"For me, this should be the basis of justice—Anti-Empire, Anti-power, Anti-greed, Anti-elitism"
The following was prepared by Ronald Fujiyoshi for the workshop "Justice: Living the Gospel of Love" at the 200th ‘Aha Pae‘āina on June 15, 2022.
What is the connection between faith and justice work?
The search for what is “the most meaningful way to live” is a life-long quest. I point to these teachings in the Bible to explain what justice work should be right now.
First, I lift up both John the Baptist and Jesus’ first announcement of their ministries in the words, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke highlight the first appearances of John the Baptist and Jesus. They all elaborate this theme, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” We know that the meaning of “repent” is to change one’s life completely.
The Korean theologian Ahn Byung Mu emphasized that Jesus began his ministry after John the Baptist was arrested and imprisoned by Herod. Ahn claims that Mark, being the first Gospel to be written, stated clearly, “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 'The time has come,' he said. 'The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.'"
Whether you use the words Kingdom of heaven, or Kindom of heaven, or the Realm of heaven, what John the Baptist and Jesus were referring to was Anti-Empire. Their kingdom was unlike what humans were striving to build on earth. The kingdom that John and Jesus were calling for was entirely different. They taught: share what you have with others, the last will be first, go out to the outcast, feed the poor. This fits in with the Anti-Empire teachings that God gave to Moses at Mount Sinai—the Ten Commandments and the Sabbath Laws. Let me lift up just one of the commandments—thou shalt not covet. What does it mean to covet? Coveting means wanting what does not belong to you. Like your neighbor’s wife. But also Land. Thou shalt not covet means that you do not make a profit from someone else knowing you have an advantage over that person.
For me, this should be the basis of justice—Anti-Empire, Anti-power, Anti-greed, Anti-elitism.
In the Hawaiian culture, in indigenous cultures, and even in the Bible, land is not a commodity but part of nature for which humans are stewards. The land belongs to God; humans are just stewards to care for it. Queen Lili‘uokalani, in her Hawai‘i's Story by Hawai‘i's Queen was referring to 1 Kings:21 in her appeal to Americans. She used the words, “Do not covet the little vineyard of Naboth’s so far from your shores, lest the punishment of Ahab fall upon you, if not on your day, in that of your children, for “be not deceived, God is not mocked.” Do you know why Naboth refused to exchange his land or sell it to King Ahab? Naboth’s answer to Ahab was “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.” Naboth was referring to God’s decree written in the Book of Leviticus 25:23, “The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my lands as foreigners and strangers.” The laws attributed to God at Mount Sinai, the Ten Commandments and the Sabbath laws were made so the people would never become servants of Empire ever again.
Humans’ pursuit of Empire is why both John the Baptist and Jesus’ first declarations were “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is near.” This, to me, is the Biblical basis for justice in the Bible and where I am at in my thinking, and hopefully, in my actions.
View a recording of "Justice: Living the Gospel of Love" here: