Bishop Joseph Johnson on Divine Justice

In the process of writing yesterday's reflection I wanted so bad to put this portion of Bishop Joseph Johnson's sermon, however I felt that the length and the way it would be used in the reflection would not do justice to its message so I decided to instead post it here instead.

Everybody was there: Native Americans who had been slaughtered, robbed of their land and confined to reservations, black Americans with the psychological scars of slavery and continued racism etched indelibly upon their minds, black Africans whose land had been raped and cultures devastated, the Chinese, the Vietnamese and other people of Southeast Asia and the Pacific who had been exploited by Western technology, the people of India and Pakistan who had been ruled by the refined British empire, the Hispanics who had often been played off against blacks in the fight over crumbs, the Jews who had been the victim of Hitler’s madness, the Lebanese who were victims of Zionism gone astray –all were there.

They said to God: “By what right do you pronounce judgement upon us? Being God you know nothing about hunger, poverty, discrimination and exploitation. Furthermore, you did not intervene to stop our oppression but stood idly by while others exploited us. Therefore you have no right, you are not qualified to pronounce judgement upon us.”

Hearing this protest of the disinherited, God asked them to present a list of requirements that divinity would need to posses in order to be qualified to judge the oppressed. A committee was formed with representatives from every group and after some time they assembled again with the multitude of the oppressed before God’s throne.

The committee began its report: “To the Triune God, to the cherubim and the seraphim who offer eternal praises, to the angels and archangels, to the four-and-twenty elders seated around the throne, to the saints gone before here assembled, we the committee on divine requirements for the judgement of human misery humbly submit the following report: If God is to exercise the right of judgement upon us, then let God become human, cloaked in the frailty of flesh and born of ordinary working people. Let God be born in one of the smaller countries of the world, ruled by the iron hand of some great foreign power. Let God experience persecution, poverty, prejudice, pain and suffering.

“Let God be possessed with a great idea about the kind of world in which humans ought to live and let God teach the idea to his own people. Let God be betrayed by those who profess to love God and forsaken by close companions when God is caught in the vice of Satan’s corruption, religious hypocrisy, and the jungle of laws of politics.

“Let God be condemned unjustly and sentenced to die. Let God be subjected to one of the most disgraceful and torturous deaths that the human spirit can devise. Let God be crucified. Let a cross placed on his back while being beaten up some forlorn hill and let God hang there between heaven and earth created by God’s own hands while the men and women created in God’s own image mock him. Let God die out on that lonely hill feeling deserted, forsaken and alone. Then God will be qualified to pronounce judgement upon us.”

When the committee finished its report a great hush fell over heaven. For it suddenly occurred to all of them, like a bolt of lightning out of the sky, that in the cross of Christ Jesus our Lord, God had already done this. The Soul of the Black Preacher (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 1971) p.106ff

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