For Peace and Mutual Upbuilding

For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit; he who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. – Romans 14:7-19

Upon encountering this reading in Morning Prayer, I could not help but reflect upon Paul’s statement and its implication for social justice and how it makes so clear that actively working for social justice is not only proper to the service of God, but is in fact necessary if we are to consider ourselves to be a friend of God.

That Paul discusses a kingdom at all makes clear that he has in mind a society. A society is made up of people, and a kingdom is a society ruled by a king – in this case, God Himself, the one King fit to bear the title. Therefore, since Paul is speaking of God’s Kingdom and is speaking of it not in terms of the Kingdom of Heaven – the Kingdom that is to come – but of God’s Kingdom before us here on earth – the Kingdom in which we live today – it is clear that Paul is writing of a society. He does not have in mind our heavenly reward but is in fact speaking of attitudes and actions that we are to adopt today.

God’s kingdom is “righteousness and peace and joy,” Paul tells us. Certainly, righteousness, peace and joy are all central to the mission of social justice. In fact, without righteousness there can be no justice. Without peace there can be no justice. In a state of justice, all can attain the joy that advances both peace and righteousness. Thus when we say that the Kingdom of God here on earth is righteousness and peace and joy, we are talking in terms of social justice and should do so with the understanding that if we are not actively working for social justice then we are working against the Kingdom of God.

To feed the hungry is a work of peace and righteousness; it brings joy to the starving. To give water to the thirsty is a work of peace and righteousness; it brings joy to the parched. To clothe the naked is a work of peace and righteousness; it brings joy to the cold. To shelter the harborless is a work of peace and righteousness; it brings joy to the homeless. To visit the sick is a work of peace and righteousness; it brings joy to the dying. To ransom the captive is a work of peace and righteousness; it brings joy to the slave. To bury the dead is a work of peace and righteousness; it brings joy to those who mourn.

To instruct the ignorant is a work of peace and righteousness; it brings joy to those who are in darkness. To counsel the doubtful is a work of peace and righteousness; it brings joy to those who are in despair. To admonish sinners is a work of peace and righteousness; it brings joy to those who are redeemed. To comfort the afflicted is a work of peace and righteousness; it brings joy to those who are suffering. To bear wrongs patiently is a work of peace and righteousness; it brings joy to ourselves and advances the cause of peace and righteousness. To forgive wrongs willingly is a work of peace and righteousness; it brings joy to ourselves and advances the cause of peace and righteousness.

To pray for the living and the dead is a work of peace and righteousness; it reminds us of our dependence on each other, but most of all on God, from whom all blessings flow. It puts us in the presence of God, without Whom there can be no real or lasting joy.

Paul instructs that these things we should do in the Holy Spirit – we should do them because we are called to do them. There is no greater reason than this. Further, in doing these things and in all tasks that are at the service of social justice, we are acting in a way that serves Christ and is acceptable to God.

Let us then pursue what leads to peace and mutual upbuilding. Let us work for social justice.

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