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Justice is Not Relative

2017 has been a year of divisive speech and political outcry. While this is probably not news to most of you, it seems strange that “justice” has been exposing this. Why did we not notice before all the protests, natural disaster, and uproar? Well, because I’d argue that ‘justice’ is a very relative term.

What exactly do I mean? Well, in order to administer justice, you must have some type of foundation to comprehend exactly what is just, and more importantly, what is not.

You can use the Bible as your lens for justice, or you could use philosophy or the law. And if done properly, you should be fighting for the safety, salvation, and equality of all beings—at least that is my Christian mindset speaking. But recognizing injustice and justice is rather easy, once you learn. The real challenge is separating the two, and then actively seeking to end the injustices you see.

How exactly do we do that? There’s probably thousands of theses that could be written upon the topic, but there is one situation I’d like you all to think about today.

There is no question that there is plenty of injustice throughout the world—I’m not at all questioning that. But we should really corner ourselves with this question: Are we really fighting for justice if we only attack certain injustices? Inherently injustice can only exist if there is an absence of justice, so why would we waste time dissolving some cases and leaving others to exist and multiply?

I fear that in our world today, we sometimes become too wrapped up in our own identities, our own ideologies, and our own aptitudes to the point that we are blinded to what is actually wrong, and what is actually right. We stress certain injustices over others in the hopes that the ones most relevant to us will be addressed. Is that not injustice in itself?

I see a lot of these manifestations in political debate about religion, but I also see a lot of this in arguments against democrats/republicans. We see someone we don’t agree with, so we wish them ill instead of well. This the exact image I am attempting to paint. Muslim or Hindu, white or black, conservative or progressive, young or old, woman or man, we should not fight only the battles that are relevant to us.

Jesus died for every man, every woman, and every individual that would choose to believe and follow Him. If we only choose to fight in the wars against injustice that will benefit us, we are truly missing the point.

Being Christian does not mean you have to hate the Muslim or the Hindu, and being conservative does not mean you have to hate the progressive. Instead, it means you have to love when it is hard to love, and fight for injustice even when you don’t necessarily agree. After all, attacking people when they attack you won’t heal any wounds, it will only provoke more hurt.

Think about this: fighting injustice is a lot more powerful when you do it for others out of selfless, humble love. It’s rather easy to join a group that fights injustice in our day, but if you are causing injustice on your route to “creating equality,” are you actually doing any good? I’d say not.

I Am

At some point in your life, God will reveal to you His Greatness. You will revel in His Grace, and you will realize the power behind the statement “I Am.” As my walk with Christ has progressed, I’ve had epiphanic events of this strength more than once. One of those occurrences was today at my church. My pastor, finishing the church’s 11 month series, spoke on Revelation and the joy that we might experience in heaven if we give our live completely to Christ. To conclude the sermon, he unveiled a large check and invited us to sign away our life to Christ—emphasizing the fact that redemption was free, and all we had to do was sign it. It is a large decision, but one that is inexpensive for the value you would receive in return. Without hesitation, I signed it, and I have put in place some routine check-ups to make sure I don’t seek to rip up that very check I signed.

In Jesus’s statement, “I am the way the truth and the light,” there is so much more significance than initially evident. In Latin, the word for “way” is via, which means road. At that time, roads weren’t just composed of tar and yellow lines—they were complex layers of rock that became necessary for trade, travel, and even safety. As one might expect, these roads were not always perfect, and likewise we can expect our journey with Jesus to be a little bumpy at times. The road we are following Jesus on is not the Yellow Brick Road, and it surely isn’t a path straight to heaven. We can expect robbers, holes, detours, and unexpected stops to thwart our plans at almost every turn—but if we continue to trust Jesus and follow Him, we will always reach our destination. He allows us to stop and spread His Good News, learn new skills, fulfill our vocations, and ultimately grow in virtue and in spirit along the way.

The final destination, heaven, will be glorious. You can expect a perfectly paved road once you enter this territory. There will be no more robbers, sickness, disease, depression, or sin here. In order to get there, however, we must submit wholly to the Holy One. Jesus does not require that we pay him anything; he only requires that we follow him and sign our life over to Him. So the question remains: Are we willing to sign the check containing the balance of our lives to Jesus, or are we going to walk down the road alone?

