Fourth Quarter, 2002
NGOs & advocacy - a voice for the poor?
Accent on justice
The longing to be loved and the desire to love is often more powerful than a yearning for the justice of others. Yet God's loving presence in us becomes the fuel for justice. - Don Posterski
MY PIANO PLAYING CAREER ended early. Although I officially passed grade six, my technique was more a matter of memory and rote than the expression of an artist. One code on the musical score that I do remember enjoying, however, was the accent. Whenever I saw that indicator, I knew I had permission to pound out that particular bar of music with all the muscle I could muster. The result would not have pleased the composer, but the added crescendo did make me feel better.
When we read the biblical account of Jesus challenging the scribes and Pharisees, the issue is really about getting the accent right. It is adding crescendo in our lives so that the Creator God is able to say we've "got it right." Listen to Jesus' concern:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You tithe...but you have neglected the weightiest matters of the law: Justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others" (Matthew 23:23, NRSV).
In other words, scribes and Pharisees, "You've got the accent wrong. Among the other important matters of faith, you need to emphasise justice."
Jesus' encounter with the Pharisees tends to trouble me. I feel hypocritical, too. Although I'm a strong believer in the centrality of justice in the Christian life, when I'm honest, the longing to be loved and the desire to love are often more powerful in me than a yearning for the justice of others.
Without escaping my dilemma, I do wonder if, systematically, being loved and having the capacity to love is what really generates a persevering 'accent on justice'. In other words, I
suspect that it is only when we receive God's love with all the enabling impact that God's presence generates in us that we will find ourselves really yearning for justice for others.
Fuel for justice
How, then, can we get the accent right? When love and mercy and forgiveness flows from God to us, we are touched and changed. God's loving presence in us becomes the fuel for justice. We are energised to express peceptive words and strategic deeds. We are motivated to bow down and discern what to groan in our prayers. We are guided in how to effectively pursue our personal and organisational advocacy - to defend people who are exploited by those with unchecked
power, to champion the dignity of children, and create opportunities for people who have inherited circumstances that are unbearable.
Maybe those piano lessons weren't a waste after all.
Don Posterski is Director of Church Relations for World Vision International.
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