The New Testament
In our first post in this series we explored support for justice as holiness in the Torah. In our second post we explored justice as holiness within the prophets, and today, in our third and final post, we explore justice as holiness within the Apostolic Writings (the New Testament).
Yeshua is constantly concerned with people on the fringes of society. This is exemplified best within what is often called “The Beatitudes” (see Matthew 5:1-11). These are basically proclamations of hope to those who are oppressed. Think about the language employed. It is not about the rich, the lofty, or those who have it all figured out. It is the poor who inherit the Kingdom, those who mourn who receive comfort, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness that are filled. Furthermore, Yeshua links social action directly with himself:
“For I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you made me your gust, I needed clothes and you provided them, I was sick and you too care of me, I was in prison and you visited me … Yes! I tell you that whenever you did these things for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did them for me!” (Matthew 25:35-40)
James, the brother of Yeshua, and the leader of the Messianic community in Jerusalem during the first century, states unequivocally: “The religious observance that G-d the Father considers pure and faultless is this: to care for the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being contaminated by the world (James 1:27).”
In Jewish thought, faith and action must go hand-in-hand. As James further notes:
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith but has not actions to prove it? Is such ‘faith’ able to save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food, and someone says, ‘Depart in peace, keep warm and fulfilled!’ without giving him what he needs, what good does it do? Thus, faith by itself, unaccompanied by actions, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)
As Followers of Messiah
We should be the specialists in reaching out to those on the margins, for we follow a Messiah who knows how to embrace and empower those on the fringes of society. Yeshua reached out to those who were hurting, lost, and oppressed. Yeshua got involved!!!
We are required to speak out against injustice everywhere – for example, raising awareness about the world’s largest war in Congo, about slavery, violence against women, the rights of immigrants and minorities, and intervening wherever we witness injustice.
As we embrace our own marginality as followers of Yeshua, we will in turn empower an entire generation located on the margins, searching for purpose and belonging. Furthermore, by speaking-out for those who are oppressed and bound, we also further our role as the Remnant within Israel, and as a Light to the Nations.
*This series is an expansion of an article I recently wrote for the UMJC Twenties newsletter, which can be read HERE.