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Image by Milad Fakurian
  • Writer's pictureFirst Christian Church of Chicago

Perfect Pairings

Do you ever interact with any of those social media posts that ask things like what goes best with peanut butter (but you can't say bread), or what is the one indispensable tool for a (name a vocation). Some of those pairings are obvious, others not so much. Obviously a pitcher needs a ball. A batter needs a bat. Peanut butter goes with ice cream (Really! Try it!) But which tool is most important to an electrician or a doctor?

The proper pairing for God in Isaiah is righteousness and justice. This pairing of righteousness and justice will occur over and over again in Isaiah. It isn't just a measure of conduct for the Jewish people. It is the very character of God that they are called to emulate.

In the 21st century, we have churches that espouse moral living without any concern for issues of justice to the oppressed. Do the right thing. Live morally. The list of dos and don't (usually emphasizing the don't) can become quite long and cumbersome. However, they are all about personal, individual morality. Some might say this is "love for God."

We, on the other extreme have those who advocate for the needs of the poor, oppressed, homeless, and helpless, but they are presented devoid of any responsibility to live by some moral standards. It boils down for some people to "just love others." Become an activist on the part of the disadvantaged. Speak up for those who have no voice.

Isaiah’s dual emphasis tells us that these two things can’t be so easily divided. They are not two separate concerns. They are two sides of the same coin.

One without the other is useless. Doing right without justice is not right. Seeking justice without morality exemplifies poor worship form. It is a waste of religiosity. It makes God vomit.

Our call is to emulate God’s character which is righteous (that which is right) and justice (that which is as it ought to be). Elevating one without the other portrays a partial, incomplete, even schizophrenic God. May our ethic not settle for portraying a god who is less than YHWH.


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