Bible Verse: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” (Matthew 23:23)

Scripture Reading: Matthew 23:1-39

I believe that Canada has arrived at a critical crossroads. That crossroads is nothing less than a fundamental crisis in values. And that crisis demands a serious response. How do we respond to the crisis of values that we experience all around us?

What can we as a Christian faith-community bring to the dialogue in response to the current crisis in values? Clearly, we need to bring our faith-perspective. And that faith-perspective is all-inclusive. It does not allow for an economics of exclusion or a politics of discrimination. Biblical faith requires us to stand for justice, not just us. Canada urgently needs the Christian community to help bring a united alternative built not on the sinking sands of a drifting individualism and shallow materialism, but on the sure rock, the life and ministry of Jesus, who gave his life for the healing and well-being of the whole world.

But to do so, we need constantly to examine together whether our faith is sufficiently active, dynamic and progressive (in the positive sense of that word). We need constantly to search for new ways of articulating, communicating and demonstrating the meaning of the Good News, so that it becomes evident that a generation is alive that truly wants to serve Jesus and therefore practice justice in economics and politics. It must be seen that we want to obey the Jesus who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). It must be clear that we want to follow the Jesus who engaged some Pharisees (known as “lovers of money” [Luke 16:14]), in such a way that he did not reject them but rather invited them to walk in the way of justice, mercy, faithfulness and love – the way of reconciliation, renewal, compassion and solidarity. To do that, we need to take seriously what Jesus said in his famous debate with some Pharisees, when he accused them of having forgotten the weightier matters of the law, namely justice, mercy, faithfulness and love (see Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42). These basic teachings, about which we should hear more prophetic, culturally relevant sermons and speeches, need to be highlighted and pursued in today’s society, where justice, mercy, faithfulness and love are considered irrelevant.

We also need to realize that whatever we do is a reflection or demonstration of what lives deep down in our hearts. Faith and life are indivisible. We live what we believe, and we believe what we live. Denominations may officially articulate all kinds of doctrinal statements, but unless good doctrines are transformed into good deeds, curious neighbours and observers have every right to ask: “What do you really mean by these religious and theological pronouncements? What is the ultimate hope that lives within you? How do you actually express it so that your faith makes a noticeable difference in everyday life?”

— Gerald Vandezande in Justice, Not Just Us
© Public Justice Resource Centre, 1999.

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