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Spiritual Life

Psalm 82: God will judge those who use power to oppress others

Union Presbyterian Church of Los Altos recently examined Psalm 82, a psalm of justice.

Justice seems to be very important to God; in fact, it is one of His most basic characteristics. His people cry out for it throughout the Old Testament, God wants it from His people and it is one of Christ’s goals – to proclaim justice to the nations.

When we are in a vulnerable place, we cry out for justice. But when we are powerful, we seem to want our rights more.

I have long thought that the way a society treats those who are vulnerable – the Bible mentions the poor, orphans, immigrants and widows – is really the measure of what sort of a society it is.

America was intended to be different, a place where these sorts of folks are welcomed. Think about the inscription on the Statue of Liberty – “Send us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” – because America set out to be unique, a city on a hill, a light to the world. America wanted to be what governments and people groups never were: just.

Psalm 82 is God being very clear that He wants justice, that the rights of the vulnerable are not to be taken away, that people in positions of power must answer for the injustice they see but do nothing about.

This has been a constant struggle for humans. In the Old Testament, there were judges who had the power of God, the power to decide between people, the power to determine the truth, the power to settle disputes. The problem was that it was humans, like you and me, who were given this power. And they abused it. They were susceptible to bribery and corruption. But God isn’t. It is God who will judge those who are unjust, those who use their power to oppress others.

The problem is that we are all powerful people. Everyone who reads this paper has lots of power – the power of financial resources, the power of education, the power of business acumen and the power of our voice, which is connected to more people than ever before in history. We are powerful people. That doesn’t mean that we have to right every wrong. That will happen someday, when Christ returns.

Even though we can’t do everything, we can do something. I believe that God puts on our hearts different situations, different people, who when we learn about what has happened, cry out, “That is so wrong!” This is God moving us toward justice, toward putting out faith into action.

We cannot help everyone, but we can help one person, or two. Or maybe a few more.

God calls us to justice, and shows us what justice is like. Jesus is God’s justice; He comes not to condemn but to save, not to punish but to forgive, not with a whip but with grace.

Christians are called to justice, and all of us will confront a situation where we can either walk away or pursue justice. I hope your response is to act justly and walk humbly with God.

The Rev. David Moore is pastor of Union Presbyterian Church of Los Altos, 858 University Ave. For more information, call 948-4361 or visit unionpc.org.

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