Justice is worth the candle, even when it costs us dear
Unequal wealth and power create a world of tension and fear
Broken chains and cancelled debts put both sides in the clear
If we but heal wounds slightly, our faith is mere veneer
Let righteousness roll like a river to its outermost frontier
Every hireling, vassal, field and forest awaits the Sabbath year
Even facing inconvenient truths, still we must persevere.
Recently the nation paused to celebrate the remarkable Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II. Even non-monarchists acknowledged the commitment and dedication of Queen to country. It has not always been an easy reign and, along with privilege and wealth, there has been a need for self-sacrifice and dutiful service. At the national thanksgiving service, Archbishop Stephen Cottrell praised those who “lead for others, not themselves. People whose heart’s desire is to serve the common good and build up the common life; who don’t try to do it all themselves, or act in their own strength alone”. He extolled qualities of serving with “a staunch constancy and a steadfast consistency; a faithfulness to God”.
Christians are called to pursue God’s justice in an unfair world. However, this isn’t easy, especially when many in the world call us out for our privilege and perceived injustices in our country’s history. It is not easy to demand greater generosity to the poorest nations when so many of our own citizens must choose between “eating and heating”.
It wasn’t easy for the Jewish people to honour the Jubilee – to consecrate each fiftieth year when Hebrew slaves and prisoners would be freed and debts would be forgiven (Leviticus 25:10). Indeed, there is little evidence that the Jubilee was widely observed in practice. Nowadays, it isn’t easy for us to accept we don’t actually own the environment and its resources – they belong to God. ‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.” (Lev. 25:23).
As Christians, we must pray for a staunch constancy and steadfast consistency to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8). If our reaction to injustice is one of mere tokenism, then we are like those whom Jeremiah criticised as healing “the hurt of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jer. 8:11).
No-one is suggesting that it will be easy for us to pursue the principles behind God’s jubilee in this broken world. It is a duty for which we will need divine help. But, as Cottrell also said, “faith in Jesus Christ is…the well from which we draw deeply and replenish ourselves through all the challenges, joys, and vicissitudes of life.”
(The Jubilee acrostic appears on my Old Testament: History, Law and Poetry page).