Kristos Haryav i merelots, Christ is Risen from the Dead!
“He who closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself cry out and not be heard.” (Prov. 21:13)
This past week, a single voice echoed in all of our hearts and minds. This past week, a single voice was demanded by all. A voice that all people, everywhere seek and yet, fail to recognize. My dear brothers and sisters, the voice of justice. Look at the events that took place this past week: The verdict of Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd; the outspoken comments of people for the death of Adam Toledo; the controversy of the killing of Ma’khia Bryant; the brutal slaughtering of Nabil Habashi, a Coptic Christian who was executed by ISIS in north Sinai this past week; the continued persecution of all Christian’s in Asia, Africa and the Middle East; and finally, for us Armenian’s the remembrance of the Armenian Genocide. All this and who knows how much more, in only 7 days – voices calling for justice. However, my dear brothers and sisters, what is justice? To right a wrong? To acknowledge a negative act or decision? To give restitution?
To many of us, justice is defined differently when we compare our opinions. Justice for some is eye for an eye yet, for other’s it is acknowledgement of wrong doing. For some justice is retribution and revenge; still for others, justice is the continued active work of preventing wrongful doing in the future. In Greek mythology, justice was personified as the goddess Themis, who was blindfolded and held a balance in one hand and a sword in the other. Justice legally is often defined as “The ideal of fairness, impartiality, etc., especially with regard to the punishment of wrongdoing.” Legally, justice, as a verb is defined as: “To show (a person, group) to have had a sufficient legal reason for an act that has been made the subject of a charge or accusation.”
In other words, justice is our idea that fairness or impartiality was practiced when a decision was made. However, my dears, we know too well that this definition is quite weak, because through this definition any action can be justified and acceptable. Legally, when the United States was first created, slavery was justifiable. Legally, in 1915 in the Ottoman Empire, it was justified for Armenian, Greek, and other Christian’s to be slaughtered where they stood. Legally, in 1945 Germany, Jews were sent into death camps, and it was justified. Legally, only a number of years ago beating your wife or children was merely seen as discipline. Yet, the horrors and the most heinous crimes that were, and continue to be, perpetrated towards one another, can often be traced back and said, justice was upheld. Now that the rules have changed, legally, slavery is outlawed, and Turkey and Germany are not acting Genocidal. Domestic abuse is condemned because justice has changed because we are learning, and we are growing. Though yes, that may be true – but I can’t help but wonder what will the next change be? How will justice be defined in the future.
My dear brothers and sisters, this is not true justice. Yes, we live in a society that is governed by a legal system, which we must learn to honor and respect. However, true justice for us as Christian’s, as children of God, comes not from arbitrary societal rules but from God alone. Today, the world has forgotten God and has chosen to be ruled by injustice. To seek personal agendas rather than each other; to serve our own desires rather than bring healing; to fill our stomachs rather than feed each other. We have closed our ears to the cries of the poor, the oppressed, the weak, the needy, the hungry, the estranged. We, as St. Paul teaches, do not acknowledge God and so our minds go to debased things. (Rom. 1:28) We justify what we want but when evil and wrong is done to us, we cry out for justice. Yet, as the Proverbs teach, “He who closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself cry out and not be heard.” (Prov. 21:13)
Justice happens by our own actions of mercy, forgiveness and love. Justice happens not through retribution but through strengthening each other and being strengthened in return. Justice happens not only through government or legal recognition on paper, but through action to rebuild. This week, the American people were divided over the verdict of Derek Chauvin – was it murder, was it manslaughter, was it racism, was it the negligence of the Police officer? Regardless, a life was lost. In the shootings of the other two examples, I gave earlier from this past week, lives were destroyed and broken. The Christian man, who was martyred for his faith, had a family and was is child of God. Yesterday, the President of the United States, used the word “genocide” to describe the Armenian Genocide – and all Armenian’s were grateful that our cries were heard. Yet, I must ask, in all these cases was there real justice? If justice is merely in the words said of acknowledgement, or a verdict being read, or social media posts, protests and riots demanding answer – then, has justice been served?
No, my dears, justice is served, justice is realized when we do better. When we show compassion, fortitude, unity, mercy, love in the face of injustice. When we build each other up, when we come to each other’s aid, when we hear each other’s cries and answer. Not for personal agendas or for personal ideas of right and wrong but because as children of God we know that God helps build us up, comes to our aid, hears our cries and answers. For this reason, St. Peter in his letter today teaches all of us, “Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5) When Christ Jesus is returns we will find true justice who will justify our righteous actions towards one another.
Martin Luther King said, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor political, nor popular; but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.” “Preserve mercy and justice, and ever draw near to God” (Hos. 12:6) Preserve mercy and justice by preserving each other in the same way Christ Jesus preserves us. Not merely in words or slogans shouted in the streets, but through real actions, where we put aside our disagreements, we put away our illusions of right and wrong and trusting God we work with each other. This does not mean do not call evil evil but it means do not repay evil with the same.
One day, a man kept praying to God to see what heaven and hell were like. In his dream, an angel came to him and said, I will show heaven and hell. Suddenly before the man were two great banquet tables full of food. On the one side, he saw well fed people, full of life. On the other side, he saw pain and misery for no one was eating. When he looked closely, he saw, that each person, on both sides, had a spoon that was almost half the size of their bodies. The ones who were well fed used their spoons to feed each other and so everyone was fed. The ones that looked starved, each tried to feed themselves and the food kept spilling. All you could hear was how those who were starving complain about how unfair it was.
My dears, let us feed one another, let us hear each other’s cries and be merciful and loving to all. Only that way will we find true justice, not only on paper but in reality. Only that way will justice not be a voice falling on deaf ears or a voice that remains in the streets as slogans but a resounding command and reality that is found everywhere. Justice is served when we learn to serve each other. Doing so we will bring true restitution, forgiveness, care, mercy, hope and love into this world. Through which we learn to glorify God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen!