Early in his ministry Jesus outlined his mission in a kind of mission statement. He quoted the Prophet Isaiah promising that his presence and activity would result in certain outcomes. His influence would have impact. And the impact would be justice, justice in every arena. Here is the passage from Luke’s gospel.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:14-21).
Do you need Jesus to deliver the goods for you today? If you have a financial need, Jesus brings good news nephew- provision! If you’re bound by guilt and shame, Jesus brings pardon. If you are broken, Jesus brings healing. If you’re pressed, Jesus rescues! He’s here to announce that today God shines favor on you.
Repeat these words of Jesus for yourself. Place your own life situations into these promises. Jesus and his words are alive today just as they were the moment he first spoke them. Take them to heart and take them back to God as your own.
“God, you are a friend of the oppressed. Jesus said that he came to release the oppressed. We believe this, and as Jesus followers we carry forward his mission with our prayers of faith. We appeal to you, our God on behalf of those who today, in the 21st century are held in slavery against their will. 27,000,000 of your precious children are locked in bondage, as child soldiers in the Congo, sex slaves in Minneapolis, indentured workers in Delhi, sweatshop workers in San Francisco. This is evil! This is unimaginable. This breaks your heart. May it break ours! Have mercy and act to break these oppressive chains. Give us wisdom and creativity and courage to be your hands and feet and eyes in this matter. Defeat the oppressors. Strengthen those who fight against this oppression. Encourage those who have lost all hope. Mount a rising tide of indignation against this grave offense, this abomination against those you have created in your own image. May nothing keep them from fulfilling their destiny. God, we ask you now to end modern day slavery in our day. And use us as you well to answer this prayer. We pray this in the name of Jesus. Let it be done.”
I am beginning a prayer experiment today. You’re welcome to join me.
I read again this week Jesus’ story in Luke’s gospel (chapter 18) about a widow who comes to a judge asking for justice. The judge – who is anything but just – ignores her pleas. But she persists, refusing to take no for an answer. Eventually the judge grows tired of her nagging and grants her request. Jesus says we should pray to God for justice as this woman appealed to the judge – never giving up! If the judge who was not just responds to persistence, how much more will God respond when we persist asking him to execute justice on our behalf? I decided to try it.
In the Old Testament God said that thieves were required t to pay back twice, and in some cases seven times, what they stole. This is justice for a wrong suffered to. The principle still stands. If my enemy has unjustly taken something from me, I can bring my case to God and ask for justice. Jesus says God will answer. If the enemy has stolen health, provision, relationships, or peace of mind, God promises to hear the matter and deliver justice to your case, giving double for what the thief has stolen. Mmmm. But I have to bring the case!
So I am running my life through an audit. I’m checking to see where I have lost value, where I have been wronged or cheated and I am asking god to intervene and recover the loss. I’ll tell you more specifics tomorrow.
Has something been unjustly taken from you? God is on your side. Instead of seeking your own restitution and exacting repayment on your own strength, consider releasing the case to God through prayer. Give him the freedom to act. This is the Biblical process of forgiveness. Turn the case over into God’s hands and then ask him to bring about justice on your behalf.
How? Here are five steps of prayer if you have suffered unjustly:
Thank God for his justice and for his commitment to defend what is right.
Acknowledge that you have been unjustly treated, and name the details to God.
Give God your right to justice and release to him the responsibility to fix things.
Ask him to bring to you a just settlement in this matter.
Thank him ahead of time for his fairness and mercy.
I often make life – and particularly my relationship with God – much too complicated. I imagine an endless list of obligations, “shoulds,” and “musts.” But really walking with God is simple and straightforward. One Old Testament prophet named Micah framed it like this:
He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).
To act with justice, mercy and humility is all God requires. When I pray I would do well to remember this simple prescription. If I live making just, merciful, and humble choices, and if I approach God praying for justice mercy and humility, then I please him.
“God, your ways are not a mystery. You’ve told me the way. Teach me justice. Give me justice in my heart and a strong passion for your justice in the world. May I work for and pray for the triumph of what is right! And this began in the relationships closest to me. You have shown me mercy; show me how to extend mercy to others. I come to you in humility. That is all, and all you require!”