Summary: Why is the Church so guilty of injustice and does it rule out faith in God as a valid life choice?
This is a series based on and heavily dependent on Timothy Keller’s Best Seller "The Reason For God" for which I’m deeply grateful. It uses much of his argument though with various additions by myself or the other preachers of the series.
I’m going to begin today with a short parable from the Old Testament. It comes from the second book of Samuel, ch12, and happens right after David has committed adultery with Bathsehba, and he has had her husband Uriah killed, and now taken her as his own wife.
A prophet called Nathan was sent by God to David and he tells him a parable: 2 Sam 12:1-7 – (who is the rich man?)
David doesn’t realise that he is the rich man in the story. He knows that he is guilty of adultery, but he doesn’t see how this particular sin is an act of injustice.
When I was a young teenager a Catholic priest came to my school to speak to us about injustice, and I will never forget the definition that he gave ... he said justice is the opposite of ‘just us’. Justice is what we do when we are thinking of others and not just ourselves. Injustice is what we do when we think only of ourselves or our group. Adultery is a very ‘just us’ thing to do. David was focussed on what he wanted, and had no thought of the trauma he was bringing to Bathsheba’s husband, a man less powerful than he.
The church is often a lot like David. To start with we are loved by God and chosen by God, but we are sinful. We are quick to condemn injustice. We see it as part of our mission to condemn the government, or the corporation or the big-business man who oppresses the poor. It doesn’t hurt for us to be reminded, every now and again, that we are that corporation, that rich man.
In many ways the church works tirelessly to bring love and dignity to others. But in many ways, the church has been a ‘just us’ church.
‘Just us’ - condones violence and war in the name of God
- leads to fanaticism and judgemental attitudes
- At its worst, it expresses itself in ‘just us’ groups like the KKK: ‘only we are pure in the eyes of God.’
- Then there are preachers who make millions of dollars selling miracles on pay-TV. It’s not just sin and hypocrisy that we see in the church - it’s injustice
- It’ the rich man exploiting the poor man
Are we prepared to admit that we are the rich man? That we often become the very thing that we say we stand against: that our church has been the oppressor, the colonialist, the state that has condoned violence and hatred?
My experience of the church, is that we are very ready to admit these things. As a people, I believe we do represent the heart of David who is repentant, and who prays in Psalm 51: “create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me”
- and yet, we are often challenged by the evidence against us:
- I find it curious to think of the success of the Da Vinci code
- the seriousness with which people have taken Dan Brown’s fictional work.
- It’s as though people just love a conspiracy theory – I meet so many people who want to treat that book as though it uncovers some great hidden secret that the church is corrupt. Well, yeah. We knew that, didn’t we?
- I remember when I was working as a chaplain at Griffith University, I once heard a Muslim speaker who had converted from Christianity to Islam,
- he made a public address against Christianity … and his evidence against the bible was that people like King David who were blessed by God were sinners, even adulterers.
But really as a church we have always said, we are chosen and loved by God, but not because we deserved it – it is only by God’s grace that we are saved, and not by our own merits.
I suspect that people – even people who haven’t heard the gospel - kind of know this about us …. I suspect that those who accuse the church of injustice are secretly worried about salvation by grace, because (I don’t know if you’ve noticed), but generally people don’t want to have a detailed conversation about this topic.
- It’s like when you get those annoying phone calls and people are trying to sell you a new phone or a new credit card. It’s too hard work trying to have a proper conversation about whether the deal they are offering is actually better than the plan you already have. So you just say, ‘I don’t have time’, or, ‘I’m not looking for a change at the moment’ or whatever.