What is Justice?

Exploring The Question, "What Does The Bible Say About Justice?"

Dan Franklin
Sep 18, 2022    41m
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By exploring the question, what does the Bible say about justice, we can learn how to treat others in the way God has instructed us through His Word. We learn that justice is giving each person what they are owed, whether it be good or bad. Video recorded at Upland, California.

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Dan Franklin: [00:00:19] So several years ago we were, as a family, we were all at the dinner table. And my youngest son, David, asked a question, and the question he asked was, where is your soul? It felt like a big question. It was like, all right, let's figure out a way to take this on. And so I started responding and I said, well, David, the soul is not something you can see. You know, it's like we have physical parts of our bodies, there are things about us that you could see with your eyes, but there are also things about us that you can't see with your eyes. Like we've got personalities, and things we love, and things we feel, like emotions. And so as a person, we're a body and we're also a spirit, and sometimes the word soul is used to describe the whole person, body, and spirit, and that's what soul means. So the soul isn't a part of your body, it's not somewhere on your body, it's just the whole of what you are. And I'll be honest, I got to the end, and I was like, I think I nailed that. Like, I felt pretty good about that. And there was a little pause, and then David said, I heard that the sole is on the bottom of my foot. Yeah. I know this story sounds made up, but it is 100% true. And it was that great moment where you realized that communication only works if you're using the same word to mean the same thing. And in that moment, David and I were using the same sounding word to mean two very different things.

Dan Franklin: [00:01:58] Now, here's why I bring this up, there are certain words and there are certain conversations that I think we have in our day and age, where we're just talking past each other, and we have a hard time communicating with each other. And sadly enough, the word justice, I think has become one of those words that we talk about and we're not necessarily using the same word to mean the same thing, to the point that sometimes we can get very frustrated with discussions about justice. In fact, I'm not going to ask for a show of hands, but when we announced that for the fall series, for ten weeks, we're going to be going through a series called Justice and Mercy, I'm going to bet that there are some of you in this church that you got a little bit nervous. You're like, with justice, what are we going to be talking about? Because some of the discussions that we hear about justice, you might feel like I'm not sure I'm on board with that. I'm not sure that's real justice. I'm not sure about that that's what the Bible is talking about with justice. And I understand, if you had that sense, if you were like, oh, we're going to be talking about justice, what does this mean? If you had that caution, I don't blame you for it, but what I want to say is I don't think that the way we handle that confusion is by avoiding the topic of justice.

Dan Franklin: [00:03:09] We talked last week about how central justice and mercy are in the Bible, to the point that justice and mercy are really the central outward signs that we belong to Jesus, that we're devoted to the God who made us. So we're not going to get through this by avoiding the subject of justice, but we do need to make sure we're all talking about the same thing.

Dan Franklin: [00:03:34] So we're going to talk about this continually throughout the ten weeks, but last week I gave kind of a simple one-sentence definition of justice. In fact, I want to repeat it now because it's going to guide us through a lot of what we're going to talk about today. In the Bible, justice is giving each person what they are owed. Now, that could be something that's very welcome, that could be a reward or a payment that somebody is owed for something that they've done. And it could be something unwelcome, where sometimes justice is giving somebody some kind of punishment or consequence for something that they've done. But at its core, justice is giving to each person what they are owed, and to God, this is central to how we live with one another and how we reflect him to the world.

Dan Franklin: [00:04:28] But I think for most of us, even better than a one-sentence definition up on a screen, are examples of what justice looks like in real life. And you already heard Exodus chapter 23 verses 1 through 9 read, that's where we're going to be today. If you have a Bible and you haven't already got there, you can start to get there, to Exodus chapter 23. It's the second book of the Bible, it's really early. If you're using your phone for your Bible, you can go ahead and get there to Exodus chapter 23. We're going to go through verses 1 through 9, and what we're going to get to see is we're going to see four examples of justice in action. And one of the great things that we're going to see is with each example of justice in action, we're going to see something that we owe to each other if we're really going to live out justice.

Dan Franklin: [00:05:19] Just to prime us for this, here's one of the things that I'm expecting to have happen as we go through this passage. We're going to talk about four examples of how we live out justice, all four examples are going to be applicable to each one of us. But I'm going to guess that for each of us here, there might be one of the four that's really going to stand out to say, that that seems like that's God's word to me today. That seems like that's God getting my attention to focus in on how I better live out justice in that way. That's the first thing I'm expecting to happen today. And the second thing I'm expecting to happen today is that as we walk through this, we're going to experience more and more of just how full of justice and mercy God is when we look at how he's called us to live out justice and mercy to one another.

