what is justice and why do we want it?

What does justice look like to you? A stranger sitting behind a bench universally applying the same standard to all? Someone you’ve never met deciding your fate and punishing you for your actions?

I would submit that justice is greater than that. God as Judge acts to make things right. He does not want to punish, but to renew. He knows you perfectly, and he knows what best works to wipe away every tear and correct every injustice. He doesn’t have to kill you to make things right. You do die (to your old self), but God, as Judge, then resurrects his original, perfect creation.

Justice isn’t punishment; it is renewal.

When you ask for justice, you are not asking to be stricken down for your sins, you are asking for God’s perfect kingdom. Don’t abuse the word “justice” by calling for the deaths of terrorists or enemies or baby killers. We all deserve death, but that is not what God wants.

Thanks be to God! The old has passed, behold — he makes all things new! All things!

the ugly truth.

You’re hurt. I get it. I can’t emphasize how much I sympathize. I can’t explain how much I understand your pain. Please don’t forget, when I say what’s next, what I said first. I’m not asking you not to hurt.

I’m asking you not to give up.

I’m asking you to see the good and understand that the bad is just a fad that will be eradicated. I’m asking you «compartir en el idealismo conmigo». When I say ideal, I don’t mean something that won’t happen; I mean something that has already happened, we just don’t see it yet. I’m not asking you to be ignorant, just hopeful and without regret.

I see the ugly, really, I do. I just know ugly turns to beautiful when confronted with Truth. And I know the Truth is here, we are just too often blind. Truth came, died, and created new life. The truth is, the world is a beautiful place. And truth is something pain and evil cannot erase.

God, if he exists, is no help, is he?

People everywhere are unsatisfied with the policies and the job performance of God. Polls are increasingly showing disinterest and disenfranchisement. God is no longer relevant to a generation which has spent the entirety of its formative years in the Age of Democracy, choosing for themselves that which is right and that which is wrong.

And now people demand a new king, a man of the people, a man they chose. The people demand to decide for themselves what is acceptable and what is not. If God is going to be Lord over them, then he must protect them, and he isn’t doing that. There is war, death, famine, AIDS, flu, poverty, preventable oppression and sickness.

The people are upset with the methods of God. Because there is no earthly way this makes sense.

The people want a new king, just as Israel demanded a physical, human ruler. The people are demanding that God be deposed for his ineptitude in regards to either benevolence or potency — they aren’t sure which. Either God is not good, or he is not powerful enough. Either way, he is underperforming and must go. They want their King Saul, their immediate, tangible results. They haven’t considered the flaws of created beings as rulers: they only want change, and someone who understands their plight.

But what if there was someone who understood the struggle in which all humans are forced to participate? What if this person were also deity? How much of a game-changer would that be?

This is the hope of Christ: he knows our plight, he knows our pain, he empathizes with the struggle and pain, and he advocates on our behalf. God wanted a direct connection to humanity, and humanity needed a way to God. This God that would otherwise not be relevant to our culture (unless you were Jewish), is now relevant to all and is working to bring about perfection and renewal in this world, for all.

I don’t understand everything. There is much room in my theology for mystery. I probably misrepresented some things already. There are logical paradoxes. But what I do know is that I have exhausted my mental resources trying to rely on my own capacity to know and understand. It is of utmost arrogance to claim God doesn’t exist because you don’t understand him. Of course we don’t! But for Christ, we wouldn’t even have any connection to him. Even with Christ, understanding comes slowly, because humans operate on a different level than Deus.

Imagine with me for one second that there is a Creator. The created could never outsmart or even fully understand the Creator, just as anything humans create cannot fully understand its creator (robot, computer, what-have-you). If there is a God, you should hope you don’t understand him: if you did understand him completely, he’d be human, at which point all hope would be lost. Humanity is engaged in a struggle, and the only hope is external. If my hope is in man alone, I have no hope.

None of this proves God’s existence. Don’t misunderstand: my point isn’t to defend or prove God’s existence. With words and logic alone, I cannot. My point — my hope — in writing this to be honest about the state of humanity, but also honest about the hope I have found in Christ. If you think my hope foolish, so be it. I do understand. The Bible itself calls the message of Christ foolish (until you have experienced it). I do hope and pray, though, that you will experience the hope and love and incredible peace that Christ brings. And I hope it changes you into a more hopeful, loving, peaceful person.

