I grew up in a conservative evangelical church in the holiness tradition, and I have a deep appreciation for this tradition’s emphasis on personal holiness and evangelism. The key questions were the following: Where are the impurities in my life? What are the idols I pursue more than I pursue God? How can my life be a witness to the love of Jesus for everyone?
I became more familiar with justice traditions in college and found myself thinking about how systems and structures in our society privilege certain groups, either intentionally or unintentionally. And I started to consider how my individual choices were playing into these systems and structures. This is sometimes called the social gospel or social holiness.
For some reason these two emphases are often set against each other. One side of the Christian tradition looks with skepticism at the other. But I’ve never liked that split. I don’t want Jesus without justice. I don’t want justice without Jesus. I want Jesus and justice!
When I read John Wesley’s forty-four standard sermons in seminary, I found a spiritual home in Methodism. Wesley emphasized both personal holiness and social holiness. Jesus and justice! He took sin seriously and understood that it comes in two forms: personal sin and corporate sin. We need the personal gospel to root out personal sin and the social gospel to root out corporate sin.
We see this same pairing together in today’s psalm. Verse two says that righteousness (personal holiness) and justice (corporate holiness) are the foundation of God’s throne. The foundation! You can’t build anything in the kingdom of God without taking into account both righteousness and justice. They are foundational. If we are missing either one, we’ve got a lopsided spirituality. We need both to have perfect Christian love.
Do you tend to focus on personal holiness or social holiness, Jesus or justice? How can you seek both this week?
How did you first hear about the gospel? Was it from your family or a friend? Or was it from a completely unexpected source? This week’s readings remind us that God uses many different techniques of revelation. Paul and Silas are in prison in Philippi, and the guard of the prison has no idea that he is about to encounter the power of God and come to faith. The psalmist says that creation itself reveals God’s glory and power. In Revelation, Jesus speaks directly about his future return and reign, as attested by his messenger and by the Spirit. Jesus prays in John for his followers, because through their unity the gospel will be proclaimed to others. Although Jesus ascends to heaven, the revelation of his plan and purpose does not end.
Read Acts 16:16-34. Recall a difficult time in your life. Were you able to continue to praise God through this time?
Read Psalm 97. Write your own word picture of what it means to be a child of God, who is in control.
Read Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21. How has Jesus’ invitation to partake of the water of life changed you?
Read John 17:20-26. What signs of division do you see in your community? How can you work toward the oneness to which God calls us?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.