We are well underway with our exploration of the character traits of a child of God - those traits which actually "reflect" better than any "image" we see of ourselves in the mirror on our wall. Today, we consider our "J" list - Justice and Joyfulness. I have chosen a rather long passage, but I think it is rich with blessing. Justice is really another way of saying we live in such a manner so as to display right conduct. In dealing with others, and often ourselves, we are equitable in treating others as God has treated us. Now, at first, this seems a little too easy for us to simply respond, "Check", and move on. Let me assure you, living "just" lives is a lot harder than some of the other traits we have explored to date! In fact, because it deals with the behaviors of others, often in reflection of the way they have treated us, it is one of the hardest ones to master!
Train me, God, to walk straight; then I’ll follow your true path. Put me together, one heart and mind; then, undivided, I’ll worship in joyful fear. From the bottom of my heart I thank you, dear Lord; I’ve never kept secret what you’re up to. You’ve always been great toward me—what love! You snatched me from the brink of disaster! God, these bullies have reared their heads! A gang of thugs is after me— and they don’t care a thing about you. But you, O God, are both tender and kind, not easily angered, immense in love, and you never, never quit. So look me in the eye and show kindness, give your servant the strength to go on, save your dear, dear child! Make a show of how much you love me so the bullies who hate me will stand there slack-jawed, As you, God, gently and powerfully put me back on my feet. (Psalm 86:11-17 MSG)
Here we find David faced by some folks in his life who we might say didn't welcome him with open arms - in fact, they were out to get him! Life just isn't going David's way at the moment! The "bullies" are abounding. Do you know what a bully is? It is someone who "badgers" another person because they think the other person is actually WEAKER than they are! They see the other person as "smaller" or "less significant". Imagine that! They saw David, the man with a heart after God's own heart, as "smaller" or "weaker" than them! Isn't this just the way people who don't serve the Lord see Christians? They almost shake their head in disbelief that we'd need some kind of "crutch" like Jesus to get through life! Let me assure those of you who might have been told Jesus was some "crutch" you needed in life - he is life itself, not just some "support" we lean upon!
The times when "justice" becomes evident in our lives are those when our fellow men see an area of "weakness" in our lives as an opportunity to focus their attack. Let me give you a little secret - most of us already know where our areas of weakness are and we have something our enemy doesn't know about - God's strength manifest in the very spot our weakness shines through! Look at our passage again - David is not bemoaning the bullying of his attackers - for he sees this as the very moment God will be totally on display in his life. Justice will prevail - first in his own life, and then in his dealings with those who seek to intimidate, demean, tear down, cause havoc to abound, and just simply make his life miserable! Why? He has learned to rely upon the one thing which always remains consistent - even in his inconsistency. That one thing is God's character - his grace, kindness, gentleness and even his power.
Let's not forget the progression we see in this passage. David begins with his own attitude and purpose in the interactions with these "bullies". He asks God to set HIS path straight - to have HIS mind and heart put together, undivided and determined. This is where justice begins - with the setting straight of US! When our hearts and minds are blameless, we stand strong in the midst of whatever the "bullies" throw our way. What does this "putting together" process assure David of in his life? Simply put, he will not be dependent upon the circumstances of life in determining what gives him happiness in life - he will be joyful in the justice of God, first toward him, then toward his enemies. Look at what he asks God - make a how much you love me, God! Have you ever prayed that prayer? Have you ever faced some of the toughest enemies of your life and prayed that God would just put himself on display in your life in all his fullness and glory? When you do, he is honored to answer that prayer!
So, justice and joyfulness really are inter-related, just as so many of our other "traits" have been. Whenever we begin to see our weakness as God's opportunity, we also might just count on our "bullying" friends to see it as their opportunity to attack where we are the weakest. Yet, in those moments of attack, God's putting us together, giving us the integrity to stand strong, and letting his justice to shine through. In these times, we stand in joyful awe of what God does, how he uses us to shut down the bullies, and just how much power he puts on display where we only saw the extremes of weakness.
On a final note, let me just say David got pushed around a little by life's bullies. In fact, he notes it is God who will "put him back on his feet". This might just indicate every "pushing around" we get from the "bullying enemies" in our lives won't leave us standing quite as strong as we hoped. In those times, take heart - God is there to help you back onto your feet. Relationship "bullies" abound - some push us down a little more than we'd like. God stands at the ready to help us back up on our feet again. We only need to rely upon his outstretched hand to pull us up. Financial "bullies" taunt and toy with us - his providing hand is at the ready. Health "bullies" plague us with worries galore - his carefully tender hand is at the ready to soothe our pain and ease our worries. We do "get down" in life, but remembering there is a difference between happiness and joyfulness may just be the key to where we look when we are "down". We may be down, but not for the count! Just sayin!