Dan Franklin: [00:06:08] And so we'll walk through these four examples, these four examples of justice and mercy. Example number one is going to be in verses 1 through 3 of Exodus 23, and here's what we're going to see in this part, we're going to see that we owe one another honest testimony. Now we'll start in verse 1, verse 1 says, “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness." Now, for starters, just as we get into this, you might notice, all right, Exodus, this is in the Old Testament, and when we read the Old Testament, it's legitimate to ask how much does this apply to us today as New Testament Christians? And as we look back to Exodus 23, we can see, well, this is part of the law that God was setting up for the Israelite people, so it's not binding in the same way, this isn't a national law that's set up for us today as believers in the United States of America. But what we're going to see throughout these nine verses, throughout these four examples, is that even though these were set up as the national law of Israel, the way that these flow, these are highly applicable to how we live out life in the way Jesus is calling us to live.

Dan Franklin: [00:07:24] And what we get right away, in the second half of this verse, we get sort of the keyword, we get the word, witness. Do not be a malicious witness, do not spread false reports. A witness is somebody who talks to other people about what they have seen. And initially, we get this message, do not be a malicious witness, and in verses 2 and 3, we probably get one of the examples that would be in mind of how you would be a malicious witness. It says, “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, 3and do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit." Now, a couple of things that are surprising about these verses, and hopefully, you kind of noticed them as they went through. We get in these verses a suggestion of what might motivate us to be a false witness. What might motivate us not to give honest testimony? He talks twice about siding with the crowd. We're going to be tempted to give dishonest testimony for a variety of reasons, but one of them is if we think it is going to gain the approval of other people, if it's going to result in us being included in some way or having people think more highly of us. I'll talk more about this later.

Dan Franklin: [00:08:56] Here's the second thing that I want you to notice, that's a little bit surprising, favoritism shows up in this passage. You see it right? Favoritism shows up. We talked last week, favoritism is the great enemy of justice, it's what usually gets in the way of us living out justice. But surprisingly, we're warned not to show favoritism to who? To a poor person. This is counterintuitive because if you read the Old Testament and the New Testament, the bulk of the commands about favoritism are meant to protect poor people. The major warning is don't show favoritism to the rich at the expense of the poor. But here in verse three, we have something surprising where we're told, don't show favoritism to a poor person where you might get the crowd on your side because you're just choosing the underdog and gaining a whole bunch of friends. Just as something we're going to look at when we get to the third example of how we live out justice, we're going to see this all come together, where both the poor and the rich are not meant to receive our favoritism. But it's striking that we get a warning against showing favoritism to the poor.

Dan Franklin: [00:10:07] So here's the big picture, if we're thinking as an early Israelite, we're thinking, all right, how are we receiving this? Primarily, we're thinking about this in terms of lawsuits. Some of you are in these situations, sometimes you're a witness in a lawsuit or an investigation or in, what are those things called, depositions. So you might have something like that, you're an official witness, and we don't want to just take this for granted. We don't want to just look at this and say, like, well, of course, we wouldn't lie in that situation. There are a lot of times when we seem to get into our heads that protecting our family, or protecting our friend, or protecting our company, or protecting our political party is a bigger priority than giving truthful testimony. And what God is saying to the people of Israel, and what I think we can take to heart is, no, it doesn't, you don't show favoritism, you tell the truth in these situations.

Dan Franklin: [00:11:03] But I also think what's being talked about here can go far beyond just the technical situation of when you're a witness there. And one of the commentaries that I read, is by a guy named Douglas Stewart, and here's what he says about these verses. He says, "The emphasis on these verses, rests on the need for absolute honesty in speaking about others. From what one reports about others, generally, the wording could even apply simply to gossip, to what one says in court when one is testifying as a witness in a criminal case." So here's what he's saying here, he's saying, yeah, there's the very technical application of this, that you are a witness in a trial or a witness in a deposition, and you need to tell the truth. But he says more broadly, here's what this passage is talking about, it's talking about any situation where you're talking to somebody, about somebody. And this could be very, very informal where you're just having a conversation with somebody about somebody else. And here's the idea, if you're having a conversation over here about this person and you're in a conflict with this person and you're representing how that conflict is going to this person, there's a big temptation to exaggerate, to withhold, or even to outright lie. And when we do that, why are we doing that? To make ourselves look better to this person, to gain the approval of the crowd. So it's worth us all just taking a minute and asking the question, when you're talking to other people about your parents, about your spouse, about your kids, about your coworkers, about your teacher, how are you representing them? How are you bearing witness to who they are and to what happened?

