By Fidel "Butch" Montoya
Recently, I participated on a panel discussion sponsored by Greenwood Community Church, a mega-church in southwest Denver, related to justice. It was a unique opportunity to share my views and values on justice with other members of a diverse panel on what we perceived as justice.
A friend of mine, Dr. Malcolm Newton spoke of the need for the Church to embrace justice as well as the church has embraced charity. Dr. Newton feels the Anglo church has taken positive steps to try and address the issues related to poverty, hunger, and quality of life issues, but even so, he feels the Church has failed to live up to upholding justice as a primary responsibility of the church.
While a clear definition of "what is justice?" is not easy to reduce to a simple sentence we can all understand, it remains a group of words we must manipulate in order to create a simple sentence that is easily articulated in a fashion that we all can understand.
Justice is one concept we must learn to understand universally if we are to bring about equality and liberty for all. How does the Church do justice? How do we do justice?
A few weeks ago, I participated in a minister's regional retreat with pastors from La Iglesia de Dios (Church of God in Christ) in Colorado Springs with a similar goal. The objective of our group session was how do we reach out to a lost and trapped society, addressing issues of justice and civic participation.
Both the panel discussion and pastoral retreat related to the problem of the Church failing to reach out and literally touch the lives of the people who are hurting because of injustice in their lives. To often the Church seeks to address issues of justice and civic participation from only within the four walls of the Church. Anything beyond the walls of the church, both physical barriers or walls or the philosophical limits that go beyond our own purview of what justice means.
If the hurting, the down trodden, the sick, the homeless, those seeking justice don't show up inside our churches, often times we fail to reach out to them.
The "four wall theology" has been around for some time, and in my estimation has been one of the major reasons our churches have failed to establish themselves as search lights on the hill top.
Instead of being a beacon of hope offering a way to righteousness and ultimately justice, the beacon serves only to advertise our own self-righteousness and selfishness.
Our philosophy pertaining to our definition of justice must be associated with our public life style, and one that is strong enough in spite of controversy or hardship to stand with people who seek compassionate justice to address the problems they face.
Too often the church lives in a stage of chaos and panic, ready to condemn sin, call sinners to punishment and damnation, but rarely taking the time to understand why the people calling upon the Church for help, need help in the here and now.
The Church is quick to issue its condemnation and judgment on the lost. In some respects, the Church has become the jury and judge, and is quick to sentence the lost to more time in a sinful place, from which they have sought to change in the first place.
I sincerely believe the Church does not understand or have a corporate church definition of justice, and as a result, it loses many opportunities to reach out and help people survive the pressures of a demanding society.
The "four wall theology" goes hand in hand without thinking a judicial strategy of justice is an essential ministry. If we don't understand the ministry of justice, which I believe Christ came to administer to the lost and hopeless as an example for the Church to understand and relate to as important ministry. As for the Church, for too long we have failed to understand as one of our primary reasons for ministry.
Both sessions, the panel discussion and the pastoral presentation both sought out a way to declare a righteousness and to live beyond the life of good intentions.
By having the Biblical perspective of justice and righteousness, the Church can address issues hurting people face in their lives on a daily basis. Sometimes that calls for the pastor to go to the problem instead of asking people to come to the comfort of the pastoral office.
The Church must function outside of the four walls in ministry and find a path toward justice and righteousness.
The four wall theology should be put to rest, and the Church should be looking for at any opportunity to ask the question, how can the Church be a beacon of justice?
Fidel "Butch" Montoya
H. S. Power & Light Ministries - Latino Faith Initiative
Denver, Colorado 80212