Category Archives: Social Justice

Cleanser of the Mess I Made

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Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.  (Ezek 16)

This is a summation of the what God considers despicable.

Arrogance: Thinking more of ourselves than we ought.  Thinking we know better than God.  Thinking we are better than others.  Thinking we are right and everyone else is wrong.

Overfed:  Having an excess of food while others go hungry.

Unconcerned: Prosperous ease, laziness, abundance of idleness, comfortable security, carefree ease

A summary of this indictment: Only thinking of self and comfort, egocentric to the point of ignoring others needs.

Although Sodom did all of these things, Israel did them even more.  The Israelites, in following their own ways, made a complete sordid mess out of their lives.  We read on in Ezekiel 16.

“ ‘I am filled with fury against you, declares the Sovereign Lord, when you do all these things, acting like a brazen prostitute! …. I will deal with you as you deserve, because you have despised my oath by breaking the covenant. Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you…. Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign Lord.’ ”  (Excerpts from Ezekiel 16)

Just as He did for the Israelites, God made atonement for all of the vile, destestable outrageously unfaithful things we did.  Because of this, we should be ashamed, humbled.  We did wrong, got ourselves in a mess that was entirely our fault, but God provided a way out even though we didn’t deserve it.  I need to be ashamed of the mess my life was at one time, and that God was the “cleanser of the mess I made.”  How embarrassing would it be if someone cleaned up my vomit after I got drunk?  This is so much more humiliating.

And more than that, because Jesus cleaned up the mess I made of my life, I need to “never again open my mouth.”  My goal needs to be that I will never sin again.

When Jesus was anointed by a sinful woman, he told this story:  Two men were in debt to a moneylender. One owed him 500 denarii, and the other 50. When they couldn’t pay it back, he generously canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?”  Simon answered, “I suppose the one who had the larger debt canceled.”  Jesus told him, “You have answered correctly.”  (Luke 7:41-43)

The sinful woman knew what a revolting mess she had made of her life, yet Jesus wanted to be involved in her life to help her get rid of the mess.  Because of his forgiveness, she anointed him, loved him, gave her very best.

“Under the old system, the high priest brought the blood of animals into the Holy Place as a sacrifice for sin, and the bodies of the animals were burned outside the camp. So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood. So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore”  (Hebrews 13:11-13)

Under the Old Law, the animals that were the sin offerings, once the blood was offered as atonement, were to be taken outside and burned up.  They were unclean because they bore the sin.  Thus, as a sin offering, Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem.    It was a horrible humiliating thing he endured to clean up our mess.

He went into the filthy pit in which we were stuck and rescued us by taking on our death as a lowly criminal, all the while surrounded by the sludge and pollution of our existence. 

And today we embrace what he did. It is unspeakably dear to us.  It defines our life.  We resolve to know nothing but the cross. We take communion every week and it is an intimacy of dying with Jesus, remembering the shame he suffered for us, denouncing the arrogance and self-centeredness that caused it.

But there is one more challenge for us.  We need to actually bear his disgrace.  We need to take up our cross.  This is the life we have chosen:  to die to self, to die for others.  It will not be about us, being overfed, seeking ease and comfort.  It will be about living his life here on earth.

The only way we can live this life is to recognize the gruesome dimensions of what Jesus did, and make an informed choice to follow him.

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Heavy Burdens and False Hopes

Somalian victim of drought

Somalian victim of drought

“You have discouraged the righteous with your lies, but I didn’t want them to be sad. And you have encouraged the wicked by promising them life, even though they continue in their sins.”  Ezekiel 13:22

This is scary.  God will not be happy if I am disheartening people who are righteous.  I can put heavy burdens on the shoulders of others, as Jesus said the Pharisees did in Matthew 23.  I can stress all the things they are supposed to being doing to the point that I go beyond the commands of Jesus.  I could make them feel bad if they aren’t getting up first thing in the morning and having a great devotional time, or if they don’t share their faith with each person they meet.  These are great Godly things, but I can’t bind them on people.

But just as scary is the possibility that I would gloss over someone’s sin in an effort to not seem too condemning, so they think what they are doing is okay.

“And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:

‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

“Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.

“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”  (Luke 6:

This is a passage of the Bible I would like to gloss over, and yet it is the heart of Jesus’ message.  I don’t want to look to closely at it because  I am rich, full, happy, and people speak well of me.  It is much easier to read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and think, “Yes, I am poor in spirit, I know I need God.”  It’s more difficult to think that my riches are keeping me from heaven, or that my people pleasing is making me a false prophet.

I can study out sin in the Bible with someone.  I can talk to them about lust, immorality, drunkenness, laziness, selfishness, fits of rage, etc.  But do I talk about materialism as sin?  Do I tell them, and myself, that God will judge us for how we care about the least of these, for sitting in our comfortable homes while others are dying from hunger?

World poverty seems like a black hole of needs that could consume us  How much should we get engaged in meeting these needs?  Ken and I increased our giving to HOPE Worldwide this year, giving 4X as much, but even that seems very small.  At the least, I would like to increase my awareness of the situation, and research it more, finding out what is going on in different areas of the world.  May I do what is pleasing to God, above all else, and may my life be a clear message to others on how God expects us to live our lives.

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Filed under Ezekiel, Luke, Social Justice