Dan Franklin: [00:13:03] I mean, when our sons were younger, I know that is going to be hard to believe, but they sometimes would fight with each other. And so sometimes we'd come into the room, and somebody would be mad at somebody else and we'd ask what was going on, and one of our sons would say, he hit me. And it would be like, all right, well, he shouldn't have hit you. And then we'd ask, why did he hit you? And the response was almost always, I have no idea. And the follow-up question that we learned to ask was, what happened immediately before he hit you? And we frequently would get a bigger idea of the context of what happened.

Dan Franklin: [00:13:41] We are frequently in situations where we are telling people about what's going on in our home, about what's going on in our marriages, about what's going on in our friend group, and we will be highly tempted, again, this is what kids do, this is what we do also, we may present just a smidge of the facts so that we end up looking good. And a good question to ask yourself is, if the person you were talking about was standing right next to you as you were giving this testimony, would they be nodding along, saying, yep, that's what happened? This is not just a matter of kindness, this is not just a matter of politeness, according to God, this is a matter of justice. Part of how we do justice in the world is when we're talking to one person about another person, we give honest testimony about what's going on.

Dan Franklin: [00:14:35] And by the way, if we're thinking about shining the light of Jesus to the world, if we're thinking about people seeing who Jesus is because we're living differently, and people from a very cutthroat world come and our in our midst and they start to notice, well, even the way that they talk about people they're in conflict with, it's charitable and it's honest, that will stand out as a witness. If we're looking to do justice, we, first of all, owe each other honest testimony.

Dan Franklin: [00:15:09] Now we'll talk about the second example, which shows up in verses 4 and 5. And what we see in verses 4 and 5 is that we not only owe each other honest testimony, but we owe each other reasonable assistance. Now, I chose these words very carefully, and you're going to see how that flows out as we look at verses 4 and 5. Here's what it says, it says, “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. 5If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it." Now, of all the verses in this passage that might feel like they don't quite belong, these are the verses that feel like they don't quite belong. It's like we're talking about bribing judges, and we're talking about malicious testimony in court. But then we have a couple of verses talking about, if your neighbor's wildlife gets out, you've got to do something about it. We could read this, and we could say, this doesn't seem like justice. This seems like this is just sort of politeness, maybe we talked about justice and mercy, they flow together, but they're different things. We can say, maybe this is more mercy because if my neighbor's donkey gets out of their yard, that's not my fault, I didn't let it out. So why is it my obligation to do anything about it? And yet we have this command that if your neighbor's donkey gets out, it's your job to go and get it for him. And if you're going by on the road and your neighbor has overloaded their donkey and the donkey is crushed under that weight, you're not supposed to go on, you're supposed to go and help them with it. And then here's the key to all of this, the key to all of this is that the imagined scenario is that the person that you're seeing with the problem is not just anybody, in verse 4 it's your enemy; in verse 5, it's someone who hates you. And so here's the implication, the implication is that this is just a normal thing you would do for someone else, if their animal gets out, you would go back and get it and bring it back. If you see them having a problem on the road, you would go over and help. It's just normal, reasonable assistance that anybody would give to a neighbor, and anybody would expect from a neighbor. What he's saying here specifically is you don't withhold that just because you have personal animosity toward someone else, you choose to do it anyway. It would be unjust to withhold simply because of a personal beef you have.

Dan Franklin: [00:17:46] And here's the deal, I don't know what all of you are thinking, but some of you might be reading this and you might be thinking, does this really need to be said? Yes, this needs to be said. Do you know why? We are incredibly petty. Here's a principle for life, I think this applies to every one of us, never underestimate just how petty you can be when you're in a conflict with someone else. We can have incredibly passive-aggressive, petty ways that we treat each other. It could be something as simple as you're setting the dinner table for your family, and you're just like, napkin for you, napkin for you, napkin for you, get your own, napkin for you, just moving on. It could be that you're a student and it could be the end of class, and one of your classmates who you don't get along with could be like, well, what was the assignment? What were we supposed to read this week? And you're just dead lining right on, ignoring them, pretending that they do not exist. We can be incredibly petty people, and for this way of living out justice, what's going to be helpful for us is to think of who is that person that you wouldn't want to help even if it would be easy to help.

