Rob Buckingham's Blog

Is Justice an Optional Extra?

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This week on my Facebook page I asked my friends and followers to give me their opinion.  My request went like this, “I’d like to get your feedback for a blog I’m writing this week. This afternoon the Federal Liberal Party Room will be discussing the issue of same sex marriage. Without minimising the importance of this discussion, I’d like to hear from you about what issue you (whether you are Christian or not) believe is the most important one that we should be focusing on right now. Is it same sex marriage or something else? What is ONE thing that concerns you at the moment particularly from a justice point of view?”  What followed was a mainly respectful thread (I only had to remove one “friend” this time!)

It’s important to note that my Facebook friends come from a variety of backgrounds – Christian people as well as those of other faiths or no faith, various political persuasions and diverse nationalities.  With that in mind, I thought it interesting that the number one issue that concerned people was Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, followed closely by homelessness.  The third was equality, which covers quite a few issues that I’ll discuss in next week’s blog.  Other concerns that received more than one mention were safe schools, domestic violence & child abuse, energy costs, human trafficking, mental health, substance abuse and climate change.

There were no surprises here.  I’d presume that those who engage with me on social media would have a high awareness of the importance of justice and equality, as these are things I regularly write about and on which I work.

My Christian faith is the primary incentive for my justice focus as I see it as inseparable from the gospel message rather than an optional extra.

The gospel is not just about saving souls and getting people into heaven in the future, but also about bringing heaven to earth in the present.   That’s the heart of Jesus’ teaching in The Lord’s Prayer, “Your kingdom come; your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

God’s will is the expression of his goodness that is fundamental to His character. In fact, Jesus revealed that God’s goodness is the number one attribute He wants to show all people (Matthew 7:9-11).  Jesus taught that God had delegated the responsibility of demonstrating His goodness to His followers (Matthew 5:43-48).  That’s right; Christians are to practically spread God’s goodness to all people and all creation.  Sometimes the church has done (and still does) a brilliant job at this; at other times we have failed (and continue to fail) dismally.

The focus of the entire Lord’s Prayer is what happens on earth.  God cares for all people and His creation, and He wants his people to care as well.  Many of the concerns raised on my Facebook page this week demonstrate this caring attitude.  The problem is that most of these important issues get politicised and people are then polarised around the issue.

For example: when you read the words “asylum seekers and refugees” most people will think of them through a political filter that then restricts or encourages action.  Some will lean to the Right where the primary emphasis is on border security and national safety. Others will lean left where there is often more compassion but less thought on the impact of increased immigration on our social problems, infrastructure, and security.  Rather than thinking politically we need to think Christianly, because one day God is going judge us on our treatment of people in need (read Matthew 25:31-46).

Refugees are people – people who are loved by God and people who need love, kindness, protection and their basic needs met. 

While I can advocate for the rights of refugees on a general scale, the most important thing is what I can do to make a difference on a small scale.  Christie and I and Bayside Church are currently helping a small number of refugees and we’ve been able to make a huge difference for them.  Just because we can’t solve the whole problem doesn’t mean we do nothing.  The same goes for helping the homeless.  I’d love to help every homeless person in Australia, but I can’t.  We have, however, given out well over 100,000 hot meals to homeless and disadvantaged people in bayside Melbourne over the past decade.

We can apply this same principle to every issue, thinking Christianly instead of politically, and asking the question “how can I show God’s goodness in this particular situation?”  For example, climate change is hugely polarising, but surely we can agree that pumping less pollution into the earth’s atmosphere is a worthy goal?  The ethical use and protection of valuable resources, such as trees, minerals, wildlife & water and to protect the sources of resources is a responsibility we must all bear.  I realise some Christians have the view that one day God will make a new earth, so why bother looking after this one?  This faulty logic is like saying “one day I’m going to get a new car, so I’ll just trash the one I’m currently driving.”

Praying “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” means that Christian people will pray and work for peace and justice amongst individuals and nations wherever possible.  We strive for economic fairness and equality between rich and poor and seek justice for all despite gender, race, sexual orientation or creed, but more on equality next week.

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