As part of our blog, we thought it might be good to start looking a little deeper into the bible and helping us all understand more about the theology of justice, mission and how that is all tied in with worship.
We have asked a very intelligent friend of ours, one Jonathan (J) Foster to impart his knowledge in bite-size chunks over the next few months. He spent three years studying theology at the London School of Theology, became a criminal barrister (not one of the coffee types) and is now daily seeking justice for those who have had crimes committed against them. He also makes a mean cup of tea, likes to grow vegetables (and pineapples, strangely) and is a life-long Watfordian.
Once a month for the next few months we will delve deeply into what it means to follow Jesus as we love God and then love our neighbours as we love ourselves.
This is the stuff that is right at the heart of Soul Action – a whole life, lived out loud; seeking God, serving the last, the least and the lost.
By J Foster
Some years ago, I was invited to give up my Saturday morning in order to go onto the local estate and paint someone’s kitchen with a bunch of people from my church that I didn’t know. If I’m being totally honest, this wasn’t really how I wanted to spend my Saturday morning. My response, ‘thanks, but no thanks.’
So how come I ended up in that kitchen with a tub of ‘magnolia’?
Now, I’d be lying if I said it had nothing to do with the fact that the person inviting me was a girl I was keen to impress (which must have worked as she’s now my wife!) but really it had more to do with her challenging response –
“If you can find a single verse in the Bible that says you don’t have to serve those in need then feel free to stay at home on Saturday.”
I smiled and tried my best to come up with something profound and clever… “Jesus says ‘the poor will always be with you’…”. Gemma just looked at me and said “I’ll see you Saturday morning!” and left.
Three years of Bible College and the best I could do was the first seven words of Mark 14:7! Was it a winner?:
“The poor will always be with you, and you can help them any time you want….”
It’s part of the bit about Jesus being out at Simon the Leper’s house. In the middle of dinner a woman walks in and cracks a jar of seriously expensive perfume over Jesus head.
Everyone there is stunned.
But then they get offended. What on earth was she doing there?!
Thinking they knew better they criticise her; “she should have sold the perfume and given the money to the poor”. Sounds sensible right? Then Jesus replies like above…Is Jesus really disagreeing with meeting the needs of the poor here?
Tension between Jesus and the religious authorities was reaching boiling point and he knew the final outcome would be death. He knew how all this was going to end when everyone else in the room was clueless. Now I don’t think the woman understood the significance of her actions either but what is obvious is that Jesus saw the faithfulness and wholehearted commitment of a woman and wanted the ‘righteous’ men to learn from her.
In a culture where men dominated and women were often second class citizens, Jesus pointed to her act and said ‘you want to know the heart of God? Look at her.’ Throughout the Bible God calls on his people to not just care for those on the outside of society but to humble ourselves and learn from them.
As I stood in that kitchen, bleary-eyed and with paint brush in hand, I encountered the Living God in a way I have rarely experienced anywhere else. Why? I’m convinced that when we join together and stand alongside the marginalized and downtrodden in our society we discover that God is already there.
To speak of God and justice is to speak of His fierce love in action and the message of Scripture is that there is nothing He delights more in than when we join Him there…
Here at Soul Action we want to create space to explore the Bible and what God says about engaging with issues of justice and where we fit into what can appear to be overwhelming global issues that don’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
So, who fancies exploring the bible together, to see God’s heart and see where we get to respond?