Dan Franklin: [00:18:51] I'll give you a quick example. A couple of months ago, I was on the road, I was on Bay Side Road, I was coming home from the church campus, and I noticed there was a guy pulling an Airstream behind him, and I noticed that the back of the Airstream was open and it clearly was not supposed to be open, that nothing was flying out, but stuff could have been falling out from it. So I kept trying to catch up. You know, he was over in this lane, and I kept trying to catch up with him so I could flag him down and let him know. And it took a couple of lights, and I finally got even with him and sort of rolled down my window and waved, and he looked down and I just looked over and I said, hey, the back is open, you probably want to deal with that. And he said, oh gosh, thank you, and presumably he pulled off and he handled it. As I was studying for this, this week, here's the thought I was thinking about. I was thinking if that window went down, who would I need to see to decide I was not going to tell them about it? What kind of face would be in it? And I want you to think about that right now, to think about it might be a coworker, that if you saw that window go down, you'd be like not saying anything, it could be that it's somebody that you go to school with, it could be a neighbor, it could be the governor, it could be the president. I'm going to be honest with you, if that window rolled down and I saw a Giant's hat, I might be like have a nice day, everything's good. If I saw Don O'Connell, who knows what I would have done, I would have just, you know, kept going. Don, you're great, everything's fine. I really want you to think about this, though, to think we can be incredibly petty, and the important thing about this passage is that this is not heroic assistance that's being talked about. And what I do want us to think about is, that for us as believers, we are called to much more than reasonable assistance to one another, we are called to sacrificial giving. This is stuff we're going to talk about throughout the series, sacrificial giving, and really profound generosity towards each other, we're not even there yet. We're going to be talking about that, but we're not even there yet, we're starting at saying, are we simply giving reasonable assistance that others are owed from us? And that the reason we're withholding it is because we consider that person to be an enemy or because we believe that that person has animosity toward us. We start just with the reasonable assistance of saying, what do we owe one another that would just be reasonable for us to do with one another?

Dan Franklin: [00:21:16] Like I said, throughout this series, we're going to talk more about this idea, but I wanted to pause here and actually give you what I think is kind of a cool application of this idea, of giving reasonable assistance to one another. One of the things that we're going to be highlighting throughout this Justice and Mercy series is that we have a bunch of local outreach partners that help facilitate justice and mercy in our community. And one of the ways that we partner with these different groups, is by doing something once a month that's just our food drive. Some of you, if you're a longtime LBF Church member, you probably know about this, if you're newer to the church, you might not know that we do this. But once a month you'll see, if you look in the parking lot, on the first Sunday of every month and you walk behind cars, you'll see that some of the cars have a box or a bag behind them that they've brought in some food or some canned goods or some things like that to be taken to the Upland Community Resource Center to help those in our community. Again, with this, this isn't heroic giving, this is just sort of regular generosity that flows out of our hearts.

Dan Franklin: [00:22:21] And we wanted to highlight that, like, I said, we're going to be highlighting different ministries as we do this. I wanted to highlight this as an opportunity, some of you, you know about this and then October 2nd will come the next time we do it and you'll be like, shoot, I forgot about this. Some of you are like, this is the first time I've heard that we even do this, I'm glad that we do this. Here's what I want to do right now, and for some of you, you have full permission to use your phone right now. We've got the information right up here on this slide, we realize this is a way for us to live out justice and mercy in our community. And yet, at the same time, because we only do it once a month, it could be easy to forget. We've set up a system where if you want to get reminded each time we're coming up to our opportunity to give to the Upland Community Resource Center, and supply the needs of people in our community, all you need to do is text your UCRC to the number that you see up on the screen and you will get a reminder that will help you be part of this reasonable assistance.

Dan Franklin: [00:23:14] And here's how this ties in when we give to this, we don't start with the question, well, what did these people do to put themselves in a position where they need some help? We say this is the kind of assistance that any neighbor would want and even expect from any other neighbor who has more than they need. We're not going to do this, but if we did a body mass index of all of us in this room, I think we'd find out we're alright on food, we have some to spare to other people. And so this is an opportunity, not only for us to be generous, but for us to actually live out the kind of justice that we see talked about in this passage.

