I say sermon like in that he builds on key texts, tells stories, illustrates and leads to a vision of God’s grace and justice that appeals to the head and heart to get the hands working for justice in a broken world.
God created all things to be in a beautiful, harmonious, interdependent, knitted, webbed relationship to one other. Just as rightly related physical elements form a cosmos or a tapestry, so rightly related human beings form a community. This interwovenness is what the Bible calls shalom, or harmonious peace.
But that fabric has become torn and dirty in a fallen world, shalom has gone, spiritually, psychologically, socially and physically. To ‘do justice’ means to live in a way that humans can flourish, and especially go to places where that fabric has broken down – by concentrating on and helping the poor. And the way to reweave, suggests Keller, is to weave yourself into the fabric.
If we keep our money, time and power to ourselves, for ourselves, instead of sending them out into our neighbor’s lives, then we may be literally on top of one another, but we are not interwoven socially, relationally, financially and emotionally. Reweaving shalom, means to sacrificially thread, lace, and press your time, goods and power and resources into the lives and needs of others.
The motive for such ‘doing justice’ ties back to the big theme of the book – not for a better reputation, or out of guilt or for improved self-esteem, or even just to create a better society for your family to live in. Rather,
It takes an experience of beauty to knock us out of our self-centeredness and induce us to become just.
For Christians to be kind to the poor is to be kind to God and to show contempt for the poor is to show contempt for God [Proverbs 19:7 and 14:31]. God’s identifies with the poor – the widow, the immigrant, the orphan, the marginalised and powerless.
And God’s identification is most supremely seen in Jesus. Born in humble circumstances, a refugee, Messiah to the marginalised and disdained, with no place to lay his head, who entered Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey, who spent his last evening in a borrowed room, and was buried in a borrowed tomb.
God’s identification with the poor goes ‘all the way down’ to the cross ..
He not only became one of the poor and marginalized, he stood in the place of all those of us in spiritual poverty and bankruptcy (Matthew 5:3) and paid our debt.
The more we grasp this the more our lives will be transformed to be other focused.
Here’s a discussion starter – what are some implications of this closing quote for your life / church ?
“A life poured out in doing justice for the poor is an inevitable sign of any real, true gospel faith”