February 1, 2023
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Justice and Service
It is easy to view a pursuit of justice for the oppressed on one hand and service to the vulnerable on the other as two very distinct and separate endeavors. The first conjures up thoughts of tenacity, boldness, and a confrontation of evil, while the second invokes a need for humility, sacrifice, and a gentle touch. But despite these differing preconceptions, a pursuit of justice for the oppressed and service on behalf of the vulnerable are two sides of the same coin. In fact, one without the other can often be counterproductive.
The news stories that follow in today’s issue will demonstrate the entanglement of these two critical commands found in Isaiah 1:17: “Learn to do right, seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”
As followers of Jesus, we must answer the call to be on the side of both justice for the oppressed and service to the vulnerable. This can be challenging at times, because circumstances will seem to demand a laying down of one in order to maximize the impact of the other. Our call, however, is to hold both these truths in tension.
So what is true? The truth is that both the oppressed and the vulnerable need us to learn how to embody these two calls in harmony.
The Memphis Police Department released video footage depicting a brutal beating of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols on January 7, 2023 by five Memphis police officers. Nichols died of his injuries three days later. The five officers have been arrested and charged with murder, and two attending medics are also under investigation. The killing has sparked national protests and calls for reforms in policing tactics and training.
Analysis: Tyre Nichols was made in the image of God. His killing is horrific, senseless, and depraved. It leaves me angry and sick to my stomach. There is no place for that kind of brutality in law enforcement, and the officers involved face appropriate legal consequences.
Meanwhile, violent crime is exploding in cities across America, and young people are being killed by violence and drugs at a rate that is hard to comprehend. In the face of the growing violence, police departments are downsizing—in part due to intentional public policy and in part due to increased difficulty hiring new qualified officers as public support for law enforcement dwindles.
Isaiah 1:17 instructs us to both “seek justice” and “correct oppression.” We should seek justice for both Tyre and our sons and daughters being killed in the streets by violence and addiction. We should correct oppression where it so clearly presents itself while firmly resisting a remedy that further erodes protection for our fellow image bearers. Law enforcement is a service-oriented profession. We should respect those who choose to serve, provide adequate training along with robust expectations of professionalism, and be clear-eyed about the violent ramifications that have played out on our streets when these components are either absent, or when law enforcement has simply been too poorly supported to provide a response.
And they’re off! While the calendar may have only recently turned to 2023, the 2024 presidential election is already well underway, as several candidates are ramping up campaign activity:
- Former President Donald Trump held his first official campaign rally
- Former Vice President Mike Pence continued to lay campaign groundwork with staff additions
- Florida Governor Ron DeSantis continued to prepare a campaign, drawing the ire of the former President
- Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo launched a new book in anticipation of a White House run
- Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley gave an interview which she described as, “It's time for a new generation to lead.”
These are just a few of what is anticipated to be numerous GOP candidates vying to challenge a presumptive reelection bid by President Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, Ronna McDaniel won reelection as Chair of the Republican National Committee. She beat back challenges from Harmeet Dhillon and Mike Lindell.
Eternal perspective: The affairs of men matter, but only to the extent they serve to ultimately glorify God and draw others to His side. As the 2024 campaign ramps up, we as Jesus followers would do well to prayerfully decide in advance what kind of leader would advance an environment in which people can find Jesus. We should then commit to choosing a candidate based on that criteria rather than defaulting to human impulses that will entice us to get overly caught up in the inevitable back and forth. We would also do well to resist allowing the escalating rancor to deter us from our highest calling as ambassadors of Jesus to those around us. Elections in the most powerful nation in the world most certainly matter. But our call remains first and foremost to those around us.
Life is on the Rise
For the first time since 2014, the birth rate in the U.S. increased in 2021, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Both the overall number of births and the fertility rate of U.S. women ages 15-44 had been in a rather rapid decline since 2007, with 2014 being the only year from 2007-2020 with an increase. The increase in 2021 was entirely attributed to women age 25 and older, offsetting a continued decrease in birth rates for women younger than 25.
The report acknowledges the COVID-19 pandemic likely played both a direct and indirect role in this trend reversal. While data is not yet available for 2022, there is some cause to believe this upward trend continued, as the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization enabled states to enact legal protections for preborn life.
Eternal perspective: Every life is precious, valuable, and endowed with purpose as a result of being known and loved by the Creator (Jer. 1:5). Both the increase in birth rate and the legal strides toward better recognition of what we know to be true about life in the womb are cause for rejoicing. Both are also an invitation for us to step more fully into service of the most vulnerable among us. Caring for the widow and the orphan are among the most repeated instructions in scripture (Jam. 1:27 and Is. 1:17 are two good examples, but this is a consistent thread through both the Old and New Testaments). Take time today to consider where you can step into this beautiful invitation of service. If you will step forward to serve, your life will experience a beauty you can only imagine today.
The Need Right in Front of Me
No matter how hard we try to control our consumption of news, we are usually inundated with difficult news. Even now, as you come to the end of today’s edition, you have heavy and heartbreaking facts to process. We live in a broken world, and we should not turn away from that reality. We can, however, be sure to also notice the redemptive choices of those around us, and look for ways to replicate those actions in our own life.
For example, Officer Harrison of the McDonough, GA Police Department, who recently took it upon himself to pay for a tank of gas for a woman who couldn’t get to work without a fill up. It was a small act, but it was the need right in front of Officer Harrison. What need is right in front of you today? The beauty you seek in your day might just be experienced if you will simply notice that need, and then take action to meet it.
Our world is full of injustice and pain. But that makes our call to serve the oppressed and the vulnerable all the more important! Let's be aware of the world around us, and let's grow in the grace of identifying needs we can meet!
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