Dan Franklin: [00:23:56] So we see, all right, we owe each other honest testimony. We owe each other reasonable assistance. And the third that we're going to see is that we owe each other objective judgment, this is in verses 6 to 8, and we'll take it part by part. Verse 6, "Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits." So we're back to the lawsuit. Now remember back to verse 3, verse 3 gave us sort of the flip side of this, verse 3 told us, do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit, now we've got verse six that says, "Don't deny justice to poor people in lawsuits." We've got both sides of this, and here's part of the beauty of what I think is going on here, and this is one of the most significant things that I think we need to take from this discussion about justice. What we get when we look at this is one passage saying don't make the poor person automatically the one you side with, and then another passage saying, don't make the poor person the one that you automatically side against. It's almost as if he's saying the fact that they're poor should not come into the equation. And again, we could hear that and we could say, well of course that's true, of course, you're not supposed to consider something like that when you're trying to do justice, you just look at the facts of the case. And if the poor person is in the right, you side with them, and if the poor person is in the wrong you side against them, that's what you do.

Dan Franklin: [00:25:24] Well, what I want to pause and just say is that that is not something that's taken to be automatic in our culture right now. And there are certain movements in our culture that are under the banner of justice, that are called justice movements, that would say this actually is incorrect. And they say the reason that this is incorrect is because all of our relationships in society are made up of power dynamics and power struggles. And because of that, every relationship that exists in society is an oppressor-oppressed relationship, somebody has power and they're the oppressor, somebody doesn't have power and they're the oppressed, and we are meant to always side with the oppressed and look to liberate them from their oppressor. So they'd look at this situation, they'd say, if the rich person's the oppressor, the poor person is oppressed, you side with the poor person. If we're talking about race, we'd say that the white people are the oppressors, and non-white people are the oppressed, we side with the oppressed. Men are the oppressors; women are the oppressed. Straight people are the oppressors, gay people are the oppressed. It's this sort of goes across the board, it's called critical theory, and you probably heard it mostly talked about in Critical Race Theory, but it's an overall view of the world. And the reason I'm bringing it up is this, it is a threat to the idea that we do what's talked about here in terms of objective judgment, that we look at the situation. And I think it's powerful, you know that statue of Lady Justice holding the scales, do you remember? Yeah, somebody saying it, do you remember what's going on with Lady Justice and her ability to see? She's blindfolded and you can say, how can you do justice if you're blindfolded? Well, if you're blindfolded, you're not taking into account class, you're not taking into account race, you're not taking into account gender, and you're not taking into account how close that person is to you in relationship. And as believers in Jesus, we're meant to let those things go. We're meant to look at a situation and say, whether I identify with this person in some way, whether the person is a member of my own family, I give objective judgment to the situation instead of automatically siding with the person that I'm connected with. That's verse 6.

Dan Franklin: [00:27:38] I want you to see what goes on in verses 7 through 8 because it builds on this. Verse 7 is a sobering warning that says, "Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty." Again, this is God speaking, he says, you do justice, you don't skirt around justice for your own gain. If you do, God says, I'm going to take that personally and I'm going to make sure to punish you for it, the stakes are high.

Dan Franklin: [00:28:06] And then we get to verse 8, and verse 8 says, “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the innocent." And a bribe, of course, is usually some amount of money or some favor given to somebody in power so that they'll decide the case in the favor of the person who's bribing. And you might notice in verses 6, 7, and 8, unlike the rest of this passage, verses 6, 7, and 8 are really targeted to people in authority. It talks about don't deny justice to the poor person. Well, if you're in a position to deny justice to someone, you're probably in authority. And when you get to verse 8, when it says, do not accept a bribe, the person accepting the bribe is the person that has some status and authority. So this is especially targeted, while it's targeted to all of us, it's even more targeted to those who are in positions of authority.

Dan Franklin: [00:29:03] And wherever you are, wherever you live, you might not feel like you're a person in a deep position of authority. But most of us have some level of authority in our lives right now. And maybe if you're younger, and you're like, I don't really think I do, eventually, you will. It may be as simple as being a parent, that being a parent is a position of authority, and being in a position to do justice objectively. If you're a teacher, you have students that you're looking to do justice to. If you're a police officer, you have citizens and people you're interacting with that you want to do justice to. If you're a judge, obviously you have people under your authority. If you're an employer, you have employees under your authority. And so there's a special message here to say, do not deny justice to somebody just because you have something to gain by it. We all have to ask ourselves, am I the kind of person that I'm willing to do justice until the price tag is too high, or am I only willing to do justice if somebody wets my beak and makes it somehow worth my while? We do justice regardless of whether there is personal gain involved in the process for us.

