Sl o o o o wly continuing a series on The Beatitudes, we reach a change of perspective: from the early beatitudes' hope and comfort to those in desperate straits (rejected, devastated, oppressed) to hope and encouragement for those who want to make a difference, to make the world a better place.
If you have been following along this year's Beatitudes posts, and have heard about the people to whom Jesus’ early beatitudes are meant to bring hope and security, how have you felt? How do you feel about religious authorities who try to exclude people from the hope of God’s kingdom; about those who have suffered devastating loss and need comfort; about the desperately poor, oppressed and crushed by injustice?
Do you look at those first three beatitudes and ache, feeling the pain of a world where these things happen? Do you share the frustration of the ancient prophet Habakkuk?
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,Is the injustice filling the world, two thousand years after Jesus spoke out about these things, all too much for you? Then this fourth beatitude is for you.
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you "Violence!"
Why do you make me see iniquity,
and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law is paralyzed,
and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
so justice goes forth perverted.
It contains the hope and the promise that, in Caversham, Britain and throughout the world, God really is at work: that his Kingdom will come and his will be done in Caversham as in heaven. The challenge, especially for any church interesting in “Becoming a Christlike community”, is whether we can see God at work and come together as Jesus’ followers to join in. Whether we care enough to speak out against injustice and work with those who suffer, to challenge the powerful vested interests and to make ‘the system’ work for people instead of against them.
In Jesus we have a covenant of Grace, but it is no less a promise of Justice. There will be an accounting, there will be restoration of all that is stolen, and there will be truth. Then there will be renewal and new life, providing there is mercy – see the forthcoming post on the next beatitude (hopefully a bit sooner than I've been achieving so far).
In the meantime, a poem from the First World War, written by Robert Palmer, who died in 1916, aged just 27:
How Long, O Lord?
How long, O Lord, how long, before the floodA final note about the great Eddy Grant's protest song referenced in this post's title. Grant was singing about a great injustice of his time: apartheid in South Africa. He released the song in 1988; by 1991 apartheid was formally over, and in 1994 there was the first democratic election, leading to Nelson Mandela becoming president. To date, whilst a painful and damaging legacy of apartheid remains in South Africa, there has been no bloodbath and no economic collapse.
Of crimson-welling carnage shall abate?
From sodden plains in West and East, the blood
Of kindly men steams up in mists of hate,
Polluting Thy clean air; and nations great
In reputation of the arts that bind
The world with hopes of heaven, sink to the state
Of brute barbarians, whose ferocious mind
Gloats o'er the bloody havoc of their kind,
Not knowing love or mercy. Lord, how long
Shall Satan in high places lead the blind
To battle for the passions of the strong?
Oh, touch Thy children's hearts, that they may know
Hate their most hateful, pride their deadliest foe.
There remains hope, Jo'anna, so let us all do our parts in promoting justice wherever we are.
May Grace, peace and the hope of real change fill your week ahead.