That is the hope of the world; not that man can change himself through internal willpower, but that an external force can draw the good deep from the well of your spirit, and fill you with things you lacked before.

That is why I am hopeful and optimistic for the future of humanity: when humans experience the indescribable peace and love of Christ, and connect their souls to God, they becomes a new creation. The old has passed away and the new takes its place. I pray and work for renewal in this earth, even while this earth seems to fall apart.

I’m sorry for preaching. I truly believe this and I truly have experienced this. I have no reason to lie to you and no reason to share this with you other than that I believe it.

Christ asked those who would later become his disciples, “follow me,”

That’s all. No contrived or forced prayer, no trembling or shaking necessary. Just follow him. Drop the selfish plans you had and pick up his: plans of love, peace, joy, and hope.

Thanks for reading,

Greg Tanis
918.430.9378
gtanis@oru.edu

Please sign my petition.

I am passionately Christian. If you’re as conservative and Christian and heterosexual as can be, please read this. And, if you’re as liberal and atheist and gay as can be, please read this. This is something everyone should know and something we really should all agree on.

There are these things called “gay camps.” It’s like “fat camps” for gay children, except they don’t work. And they lead to emotional and psychological trauma and in cases have led children to take their own lives.

No matter what you think about the issue of homosexuality, I think we can reasonably assume you don’t want gays dead (unless you’re Westboro) or emotionally traumatized. Christians, we mustn’t, in our vigor for righteousness, forsake the wellbeing of the individual. Reparative therapy (attempts to forcibly change another’s sexual orientation) has been widely condemned in the sociological/psychological community, and (more importantly, in my opinion) is inconsistent with the character of God and the message of Christ.

Most Christians think homosexuality is wrong because it is detrimental to the individual. I agree. However, I think any number of other sins, many of which I personally struggle with, are also detrimental to the individual. But, nobody wants to send me to any camps where they plug me up to electricity or pump me with drugs to change my behavior. Why should I do it to them? Aside from being ineffective, reparative therapy is undeniably unethical.

How did Jesus treat humanity, lost in sin? With love. And love is what prevailed. Even when you’re right, you have to be right in love (“speak the truth in love”). Christians, we should not be caught dead supporting anything that treats other individuals like second-class human being. We should stand up and advocate for those who are being oppressed, as Christ does for us.

There are people, I believe, who are naturally more inclined to be tempted by homosexuality. There are people that are born without a sexuality, I believe. We must accept that everyone is not like us. Paul never married. Jesus never married. Were they homosexual? No. Were they heterosexual? No.

Simply because someone is not heterosexual like you does not mean they need to be sent to a camp and physically and/or psychologically tortured. What if they’re neither? What if they’re just themselves? Can we accept that?

Whatever your views on homosexuality, we really should find common ground in this: forced reparative therapy does not work and does harm, not good. God, when helping us, does not work how we think he would. He does not begin where we think he would. Thusly, we must turn the individuals over to God and trust him to make them whole in his own way and in his own timing. How do we bring them to God and wholeness? Love. Forced reparative therapy is not love. If there is any love in it, it is strongly misguided. Let’s take a stand against it and show the gay community that we do in fact love them.

Below is a petition I hope you’ll consider signing to protect minors from zealous parents who would like to forcibly subject their children to reparative therapy.

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/formally-denounce-reparative-homosexual-therapy-and-force-medical-licensing-agencies-deem-it/Gwwcj8NV

Thank you for reading. Please pass this along.

-Gregory Tanis

THE LAW

Romans 10:4

‘Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.’

Maybe this is all very basic, but it’s exciting to me. To the best of my understanding, Romans 10 releases Christians to do exactly what they were doing before. Before the Law was replaced by Christ, those who followed God were obligated to do his will by following his express commands. After Christ became the fulfillment of the Law, everything changed. God created an atmosphere which, to this Arminian, appears to be centered around choice.

God’s will did not change. The only thing that changed was how we go about accomplishing it. Before Christ, it was very systematic. There were rules, given by rulers and prophets; and if you wanted to be close to God, you followed them. Post-resurrection Christians have a slightly different dynamic. For us, if we want to be close to God, we find out his desires (what he wants us to do and not to do- i.e. “rules” or “the Law”). He wants more of a back-and-forth, more intimacy involved. I believe this deepens the relationship; when we choose him and find out his will, it makes the Law our own.

