“Dear God,” we pray, “thank you that I’m not a thug like them.”
“They weren’t exactly angels,” we whisper self-righteously behind closed doors, “and I can see how someone would be scared of them.”
“If only they’d have obeyed,” we think staring at the still faces of unarmed children dying in public, “they wouldn’t be dead right now.”
And Jesus responds:
“It is mercy I desire, not your piety.” (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13)
“A true fast is to do justice for the marginalized, to loose the chains of mass incarceration, and to break every yoke of oppression.” (Isaiah 58:6)
“The weightier matters of discipleship are justice and God’s love – not the details of your tithes.” (Luke 11:42)
It is a common human temptation to believe that faithfulness is primarily a matter of prayer, piety, and praise. And, while these things are surely important and proper responses to the love of God, they are not sufficient to the way of Jesus. Over and over throughout history God’s prophets have told us that our sacrifices are unwanted by God if they are not accompanied by acts of justice to liberate the oppressed and marginalized in society.
In the United States in the 21st century it is clear that black and brown persons are experiencing acute injustice. They are more likely to experience poverty, incarceration, violence, and an early death.
We must, therefore, work to loose these chains or we cannot expect God to hear our prayers. It’s a matter of faithfulness.
- Have you ever seen someone else’s misfortune and been more thankful that you weren’t experiencing it than you were motivated to respond with compassion and justice?
- What is the mercy that Jesus has extended to you in particular?
Jimmy McCarty, Ph.D. is Campus Minister for Social Justice and an adjunct professor at Seattle University. He is also a founding editor of Symposium Ethics (http://symposiumethics.org).