Love is a Decision, Not a Feeling

After many talks with friends and lots of reflective thought, I think I have finally have come to disagree with the idea that love is strictly based upon emotion, attraction, and fleeting feeling. That seems to be the ideal our society would push today; but that sells love short. Christ didn’t sacrifice his life for us on the Cross because he was “attracted” to us in our sin—he did so because he made a selfless, humble, and obedient decision to show grace, even when we didn’t deserve it.

Likewise, Christian relationships on earth should seek to conform to that same standard. We shouldn’t love our neighbors strictly when they do what we agree with; we should love for the sake of the Gospel and because we were loved first. Although I am perhaps pretentious to say that divorce rates are up because of this very concept, I am persuaded to believe that marriage can only last when both parties understand exactly what love is.

So while we can choose to believe that true love is an uncontrollable, chemical attraction reaction, that simply isn’t always the case. Some may be convinced by this model that true love is nonexistent, as I once was. However, it’s rather difficult to prove it as such, when you can feasibly experience it through God’s grace. That is true love; and it’s form is not a red heart; it’s symbol is the Cross. True love is recognizing our own failures and our own sin, but loving anyway because we have already been forgiven by Christ.

While that may not be convincing, know that attraction is still a real entity. But also recognize that lust and attraction, although tangibly real, stand no chance against true love.

Accepting the Truth Means Rejecting Ourselves

If it’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I find it hard to accept and follow what I know to be true. And that’s because of my inner-self belief that I know what is best—it conflicts with what I know to be the truth. And that’s why accepting truth is a difficult feat; we first have to acknowledge that we are not of truth.

On route to discovering truth, we have to vividly assert that there is only one form of ultimate truth: Jesus Christ. We can’t find the truth in ourselves, and we shouldn’t find comfort in our identity unless it is rooted in Christ’s very being.

Furthermore, why should we care what people think of us? God died for us. Isn’t that enough? I shouldn’t care if people like me, or if people arbitrate my legitimateness. God has already secured my spot in eternity with his sacrifice—is that not enough? We sometimes get caught up in relative truth—but I assert that there is no such thing; there is only the truth of God, and nothing else matters.

Essentially, what I’ve realized, is that we find ourselves when we surrender to Jesus. When we give up our ways in favor of His, we are on the right path to truth and our true-selves.

Smothering the Fire with Love, not Hate

With the recent protests in Charlottesville upsetting the nation this week, there is a plethora of circulated emotions, first and foremost, frustration and anger. And following these emotions is the all but stereotypical counterpart: blame. When something erupts; fingers generally point. And the blame has fallen on some who definitely deserve it, and others who don’t. Morally, the blame must first fall upon the American members of the Nazi belief system and those who support White Supremacy. There is no place for such people in God’s Law, and therefore, they must not emulate what they have chosen to. In my opinion, they are living in a place of sin and despair, and they must turn to God to escape such a position. It is a position that is crippling America and freedom itself, and only God knows what can be done to reverse such racism. There is no question that these people are extremely lost and vile; but unfortunately meeting them with force will only result in more violence—whether it be physical or spiritual. I will pray for them to see God and His Love moving forward, as we all should.

But—back to the “blame game.” Who is responsible for this, anyway? Well, I’d argue that the perpetrator is actually everyone. Yes, that’s right, I am accusing myself too. We are all responsible for the scene in Charlottesville. Although it sounds outlandish, it is very true. It is no secret that America has become a hostile, political battleground, but really, it has become a place of brooding hate and unmeasured divisiveness. Hate has become our motto and our flag—we have forgotten what true freedom is, and more importantly, what love is.

We no longer “love thy neighbor,” we instead love whoever can provide us with progress. We love the people that please us; the people that give us hope. We no longer run that extra mile, we instead refuse to even start the race, because we just don’t feel like it. Our society now praises drama, conflict, and independence to the point that it has become venomous.

Bigotry, Racism, and Fascism are philosophies that should fail to exist in this world because of how putrid they are. However, we cannot fight these flawed ideologies with hate, because hate is what fuels them. You wouldn’t put out a fire with more fire; you would smother it. In this case, we must choose to smother these viewpoints with the opposite of what engenders them, or we are just contributing to what is already scorched soil.

