On this National Day of Prayer (1), we ask God for guidance,strength and wisdom for its leaders and their involvement in the general well-being of the world. In our country, most of the politico-social and religious leaders affirm some degree of allegiance to the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition; and as we pray for them, we might ask WHAT IS IT THAT THEY and OUR WORLD need most? Should we pray that they be:
Wise as a Joseph or Daniel,
Strong in battle as a David,
Determined and steadfast in principle as a Paul?
This question may be brought into better focus by a quotation from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. "The thrust of the Christian message is not for us to become like one of those biblical figures, but to be like Christ himself." (2)
If we, Christians, are supposed to live-out the lifestyle and values of Jesus, what were his practices and principles which might be of value to current national leaders? Jesus' LOVE was known for its humility, inclusive acceptance of everyone, compassion, care for the sick and hungry and a determination for the reconcilliation of people with each other and God.
The basis for Jesus' revelation of these particular aspects of divine love is the matter of JUSTICE. Usually the word "JUSTICE" is attached to a "retributive type" of justice. People say that when a leader stops a terrorist that "justice had been done" and that the "evil" person got their just reward or punishment. But I want to emphasize the fact that the love of Christ was generated by God's DISTRIBUTIVE JUSTICE. How is this type of justice different from the "just desserts" type of justice a convicted criminal might receive?
God wanted to ensure that EVERYONE is offered divine love and forgiveness ("grace") and that it be "distributed" EQUALLY. No one is left outside of this divine offer. That is the characteristic of Jesus' love, acceptance and compassion. So, if Bonhoeffer is correct and we (incuding our leaders) are "to be like Christ himself", our lifestyle should be one of DISTRIBUTIVE JUSTICE in which we care about the well-being of all humanity - both those near us and far away. It is this type of "just" love which will ensure the universal availability of the earth's bounty to all people. Our prayers for the nation and its leaders should ask that we all "live-into" that Christ lifestyle of God's distributive justice.
God spoke through the prophetic words of Amos saying, "let JUSTICE roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." (Amos 5:24 NRSV)
(1) Congresionally appointed day of special prayers for the well-being of our nation and its people.
(2) Ethik, ed Todt,Reil and Green, 1992, p141.