Albert Camus, the existential philosopher and atheist, once wrote, “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very act of existence becomes an act of rebellion.” That’s what we see in the life and ministry of Jesus. That’s what we see in the Book of Acts as those first disciples carry with them the full signature of Jesus. On the day of Pentecost they receive what God had spoken through the prophet Ezekiel so many centuries earlier. He puts in them a new spirit and a new heart and their lives begin to reflect a generous justice.
Years ago a man I know was on a trip to South Carolina from New Orleans to speak to a group of Episcopalians. On the first leg of the journey he sat on the aircraft and centered his thoughts and prayers on Jesus. He silently repeated Jesus’ name over and over again. He focused on all that Jesus had done for him on the cross. He said that he became so conscious of Jesus’ presence in him that the flight into Atlanta seemed like minutes. During the two-hour layover he decided to get his shoes shined so that he might look more presentable to the crowd later that evening. He approached the elderly shoeshine man and asked for the going rate. The man instantly said, “A dollar fifty, sir.” He handed him two bucks and sat in the elevated chair while the shoeshine man shined his shoes. When he finished the traveler said, “Now it’s your turn. You get in that chair and I’ll shine your shoes.” The man stuttered, “Huh? What?” So the traveler said, “I won’t charge you. Go ahead, get up in the chair and let me shine your shoes.” The man stared at him and said, “What for, then?” “Because you’re my brother,” he answered. The man looked disconcerted. Finally, he said, “Well, when I ain’t busy, the boss leaves me some shoes to shine. But thank you anyway.” It was at that point that the traveler saw the tears in the elderly man’s eyes. Instantly he reached out to him and hugged him. And when he did the elderly man said softly, “No white man ever talked to me like that before.”
Now what had possessed this traveler to engage in such conversation? Had he planned it? Was it his good deed for the day? Was it the product of a fertile mind? Was it an underlying desire to be lauded by a stranger? Was it a way to make the traveler feel superior or wonderfully altruistic? It was none of that. It was the result of being lost in Jesus. It was the product of a Spirit-controlled heart, rather than a craven mind. In fact, it was the confluence of two biblical attributes – justice and kindness.
This week we continue our examination of what the Lord tells us in Micah 6:8. What does the Lord require of us? To do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with Him. In Acts 2:42-47 we see how the disciples of Jesus are living that out. As we will see, justice and kindness or mercy are not two separate things. Throughout the Old Testament the Lord portrays them as the two sides of the same coin. Justice or misphat in Hebrew signifies an action. Misphat is used more than 200 times in the Old Testament. When you read the Old Testament and pay attention to this theme you find that God, by His own character, is acting our justice all the time. However, it is critical to note that rarely is justice required without hesed (mercy) or tzadegah (righteousness). Scores of time in the Old Testament justice and righteousness are spoken of in the same breath. While justice is the action, kindness, mercy, or righteousness is the attitude behind the action. When the Lord commands His people to discharge justice it’s always intended in a merciful or kind way. And that’s exactly what we see in Sunday’s text. In short, we will see that justice and mercy are the principle features of the Signature of Jesus.
In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
1. Do you think Jesus was tolerant or intolerant of sin?
2. What charge was repeatedly leveled against Jesus regarding sin?
3. What did Martin Luther mean when he spoke of “the sin under the sin”?
4. How and where does Jesus address the sin under the sin issue?
5. How is doing justice and loving kindness a matter of heart motivation rather than willful behavior?
6. How do you define “fellowship”? How can the Holy Spirit be the only author of true fellowship?
7. What does it mean when Luke says in verse 42 that they “devoted themselves”?
8. Is it true that one’s grasp of grace determines how much justice and generosity someone dispenses?
9. What is the motivation behind God’s command in Leviticus 24:22?
10. Look at Judges 6:34(a). What does that mean to you?
See you Sunday!