It’s okay to be discontent with the way things are shaping up in America—it is in fact, normal, but it is not okay to believe the way to combat current events is with hate and disgust. There is a time to mourn and to pray, but what follows afterwards must be action. Justice will be achieved, but not by unjust means. People act in their own best interest, and we all deserve death except by the cross. None of us are too far gone to escape God’s Grace, lest I be condemned to hell as we all would be.

“I’m a Godless Heretic”

Upon taking a trip on the Long Island Railroad, I discovered the words: “I’m a Godless heretic not a God-fearing lunatic,” scratched into a window. Despite spelling and grammatical errors, I could very well interpret an occult message that had yet to be revealed to the person who actually wrote it: they clearly had no idea who God was/is. How could someone take pride in sin? Well, it could certainly be labeled an easy task in the face of ignorance. But it’s not different than the ignorance I possess on the daily; their’s just happens to be broadcasted by public transport and their pride.

We’re all in the same situation at times, unfortunately, because of the nature of sin. We think ourselves to be superior, whether by ignorance, or choice, and neither is better since they both lack truth.

Although a random set of words can amount to pure nothingness, such a phrase struck me as a great reminder that we should not take pride in ourselves, our intellect, and our experience, because without God, we are to be damned.

Agape: A Love We Will Never Understand

Working at a Day Camp this summer has challenged me in an invigorating and profound way. While I did expect to gain some valid and legitimate work experience, I never believed I would learn so much about myself. After all, I’m working with 5-7 year olds. There’s no way they are anything like me, right? Wrong. Although I may be a little more aged and experienced, I still need to be learning everyday. With a closed mind, that is impossible. And that’s the mindset I went into Camp with: “What can I teach these kids?” The reality, is that these kids have taught me much more than I could ever teach them.

When in the workplace, there are really three mentalities: indifference, mediocrity, and exceptional diligence. You can either choose to hide and simply sustain yourself to earn money, you can meet the expectations set by your employer, or you can try to exceed the standards set by your supervisors. I’ve learned this summer that the latter option is extremely tiring—but also extremely worth it. That’s what I had tried to do from my first day at Camp, but I soon realized that it was unattainable and unsustainable if I was going to rely on my own abilities (and my own sleep patterns). How could I go above and beyond for these kids? How could I make sure all of their needs were met? Well, I really couldn’t, on account of my own flaws. The first two weeks of Camp, I found myself falling flat on my face. There were a manifold of situations that I wish I had handled more humbly, and I was not exactly thrilled with my performance so far. I am now halfway done with my work experience this summer, and it has finally hit me that love is the secret to my success at Camp. The only thing, though, is that it is not the type of love we commonly prescribe in this world. It is the type of love only owned by God himself: agape love.

My intentions in citing agape, is to demonstrate just how important it is in understanding and in growth. When a child would cry at Camp, I would find myself more frustrated than loving. Instead of radiating comfort, I was likely echoing annoyance. The fix for this, in my daily life, is to imagine myself as the child. In this case, if I were to cry about something that was taken away from me, I would also be frustrated. And I realized that this situation is actually a microcosm for life itself. We, as “adults”, tend to become heavily enraged when God introduces pain and struggle into our lives, when in reality, he is demonstrating pure and supreme agape love by not giving us exactly what we want. The kids I work with often cry and pout when they lose in Gaga, when someone cuts them in line, or when we go to a station they don’t particularly like. And likewise; don’t we all do the same? We may pretend that our struggles are larger and more mature, but really—are they? I would think not.

So the answer to this enigma that has recently plagued my mind is not to ever believe you are done learning. God is always going to give us struggles and tests so that we can become strengthened through Him. Children are too young to understand a variety of issues, but also are we.

As I handle struggles moving forward at Camp, my solutions will not entail simply trying to “make the child stop crying,” but to actually engage in an active lesson for the child—with me learning alongside him/her. Because true agape isn’t just trying to hide the problem; it is showing the child that we don’t always get what we want, but we will always have the support we need in Him. It’s not an easy lesson to learn, but it is one that reaps benefits for the soul.