Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Unjust Laws

"Obey the law" we tell our children.

We believe that most laws are for our good. And they probably are.

But not always. Sometimes laws do more to mess people up than to help them.

"Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,"

What types of laws might be "unjust"?

What would "oppressive decrees" do?

...deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. (Isaiah 10:1-2 NIV)

This passage in Isaiah is a pronouncement of God's judgment against God's people, Israel.

Do you think God has judgment to pronounce against God's people today, for similar types of sins?

Have we valued "the law" of the land above "the rights of the poor"?

"What rights?" we might wonder.

Well, it seems like food, shelter, and clothing are pretty basic. Everyone should have access to those things.

And in our culture we expect medical care and education to be pretty basic.

Have our laws withheld justice from the oppressed? Have we failed to make sure the least and the last are protected?

I have to confess nearly everyone I know would be outraged if they saw widows becoming prey or orphans being robbed. Most of the people I know are pretty decent folks and they'd step in if they noticed something so heinous happening.

But if you're like me, it seems more likely that we might not even be aware of those who suffer from an unjust world. It is easy to insulate ourselves from "the poor" and "the oppressed" even if we don't mean to.

We may be totally oblivious to the ways our laws in the city, county, state, or nation are unjust.

I was recently with a group of my peers from around southeastern Michigan. We were looking at the unemployment rates for twenty or so counties in the state. At the time (several months ago), the percentage of adults looking for work but unable to find it was double-digits for every county...except one... Washtenaw County, where most of us live.

I'm guessing most of the numbers have gone up since then. However, compared to nearly everyone else in the state, we were doing pretty well.

I was reminded again of how privileged we are, even in this economy. Even though our community has not been untouched by the difficult financial times.

Layoffs, shrinking 401K's, and foreclosures have seemed to wake us up to those types of needs.

Maybe we'll begin to wake up, not only to our own needs, but to the needs of those around us.

Maybe such circumstances will help sensitize us to the less fortunate who live close by.

Maybe we can train our eyes to see where our society has allowed some to be robbed or others to become prey.

Maybe we can step up, speak up, and protect those who need it most.

I hope so.

Grace & peace

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