Dan Franklin: [00:30:15] And I just want to say, if we really live this out, if we really live this one out, one of the things that you'll notice is people won't know quite what to do with you because you'll be hard to predict. One of the things that that's a mess, I don't think that I have to do a lot of convincing of this, that's a mess in our culture right now, is the way the different news outlets cover things politically. You do not get equal treatment for different people who do the same things from, really, any major cable news channel, you have incredibly slanted coverage in all of this. And so you can end up in this situation, for a lot of us, we just sort of choose a team, and sometimes it's not even a team that we're thrilled about. We're like, I think this is the less bad option that's out there. And, you know, I'm a Republican, or I'm a Democrat, or I'm an Independent because I feel like that's the less bad option that's out there. And then what happens is we get into situations where if it's somebody on our team, we will defend them no matter what. And if it's somebody on the other team, we will not compliment them no matter what they do. I mean, they could save children from a burning bus, and we'd be like, they probably set the fire. You know, we would just be so suspicious of this. Here's the deal, if you look to live this out, and by the way, before saying this, I'll say something else. If you're looking at this and you're saying, who should I even listen to, to try to figure out how to think about the things in the world? Here's just some advice that I'll give, if you are listening to people covering the news and they are unwilling to criticize one side of the aisle, and they are unwilling to compliment another side of the aisle, they are not worth listening to. If you find people who are willing to criticize both sides and are willing to compliment both sides, they might actually be useful to listen to. But back to this, let's say you've chosen your team and you're like, all right, this is kind of the side of the political aisle that I'm on, people you're around will expect you to always defend your side, and when you don't, they're going to be deeply confused. And this happens also in personal relationships, if you have a friend, and you're loyal to that friend and you're spending time with that friend and you don't always take their side in the arguments that they're telling you about, they're going to be deeply confused.

Dan Franklin: [00:32:36] I remember a conversation that I had, this was several years ago, with a guy who talked about a conflict that he was having with his wife. And he sort of explained the conflict in, I think, a way that was relatively honest but clearly was skewed to try to make himself look good. And he got to the end of it and he said, yeah, so my wife thought that this was a pretty big deal. And he was expecting me to say, what was she thinking? And I was like, are you kidding me, your wife is right, that was a really big deal, and that was a really awkward conversation to have right there. If you live this out, people will not know what to do with you. But if you live this out, this also will be the aroma of life where people are saying there's something bigger at stake for this person than just making themselves comfortable or making their side look good. We act with objective judgment because that's what we owe to one another.

Dan Franklin: [00:33:27] And finally, verse 9 gives us our fourth example, and the example that we get here is compassionate dignity. And I love verse 9, how it wraps things up. Verse 9 says, “Do not oppress a foreigner." So it's a simple command, and a foreigner would be sort of a non-Israelite. And sometimes, just as we talk about immigration, there were similar things in the ancient Near East where there would be sort of legal immigrants with Israel and there would be illegal immigrants. But broadly, what he's saying is, are somebody who's not one of you, somebody who's vulnerable because they're coming in from the outside, you don't oppress that foreigner.

Dan Franklin: [00:34:08] I mean, we could even end up in this situation now, either very specifically or broadly speaking, when you're in a situation and there's somebody from the outside coming in, they can be easily excluded, they could be easily made fun of, they could be easily marginalized. We're talking specifically about foreigners, but vulnerable people. You're going to see, throughout this series, that there are people that God keeps bringing up in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament, widows, orphans, and foreigners come up again and again. That God says, these people are vulnerable, you don't take advantage of that. So there's a message to all of us to say, alright, look out for the vulnerable.

Dan Franklin: [00:34:50] But look at why, he says, we don't oppress foreigners, he says, "You yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt." He draws them back to compassion in a very powerful way. He says you don't do it because it's wrong, and that's true, it is wrong, but he says you don't do it because you know how it feels. Israelites, God has given you the memory of what it was like when you were in Egypt, and you were oppressed, and you were enslaved, and you were ill-treated, and you remember what that feels like. So I want you to conjure that back up, I want you to remember what that feels like when you end up in a situation where you could be on the other end of it in disregarding someone else.

