Building a New WorldPosted on: February 10, 2021, by : David
One of the many gifts that we people from The Avenue have received in the partnership with the people from Hartwell over this past year has been your magnificent Mission Statement – that sentence formed around Micah 6:8
He has told you, O Mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.
As we build our new world, our new partnership, our new community of faith, what better foundation could there be than the three pillars of justice, kindness and humility?
What is justice? Forget the all-too-prevalent contemporary understanding that equates justice with judgement – justice, in the biblical sense, is not about judgement or penalty or paying the price for misdemeanour. Rather, justice, in the biblical sense, is a restorative process: restoration of right relationship, restoration of dignity, restoration of community, restoration of personal wellbeing and wholeness, or holiness if you like. A community anchored in true justice will be a community that cares for each other and for others, that advocates for those whose voices are diminished, that works for the restoration of right order – in society, in politics, social structures, and in creation.
There is strong evidence within our communities of faith that the pursuit of justice is indeed a core value: the support of Arising Life Ministries in Zambia, the accommodation projects providing homes for asylum seekers and for women, the engagement of our people in movements around indigenous matters, climate change and welfare are indicative of our commitment to restorative justice. Justice – proactive and outspoken – will continue to be a pillar upon which our new world is built.
Kindness is the second foundational pillar. Kindness is a rather beautiful concept, and, significantly, a value that is shared by virtually all world religions. Kindness can sometimes be confused with a passive, almost soft sentimentality. But the kindness that we are claiming here is neither passive nor soft. Kindness is active and strong. It is not merely ‘do no harm’ but intentionally ‘do good’, do kindness. It is an active and generative quality: it is about living with generosity, offering mercy, practicing acceptance, embracing diversity. Kindness is actually a building block of justice, a pathway to harmony, as it calls us to be compassionate, to offer kindness, to all people, to all creation, to all life.
Justice, kindness and, finally, humility.
If justice is too-often equated with judgement and condemnation in contemporary society, then so is arrogance too-often mistaken for self-assurance and strength. The biblical tenet is that real self-assurance, deep strength of character, is characterised not by arrogance but by humility: a willingness to serve, a preparedness to elevate the other, an awareness of right perspective.
It has always mystified me how society continues to accede to those who are self-promoting, continues to listen to those who are self-opinionated, continues to defer to those with the loudest, most strident voices. We have seen over the past four years in the US experiment how destructive and divisive unfettered arrogance can be.
The prophet Micah, along with many others, including the teacher Jesus, both point us to humility as a more constructive, more life-giving practice. It may seem counter-intuitive, because humility is sometimes confused with weakness or subservience, but humility is actually characterised by a generosity of spirit, an orientation of acceptance, an openness of mind that is life-giving to the other as well as to ourselves.
Humility doesn’t mean having no opinion, or not speaking up or acting out as appropriate, but it means not being dogmatic about my opinion, holding open the possibility of alternative opinions, and being prepared to listen to diverse voices in the quest for wisdom and harmony.
Humility is the result of gaining a right perspective in life – perspective on ourselves and perspective on others – and it flows from a right relationship with the ultimate ‘Other’ (God), through which we become aware of our own comparative ‘smallness’ in the face of that Other’s ‘bigness’. Perhaps best named as the experience of wonder and awe, it evokes a feeling of healthy humility. And out of that space we are empowered to live with kindness, and to seek justice.
Justice. Kindness. Humility. Ancient words from the prophet, ancient teachings from Jesus, but values upon which we might do well to build our new world.