Righteousness, Peacemaking and Advocacy, a bibical reflection

As I continue my search for what it means to be a peacemaker, and what role advocacy has within the realm of peacemaking, I find myself returning to scripture…seeking guidance, seeking for understanding.  A few months back I came across, or was introduced to, two significant and applicable verses. The first, James 3:18 reads: “The seeds of the fruit of righteousness are planted in peace by those who are making peace,” and the second, Psalm 85:10 says, “Loving-kindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”  While these verses may not speak directly to the idea of advocacy, my thoughts and reflections related to the biblical concept of righteousness have led me to see a strong connection between the two.

While not neglecting the belief that ultimately it is God who brings his kingdom (as we so pray in the Lord’s prayer), we are also called to seek his kingdom, live righteously, and thus be salt and light in this world.  While a modern definition of righteousness might refer generally to individual uprightness, or living by a set of standards…In biblical usage righteousness is rooted in covenants and relationships. For biblical authors, righteousness is the fulfillment of the terms of a covenant between God and humanity or between humans in the full range of human relationships.[1]

 For example, a description of a righteous person in Psalm 15 includes: speaking truth from one’s heart, not doing wrong to neighbor, fearing the Lord, keeping an oath, lending money without usury and finally, not accepting a bribe against the innocent.

Reflecting personally on the aforementioned biblical description of righteousness, I sense that I have often focused more on a personal, ethical sense of righteousness or justice (another translation of the same Hebrew and Greek word).  As well, perhaps too often I have been overly concerned about fighting for my own rights while turning a blind eye to the abundance of injustices done to others in this world. While the desire to live an upright life is honorable I think it important to ask ourselves if such actions are embedded in a true love for God and neighbor which is a central theme in both the old and new covenants.   After all, that which God requires from us is “to act justly, to love mercy and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8)… again I ask myself, is my righteousness rooted in mercy towards others and walking daily with God?

With this sense of righteousness I return to the first two verses quoted above, both of which involve a key linkage between living righteously and living peacefully.  In the first we understand that godly acts of righteousness/justice are sown in peace by those working for peace. The context of this passage is a description of a godly wisdom, a wisdom comprised of peace-loving, submission, mercy, love and impartiality.  Again all of these words, as we saw with the biblical concept of righteousness, have communal implications.  In this sense righteous living calls us to “ask how God’s Shalom is being inhibited or what obstacles exist for God’s Shalom to be real everywhere in the world.” [2]

 In the second verse, the context of which is a description of the salvation of God, we learn that God’s righteousness is found together with peace.  If we are to have the same understanding of salvation as God we are called to seek and build relationships/communities of love, truth, righteousness and peace. As one author has summarized, generally, the righteous man in Israel was the man who preserved the peace and wholeness of the community, because it was he who [preserved] fulfilled the demands of communal living.[3]

 Beyond these two biblical texts I also continue to be inspired and challenged by Jesus’ example of righteousness and peace building. The following is a quote from Henry Nouwen:

 Jesus…hungers and thirsts for uprightness. He abhors injustice… His whole being yearns for people to treat one another as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the same God.  With fervor he proclaims that the way to the Kingdom is not found in saying many prayers or offering many sacrifices but in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and the prisoners (see Matt. 25:31-46). He longs for a just world. He wants us to live with the same hunger and thirst.[4]

With these biblical texts and examples in mind I ponder what I have absorbed so far about the meaning and role of advocacy, and offer this basic definition: Understanding the struggles and plight of others, how and why they occur, and from a faith perspective, collectively finding ways to work towards positive change. Or perhaps to put it another way – being an advocate involves hungering and thirsting for people to be treated rightly and/or justly, and taking actions that bring peace to the lives of others.

And so with these reflections on righteousness, peace making and advocacy, I am left with this conclusion: Our righteous God, calls all people to faithfully cling to the ideals and desires he has for his creation, and of utmost importance to him is the need to live lovingly, honestly, and compassionately with our “neighbors”, which to me implies working towards and advocating for the holistic well being (shalom type peace) of us all.

 



[1] Butler, Trent C. Editor, “Entry for ‘RIGHTEOUSNESS”, Holman Bible Dictionary,
http://www.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?number=T5354 (April 2012).

[2] “Advocacy: An Invitation to MCC Service Workers,” Rebecca Bartel, April, 2010.

 [3] Art Kratz, “Righteousness in the Old Testament”, http://artkatzministries.org/articles/righteousness-in-the-old-testament/ (April 2012).

 [4] Nouwen, Henry J. “Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith,” (New York: HarperCollins, 1997) entry for May 27.

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2 Responses to Righteousness, Peacemaking and Advocacy, a bibical reflection

  1. Melissa Fedd says:

    Awesome thoughts Jac! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Shirley says:

    I love coming to your site and finding rich food for thought and correction. Thanks.

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