“But the God of multitudes shall be exalted in justice, the Holy One of Israel sanctified in righteousness.”Isaiah 5:16
New insights are exciting things. They take a while to settle in and become solid. I am striving with an insight that is new to me and have not been able to put words on it to my satisfaction. Perhaps if I begin to share it with you, more words will come.
I do not think I am alone in wondering why a God who creates marvels out of nothing created a world that has so many flaws. I am of course referring to all those things that bring suffering not only to humanity but to all material beings. Everyone must admit that there is nothing that has been created that is not subject to suffering in some form or another. Should not God fashion a creation that was flawless and without suffering? Evidently not.
Pondering on this reality over the years led me to realize that God created everything with a freedom to continue to become what God intends it to become, yet because of freedom, everything can fail to become what God intends. When something fails to be what God creates it to be, suffering results. This is why it is also true that God continues to provide a guiding presence to all of creation. This is a little like — and not like it at all — like a parent guiding a child, offering a protective presence, yet letting the child try out new things.
Scientifically we say that there is a cycle of chaos leading to order, leading to chaos, leading to order, and so forth in creation. (Chaos theory). Creation is an ongoing adventure for God and I believe that God enjoys creating immensely and God chose to create a challenge for God’s self by creating. Of course God did. We know this because we are created in God’s image and we also like a challenge.
This leads me to my new insight. God has made a challenge to God’s self about humanity. God created humanity with freedom yet God has a plan for humanity that provides high stakes for God. God intends for humanity to become the very image of God toward each other and toward all of creation. This means that for God to meet God’s challenge to God’s self, humanity will become a people of justice and righteousness. Micah 6:8 expresses this as acting justly, loving mercy (kindness), and walking humbly with God. This is God’s goal. The way God chooses to be exalted is by seeing justice and righteousness on earth as it is in heaven.
The God of creation is not interested in the things people once thought their gods wanted. God has no need of praise, prayer, and sacrifice except and unless those things lead humanity toward justice and righteousness. God cares deeply about how we treat one another. How we treat one another is what brings honor to God for God has challenged God’s self to create a world of justice and righteousness. We are still a work in progress.
The challenge would be no challenge if we were not free to fail. God has to persuade us to use our freedom to care about others. When we do, we honor and bring glory to God and God meets the challenge God set for God’s self. When we fail God is dishonored by that failure, for the challenge is not met.
And so, God interferes in history. Every time one part of humanity oppresses and exploits another part of humanity, God seeks to get us back on track for the sake of God’s own honor and glory. The Hebrew scriptures tell story after story of the way God intervenes in history. We read the prophets and they call for justice and righteousness time and again. It turns out that God needs our help to shape history, to bring justice rolling down like a river, sweeping away all injustice.
Proverbs 14: 31 “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Justice is the way God seeks glory and honor. By creating humanity free God risks being insulted constantly by injustice.
I am not talking about justice in the way we here in the USA think about it, as a blind virgin holding scales. It is not about an impartial keeping of laws. Justice for God exists in relation to persons, not to laws. Justice is clear eyed and has to do with God’s compassionate concern for us. When anyone is in anguish, when people are mistreated, this touches God and shows contempt for God. And righteousness has to do with compassion, the same compassion that God has for us we are to have for one another.
The challenge God has set for God’s self is challenging indeed. We people can be selfish, greedy, miserly, hot-headed, mean, and contemptuous of others. Our hearts can be hardened toward each other. Let us pray that God will do as God says through the prophet Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
My beloved ones in Christ, let us help God meet the challenge and do all we can to be a people of justice and kindness so that God may be exalted, glorified, and honored through us.