by Bruce Strom
I sometimes get asked, “What’s your life verse?” With so many passages on justice, I think people are surprised when I say I Thessalonians 5:16-18. But there are wonderful reasons for a justice and Jesus lover like me to cling to those verses. And I think they are perfect verses as we enter Thanksgiving.
Rejoice Always. (I Thes. 5:16). You know always is a lot. In a world full of injustice, don’t you get discouraged or angry? How can one honestly rejoice always? Here’s how I do it. Every morning the first words I say are “This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Ps. 118:24. Some days are hard. They are. But Jesus is bigger than any problem that I face. And I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want. I can do everything through him who give me strength. Phil. 4:12-13. That is good news to rejoice in. So rejoice always.
Pray Continually. (I Thes. 5:17). Continually or without ceasing is like all the time. How am I supposed to do anything if I’m praying all the time? I’m not – and that’s the point. If I do not have a continuous attitude of prayer, then I quickly do things in my own strength and in my own way. I quickly become right or righteous in my own eyes. There are a few of us righteous justice lovers running around. Praying puts us in a right position with our Creator. My heart needs to bend before him. Sometimes that means I will go into my war room and pray for extended periods of time. Sometimes that means I will walk outside and experience God in his majestic nature. But most of the time that means I am doing stuff, but I need to do it while continuously in communion with my Savior.
Give Thanks. (1 Thes. 5:18). Give thanks in ALL circumstances. Paul sure liked BIG statements. How do we give thanks in ALL circumstances? It’s not easy. Are the people of Paris supposed to give thanks for terrorist attacks? No. We give thanks in the God who sees us through evil. The one who allows us not to give in to fear or hate, but fills us with love and compassion. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Ps. 23:4-5. This is good news. I am so glad I don’t face this world alone. I am so glad I can share that hope with my neighbor as I love them in practical ways.
Since both the gospel and justice are about restoring what is broken and righting relationships with God and neighbor, I think these are great verses for a gospel justice lover. How can I share the joy of Christ, if I do not know that joy and experience it daily? How can I possibly wrestle with the principalities of darkness in this world unless I am praying continually? And I stay humble in the process by giving thanks for all God has done for me. I believe that is God’s desire for all people. I think that is why the verse concludes, “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thes. 5:18b
So my prayer for all justice lovers this Thanksgiving is that you experience 1 Thes. 5:16-18. Or as Paul put it to his friends in Phillipi, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:4-7.
Go and Do Likewise!