|Volume 18 Number 8 August 2016||
“One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all!” are the final few phrases of the United States Pledge of Allegiance. The Pledge highlights our ideals, one of which is justice. Our nation has always held justice in high regard – and so it should! God loves justice. Through Isaiah, God called upon the Israelites to, “Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the poor” (Isaiah 1:17 NKJV). God’s concern for “justice” becomes even more apparent when we consider the vast number of times the word occurs in the Bible. In the NKJV, the term “justice” occurs 130 times. The most common Hebrew term for “justice” is mishpat, occurring 421 times in the Old Testament. The most common Greek word for “justice” is krisis, occurring 49 times in the New Testament. Both terms are most often translated as “judgment,” which, of course, has a very close connection with justice. God is obviously concerned with justice, and, consequently, we should be too.
As a nation, however, we have not always consistently applied our ideals in general and regarding justice in particular. Historically, we have advocated justice for all, but many times we have fallen short. This is not a new problem, but it is something that every generation faces. Previous generations confronted various issues of justice: slavery, capital punishment, women’s rights, workers’ rights and many others. One specific issue in the past was the nation’s dealings with the Native American population. Certainly, we want to be balanced and fair in our evaluation. Fair evaluation would probably have to agree that both sides committed abuses. Surely, the U.S. was at fault at times.
The events surrounding the “Trail of Tears” are some of the most glaring abuses against Native Americans on the part of the United States. In the late 1820’s and throughout the 1830’s, the U.S. government and some state governments disregarded former treaties, tribal sovereignty, and in general human rights of the Native Americans in the southeastern U.S. During that time, under the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the federal government and certain state governments forced the Creek, Choctaw, Seminole, Chickasaw and Cherokee nations to relocate west of the Mississippi River in what later became Oklahoma. Around 100,000 Native Americans left their homeland. Of those, approximately 15,000 died during relocation. One reason for their removal was the discovery of gold in northern Georgia in 1829 (Pauls).
At the same time as these incidents, the early efforts of the Restoration Movement had begun. How did the early restorers respond? Did they say anything or remain silent? Of course, we cannot know what all of them thought, but Alexander Campbell provides some insight. In a January 1830 article entitled, “The Cherokee Indians,” Campbell wrote about their plight, citing a Mr. Garrison, an editor of The Genius of Universal Emancipation, who denounced Georgia’s mistreatment of the Cherokee (45). “Justice,” Garrison’s keyword, “is eternal, and its demands cannot safely be evaded,” he affirmed (45). Campbell, in his concluding remarks, wholeheartedly agreed: “I humbly trust there is yet so much justice, so much pure republicanism, so much regard to truth and national faith, in the bosoms of the American people and of their representatives in congress, as will not permit them to give up an innocent and harmless nation to the cupidity of a few capitalists in Georgia or any where else” (45-46).
Like Campbell, we too, as Christians, preachers and teachers, must stand for, proclaim and demand justice, personally, socially, religiously, nationally and even internationally. Although the particulars differ, we face just as many, perhaps more, abuses of justice: violence, abortion, human trafficking, euthanasia, religious persecution, oppression of the poor and others. Yet, we must declare, “Justice for all”!
Campbell, Alexander. “The Cherokee Indians.” Millennial Harbinger 1.1 (1830): 44-46. Print.
Pauls, Elizabeth Prine. “Trail of Tears.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 11 June 2014. Web. 27 June 2014. <www.brittanica.com /EBchecked/topic/602008/ Trail-of-Tears>.
The Christian Leader
Paolo Di Luca
Jesus pointed out, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). True spirituality and godliness are revealed by and in our actions. This will inevitably influence other people, and we are responsible for setting the example needed to encourage and uplift those with whom we come in contact. It seems we have a “natural” tendency to shy away from this responsibility and reality, but the Bible is clear in affirming that God holds us accountable for the example we set, even when we are not trying to set any example!
Paul commanded the Christians in Corinth, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). With much thankfulness, the apostle commended the disciples in Thessalonica with these words, “And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7). In the Greek text “imitate” is the noun mimetes, which refers to one who mimics another and intentionally imitates the actions of someone else.
The teaching and the example of Paul and his collaborators along with the afflictions they faced were the tools God used to produce spiritual growth and transform people. Imitation, according to the New Testament context, is not merely a matter of external conformity, but it is a change from the inside out by means of the application of biblical truth as seen in the life of the mature Christian leader.
“Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct” (Hebrews 13:7). The real agent for effectively leading people is the recognition by others of the correctness of the lives of leaders. The word “outcome” refers to the result or the product of something intentionally pursued. In this biblical context, it is the manner of life that has made one an example to others. It refers to the way that leaders have centered their lives and their actions in the Word of God and how they are walking in the faith. In other words, the specific outcome of the conduct that has to be considered is Christ-likeness.
“Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things” (Philippians 3:17-18). One clear sign of Christian leadership is the pursuit of holiness, a heart set on heavenly treasures and divine objectives (Philippians 3:8-14, 19-20). The mature leader will aim at letting go of the past and the previous pursuits and treasures, and he will set his vision on reaching forth to the goal of growth in Christ-likeness.
The Lord Jesus is our supreme example, goal and authority, and His Word authorizes the legitimacy of following godly people as examples. We need the godly examples of people who demonstrate the possibility and the reality of following Christ’s example and continually growing therein. It is highly motivational and inspirational to find men and women who have truly grown in their walks through faithful obedience to the Word of God. Let each of us strive to be Christian examples!