Dan Franklin: [00:35:35] In some ways, what he's going for here is something that's very similar to one of the most famous things that Jesus ever said in Matthew chapter 7, verse 12, when he said, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." This verse is usually called what? You know, the Golden Rule. People who have nothing to do with Jesus know this verse, and a lot of times speak well of this verse, this idea that we would look at other people. Which is exactly what we're being told to do in Exodus chapter 23, verse 9, if you see a foreigner, you think of what you would want in that situation because you have been in that situation. You have been on the outside before, you have been vulnerable before, you call that to mind. In a way, what he's saying is, we treat each other with compassionate dignity because we remember, and we remember that sometimes we're in that vulnerable position.

Dan Franklin: [00:36:32] You can go back through the things that we've talked about, and in some ways, this could be an umbrella for all of it. You can say, you know what, sometimes I'm going to be the person whose outcome is dependent on the honest testimony of someone else, and man in that situation, I sure hope that they tell the truth. And we're reminded of that, and we say remember that, and give honest testimony. We can think back to times where we needed that reasonable assistance, where we look back and we say, yeah, I had lost my job, or things were really tight, and some other people helped out. And by the way, even if you're like, I never was the beneficiary of anything like that. Probably there was some point in your life when, if not for the benevolent help of family or friends, you would have been homeless. It's true of us. It's true of many people. If not for just the reasonable help of neighbors, we would have been on the outside. And we say, gosh, I remember when people helped me, I remember that assistance, I want to give that assistance to other people. That we remember that sometimes were in a situation where we need somebody to give an objective judgment on the situation, instead of just fighting against us for a reason of personal bias. And we're thankful when they did it, and we look to practice that also. And then we remember, like in verse nine, that sometimes we're the vulnerable person. We're the person with no power or the person with no recourse, and so when we are in a position where we have some authority or some power, we use it to benefit others, instead of putting them in a difficult situation. We remember.

Dan Franklin: [00:38:10] And frankly, a lot of how we live out justice might come back to simply that we look to remember. And here's the even bigger picture in all of this, we give justice and mercy to one another because we remember that while we were still sinners, according to Romans chapter 5 verses 6 to 8, while we were godless, helpless sinners, Christ died for us. We remember the justice of God in sending his Son to cover our sins, and we remember the mercy of God in sending his Son to cover our sins. We remember that God is full of justice and mercy, and so we look to reflect that in the justice and mercy that we live out towards one another. We remember.

Dan Franklin: [00:39:01] Remembering is a good word, in fact, remembering has a lot to do with what we get to do next. Because in the next part of our service, we get to take communion together. And here's the deal, if you're going to be helping out with communion, you can head to the back and Tom is going to get you set up as we prepare for these elements. Communion has a lot of implications; it has a lot of powerful symbolism that can remind us of who Jesus is. And part of that symbolism is that Jesus said, do this in remembrance of me. When we take communion, it's an opportunity to remember that Jesus' body was broken, just like that bread, and that his blood was shed, just like that juice. We remember the sacrifice that brought us into the family, and then we think about the fact that God has called us to live out justice and mercy toward one another. And when we think about that, we remember that we are taken care of by the God of the universe, and so we are liberated to live out justice and mercy and generosity, to live out compassion and remembrance, to the people around us. So I invite you as we get ready to take communion, which it's going to be passed out during this next song, and you'll hold on to it and we'll take it together afterward. As we get ready to take communion, we get to, first of all, remember the sacrifice that brought us into the family. And then secondly, we get to prayerfully consider how God is calling us to live out justice in light of that remembrance.

Dan Franklin: [00:40:40] Let's pray together as we prepare to take the elements. Father, thank you for the great grace that you've poured out in Jesus. Thank you for your profound love. Thank you that you are a God who's full of justice and mercy and compassion. Thank you that you've seen us as human beings created in your image, and not simply as the rebels that we were. Father, we pray that justice and mercy will emanate from us as a church family in a way that will make people love you all the more. And we pray that right now, as we get ready to take communion, that you receive the glory and honor of us remembering you, and that we receive the help that we desperately need from you to live out justice and mercy towards those around us. We pray this in the name of our Savior, Jesus. Amen.



Recorded in Upland, California.
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Life Bible Fellowship Church
2426 N Euclid Ave
Upland, California 91786
(909) 981-4848