In the story of ‘Les Miserables’, the protagonist Jean Valjean is an ex-convict who experiences God’s grace through an act of mercy shown to him by a bishop. He becomes a Christian, and an honest and caring business owner. Most significantly, he goes to the back alleys of what would be the equivalent of our Geylang, covering the destitute with blankets, giving money to the down and out workers, and standing up for a prostitute who had been wrongly accused.
The author of ‘Les Miserables’ is telling us this: that people who follow Jesus should not just be ‘nice’ people, but people who go out of the way to help the lowly and to stand up against injustice. Jean Valjean is the embodiment of the Good Samaritan.
Yet, this aspect of Jesus’ teaching can often be neglected or absent in our conversations about discipleship. It is telling that the Parable of the Good Samaritan was an exposition of the Second Greatest Commandment: love your neighbour. This commandment is an expression of God’s character of justice and righteousness. The failure to love our neighbours is a sin against God that insults His justice and righteousness.
A survey of the Bible will reveal many verses about God’s righteousness and justice. Unfortunately, we think of righteousness and justice as only about personal purity and divine retribution. But there is much more. Righteousness is ‘tzedeqah’, which refers to right relations between God and Man, Man and self, Man and Man, Man and Creation, i.e. where the whole world is in a perfect state of relationships.
The righteousness that we received from Jesus because of His Cross and Resurrection sets our relationship with God aright. Even so, the effects are not complete. It is our calling to now seek righteousness: to make right the relationships between other persons and God, Man and self, Man and Man, and Man and Creation. A key aspect of this is to reach out to and help those who suffer from the unrighteousness of the world: poverty, isolation, discrimination, and injustice. (See Isaiah 1:10-27, Isaiah 58, Isaiah 61, Jeremiah 5:27-29, 22:13-16, Micah 6, Matthew 25:31-46, James 1:27).
May the grace of Jesus’ righteousness bestowed upon us compel, inspire and strengthen us to seek God’s righteousness for those around us, and in so doing truly live as disciples of Jesus. As we reflect on these things, may the lyrics of “Power Of Your Name” by Lincoln Brewster reverberate in the chambers of our hearts:
Surely children weren’t made for the streets; And fathers were not made to leave; Surely this isn’t how it should be; Let Your Kingdom come.
Surely nations were not made for war; Or the broken meant to be ignored;
Surely this just can’t be what You saw; Let Your Kingdom come here in my heart.
Surely life wasn’t made to regret; And the lost were not made to forget; Surely faith without action is dead; Let Your Kingdom come; Lord break this heart.
Your name is a shelter for the hurting; Jesus Your name is a refuge for the weak; Only Your name can redeem the undeserving; Jesus Your name holds everything I need.
I will live to carry Your compassion; To love a world that’s broken; To be Your hands and feet; I will give with the life that I’ve been given; And go beyond religion; To see the world be changed; By the power of Your name.
By Ronald Wong (YCKC Bulletin 13&14 April 2013)