On January 14, 2007, The Oklahoman ran an op-ed piece by Rev. Glenn Cranfield. The Rev. Cranfield served as the director of the City Rescue Mission in Oklahoma City for nine years. He noted the renaissance taking place in downtown Oklahoma City. Glenn also noted how his understanding of this sociological reality changed once he spent time with those considered, "homeless."
I thought his referenced Scripture to be indicative of the way forward when thinking about how we connect justice with following Jesus.
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." Proverbs 31:8-9
Glenn noted the cooperative effort required to address the needs of those who are so easily dismissed as lazy and without the intestinal fortitude to "pick themselves up by the boot straps." Many churches today provide some sort of benevolence ministry. Too many do it out of guilt rather than an understanding of the "least of these" Jesus well noted represent him in the world.
Imagine my dismay when thinking about Dan Thomasson’s op-ed piece in today’s edition of The Oklahoman (January 24, 2007). He calls for a raise in Congress to minimize the prostituting of lawmakers by lobbyists of large interest groups. Here is a short blurb,
"So is it any wonder that the lawmakers are vulnerable to those who would wine and dine them [legislators] and provide them with entertainment packages they couldn’t afford otherwise? The wonder is that more of them don’t succumb to the temptations."
The accompanying political cartoon by Steven Breen said as much as the written article.
The heart of the issue is what kind of people are we? What kind of people could we become? If self-interest rises to the level of excess we will always have the poor among us. I am left wondering if that may not be at least something of what Jesus addresses with the disciples. Rather than a statement of self-inflated importance, maybe Jesus was suggesting the poor will always be with us because we will only think of ourselves. Remember the question which lay on at least one of the disciples mind was the value of a bottle of perfume and how it might be sold to help the poor.
Jesus’ reply seems to be a bit disinterested in the plight of people. It may well be he knew the heart of the one who asked as well as the hearts of we who would read the story. Our inclination is more like the Pharisees calling our resources "Corban" and then ignoring the weightier matters of the ways of God. If Thomasson is correct, we do not have the kind of people leading us who will keep their eyes on those for whom they have been elected to serve and only end up finding ways to serve themselves. This speaks to a number of areas of life.
Justice calls for action on/in behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. When we elect representatives we are asking them to speak for us. When we elect Trustees to guard our trust at various entities (SBC) we ask them to speak for us. The problem inevitably comes when a disconnect is experienced. Legislators and Trustees alike who find perks the joy of serving rather than guarding the trust and voice of those who need representation will inevitably become prostitutes to the highest bidder or rewarder.
Oh that we could recapture the call out of which Rev. Canfield found his call to serve the homeless …