For the politicians, I’ll put it this way: God wants a Libertarian system instead of a Fascist one. (This in no way makes God a Libertarian. This is simply to illustrate a point. Even though he might possibly be a Libertarian. Just kidding. But really.) God wants us all to choose him and find out on our own that we want to do what is right. He doesn’t want to have to force us. He wants us to carry our weight. He wants us connected to his Spirit.

For the artists, I’ll put it this way: God wants you to paint on a blank canvas, not a coloring book. God doesn’t want you to paint by numbers, die, and turn in your painting, saying, “Look, God, I did everything according to the book, just like you asked.” Surely, we should follow God’s Word, but I’m talking about the attitude here. God wants us to start with a blank canvas and yet be so connected to him that we paint exactly what he wants us to paint. He wants the relationship, the pursuit. He desires love, not simply sacrifice. This happens through his Holy Spirit.

The purpose of the Holy Spirit is to teach our spirits how to be like God’s. Notice that the Holy Spirit was given after Jesus resurrected and fulfilled the Law. This is because the Holy Spirit did not belong under the Old Covenant. Essentially, the Holy Spirit replaces the Law, yet is the Law exactly. It’s a bit of an abstract point that I’ve been trying to grasp for years. Let me now interject a disclaimer: I say what I say with the best heart; yet I may be wrong in areas. It’s a nuanced concept, I believe, and I’m sure I don’t understand it in its entirety.

For the parents, I’ll put it this way: the point of parenting is so that your children adopt your rules. Parenting is futile if it simply establishes rules that the child must follow, but never encourages them to adopt the rules as their own. I believe Christ fulfilling the Law was God’s way of pushing us out of the spiritual nest. He is saying, “Go. Figure me out.” He’s done revealing himself on a mass scale, through prophets, to whole nations. That is what the Holy Spirit is for, and he does it on an individual basis.

The Law can give us glimpses of God’s expectations and character, but it cannot reveal fully to the reader what God has for that specific person. In Romans 10:5-8, Paul explains how followers of God used to listen to the prophets to hear God’s Law, but now, ‘“The word is near you; it is in your mouth and heart.”’

The words God has to tell to his children are personalized. Reading the Law without the guidance of the Holy Spirit- even following the Law without truly desiring it- is simply painting by numbers. Simply being a member of a Fascist regime. Simply being a well-behaved child with a rebellious heart. God wants you to desire him, to learn from him, not simply to follow the Law. If the Law did not exist, those who truly know God would not be acting any differently. That is the Law fulfilled through Christ.

Justice vs. Judgement (connotatively)

God is Judge. The final, ultimate judge that administers justice. Why should this be a scary concept? Do we not want justice? Is that not what we desire? Surely, justice will be uncomfortable for some and in some areas, but we should eagerly long for judgement because judgement, from a merciful God, is justice.

We must not equate God as Judge to our American understanding of “justice.” We must not view God as a judge in our court systems, which can only universally apply the law, whether just or not. God is the arbitrator who can see all and know what the best outcome is. God uses justice to solve problems. Worldly judges can only make a person pay for their actions. Seek justice, not only judgement, for justice heals.

The War Prayer

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched fire-crackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies, a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country and invoked the God of Battles, beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpouring of fervid eloquence which moved every listener.

It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety’s sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came–next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the colunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams–visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender!

Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, falling, to die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation:

“God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest,

Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword.”

Then came the “long” prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was that an ever-merciful and begnignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them; shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory–

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing he ascended to the preacher’s side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words uttered in fervent appeal, “Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!”

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside–which the startled minister did–and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

“I come from the Throne–bearing a message from Almighty God.” The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. “He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import–that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of–except he pause and think. God’s servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two–one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this–keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! Lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor’s crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

“You have heard your servant’s prayer–the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it–that part which the pastor–and also in your hearts–fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You have heard those words ‘Grant us the victory, O Lord our God.’ That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory, you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory–must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

“O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle–be Thou near them! With them, in spirit, we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of the patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of their guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their offending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it–

“For our sakes who adore thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!

“We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him who is the Source of Love, and Who is the Ever-Faithful Refuge and Friends of all who are sore beset and seeking His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.”

(The old man paused). “Ye have prayed it; if you still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High awaits.”

* * * * *

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

–Mark Twain.

(Twain, after attempting to get his prose published, wrote to a friend, “I don’t think the prayer will be published in my time. None but the dead are permitted to tell the truth.” He was correct–the short story was published posthumously, only 5 months before WWI.)