community is a CHE community?
  • What prevents organizations with mature CHE programs from serving as mentors to organizations younger in CHE usage?
  • What are the underlying perceptions of disability in your area?
  • How can we mainstream disability in our CHE programs globally?
  • What are the pros & cons of disability-specific vs. disability-integrated programs?
  • How is a wholistic approach key to success in the transformation of people with disabilities?

Please send other questions you would like to suggest for discussion to info@chenetwork.org.

We are praying that the answers will lead to the following outputs:

  • A plan for facilitating internships for public health students in active CHE programs within the network.
  • A plan for introducing CHE as mission strategy through courses offered in Christian Colleges and Universities.
  • A plan for publishing the results of CHE programs in academic journals.
  • Develop a disability-specific worldview assessment tool that could universally be utilized to determine the underlying values informing disability perceptions
  • Develop a customizable strategy for integrating people with disabilities into CHE programs worldwide
  • A commitment among organizational leaders using CHE methodology to be dedicated to the building of God’s kingdom even if their organization does not receive credit or recognition.
  • Clear strategy for unity among CHE practitioners in the field without favoritism or judgment.
  • Commitments among the organizations present to serve as examples and advocates of unity among GCN members in making disciples of Jesus using the CHE strategy.

We will come together on the second day to share our answers and to pray.

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