PASTORS’ SEMINAR on JUSTICE – MAPUTO
Thank you very much for the invitation to speak to you today. This is my second visit to Mozambique. I was made extremely welcome 12 months ago and have been looking forward to returning.
To introduce myself. My name is Andrew Caplen. I am an English qualified lawyer. From 2014 until 2015 I was the President of the Law Society of England and Wales. The Law Society is the Bar Association for all Solicitors qualified within the English jurisdiction – over 160,000 of them.
I am married to Lindsay, who will be sharing with you later. Lindsay is a Pastor at Central Baptist Church, Chelmsford, in England.
You may be aware that Lindsay and I have written this book called “Justice Matters”. It was originally published in England by BMS World Mission. The book has now been translated into Portugese and published by AMAC, the Mozambican Association of Christian Lawyers. It will be formally launched at the Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo next week .
The book seeks to explain why justice issues are so important to God and what we can do, as either Pastors, Church Leaders or Lawyers, to show God’s heart for justice in this world.
I have four points this morning.
FIRSTLY, OUR GOD CARES:
We serve a God who cares for each of us as individuals. In Matthew, chapter 6, verse 25, Jesus says:-
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
In verse 28 of the same chapter:-
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
And in Isaiah 40, verses 27 and 28:-
“Why do you say that my way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”
God cares for us his children, for all that He has made. Yes, this does have reference to our eternal destiny – John 3, verse 16, makes it clear that God is anxious that none should perish. But He is also concerned for our physical needs upon this earth. It hurts God when any are downtrodden, oppressed or denied the justice that He desires for the whole world.
What is our role in all of this?
We know that God calls His people to do His will upon this earth. He blesses us with gifts, opportunities and talents to be used in His service, for the furtherance of His kingdom. We are “blessed to be a blessing”. That means that we – whether we are Pastors, Church Leaders, Lawyers or whatever – have a part to play in bringing the justice that He desires for all.
The call in Isaiah, chapter 1, verse 17, is to all of us:-
“To do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”
SECONDLY, THE EXAMPLE OF MOSES – when he got it wrong:
Moses was a Hebrew child, hidden in the reeds by the river Nile and brought up in Pharaoh’s palace. Although he had all the benefits of fame and fortune, he never forgot that he was an Israelite. And he clearly did not like to see injustices take place affecting one of his own people.
In Exodus chapter 2, from verses 11 until 15 we read this:-
“One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labour. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.” When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian.”
Moses had acted rashly, was found out and had to flee for his life.
We can learn from this story. Yes, God is a God of justice. But there are right and wrong ways that we should act. If we take matters into our own hands, without reference to God and the legal system, it can result in us acting unjustly too.
THIRDLY, THE EXAMPLE OF MOSES – when he got it right:
I do not know whether you have ever heard of something called “the rule of law”? This is an important concept that is of fundamental importance for any country to be truly fair, truly just, truly democratic
The rule of law does not mean that there should be “rule by lawyers”. Rather, it means that all of us – whether we are great or mighty, whether we are well-educated or not, whether we are wealthy or poor, are all subject to the laws passed by our Parliaments. Thus, our leaders are subject to the same laws as the poorest citizen. Pastors, Church Leaders and Lawyers are subject to the same laws. No one is above the law, all are subject to it.
There are a few points to note here:-
1. The rule of law would say that Moses acted wrongly when he killed the Egyptian, no matter what the Egyptian had done. He had taken the law into his own hands.
2. However, Moses had many years tending his father-in-law’s sheep to think about his actions. And he learnt from his experience.
In Exodus 17 we read these words – this is selection of some of the verses from verse 14 onwards:-
“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses….. The king must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself…..He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.
When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law….. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left.”
Moses had realised that he himself had to observe the law. He was not above it, he was subject to it. And his instructions for the future king of Israel were these:-
– the king should not become rich at the expense of others;
– the king should read and understand the law;
– the king should apply the law for the benefit of all; and
– the king himself was to be subject to the law.
These principles apply to all of us who are in positions of leadership, whether political or spiritual.
3. So, all of us are subject to the law, none of us are above it. This leads to another important truth. That all of us have broken God’s law and fallen short of His standards.
Romans chapter 3, verse 23 says:-
“ For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
It is only because of the salvation that we have through Jesus Christ, through His death and resurrection, that we can be forgiven, made new and be born again of the Kingdom of God.
FOURTHLY – the need for us to be agents of change, to speak up for others:
Moses needed to be transformed though the power of God’s Spirit. He did change. The angry young man who did things his way, who used violence to right, as he thought, a wrong, realised that there was a better course. That was and is God’s way
In his older years, Moses became the leader of the Israelite nation. He also became their judge. You may recall that at first he tried to deal with all disputes that were brought to him. But then, after advice from his father-in-law, he appointed others to help.
Moses encouraged all the Israelites to act justly, to provide for others and speak up for others if they were being wrongly treated. Here is what he is recorded as saying in Deuteronomy, chapter 10, starting at verse 12:-
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?…..”
And then at verse 17:-
“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you.”
There are a number of other verses where this is emphasised. For example, Zechariah chapter 7, verse 9:-
“This is what the Lord Almighty said: Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor.”
And particularly this verse from Proverbs 31, verses 8 and 9:-
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
1. God cares for each person in this world. Yes, he cares for His children, those who call upon His name. But He also cares for those outside of His kingdom and longs that they would become His children too.
2. God is a just God, who wants each of us to be as concerned regarding issues of justice as He is. He desires that we act with integrity, being fair and just towards others and loving them, just as Christ loves us. And we have a particularly important role as Pastors and Church Leaders – that is to show and model the love of God to others.
4. We should speak up for those who are being mistreated. Remember the story Jesus told of the Good Samaritan, who looked after the man attacked by robbers? He was the good “neighbour” that Jesus said that we must be. We are called to provide for the needs of others and to speak up when they are mistreated.
5. Sometimes that means being prepared to do so when everyone else remains silent. But God calls us to challenge injustice and proclaim what is right, remembering to do so in God’s strength and not our own, not making the mistake that Moses did when he was a young man.
I would like to finish with two more verses from the Bible. The first is from Amos, chapter 5, verse 24:-
“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
This verse was quoted in his “I have a dream speech”, by the US Baptist preacher and advocate for racial equality, Dr. Martin Luther King.
And finally these verses from Micah, chapter 6, verse 8:-
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”