"Pilate wanted to release Jesus but the crowd kept shouting, 'Crucify him! Crucify him!' Pilate said to them, 'Why, what evil has he done?'"
Three years ago Fox News commentator Glenn Beck condemned and excoriated "social justice" churches as "perversions of the gospel" and "communist." His words lit up a firestorm of responses and rightly so.
Beck's comments struck the very heart of the Christian faith. From Moses through the prophets to Jesus himself, concern for the poor and oppressed is inextricably tied to the biblical vision of redemption. Remove God's overwhelming call for justice and the Bible would be cut to shreds.
I can forgive Beck for his mistake. Perhaps difficulty with the term "social" is the real issue here. For some, "social" sounds suspiciously similar to "socialism," "socialized" and "socialist," hot buzz words these days used to stoke fears of our government and stymie dialogue on important national issues.
Social justice as well as injustice abound in the passion narratives of Holy Week, but not always in expected ways. We all know the betrayal, arrest, mock trial, abandonment and crucifixion of Jesus is a collision of multiple injustices against the most just and innocent person who ever lived.
But God's injustice works through and above human injustice. Yes, you read that correctly. The surprise of the gospel is that through the resurrection, God bests our injustice with a glorious injustice of Her own as we are "unjustly" redeemed despite giving God our absolute worst. Once again, the God of Jesus Christ has a soft spot for the "undeserving," the most inclusive club on earth.
God's injustice is usually called "mercy" and it's why Glenn Beck and I (and you!) can rejoice that God does not deal with us according to what we deserve... even as we do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.
Gracious God, may we discover your mercy and may you find us singing our hearts out on March 31st.
Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.