“…With liberty and justice for all.” The scraping of chairs and jostling of papers sounds through the classroom as the children take their seat. They open up their Social Studies books and read about slavery, the trail of tears, segregation, and the suffragettes. At lunchtime, one boy sits at the table with teammates from his travel team as he enjoys fresh fruit, a sports drink, and a neatly packed lunch while the girl in dirty clothes and unkempt hair a table over sits alone eating a free lunch from the school cafeteria.
As the children leave school, some are picked up in SUVs while others walk, hop on the bus, or ride their bikes. As they travel home, they pass through communities that have varying levels of economic status, and, depending on their town, may be loosely segregated.
In the evening, some children sit down with their older siblings or a parent to work on homework. They enjoy a large dinner with visiting family, and, as the grownups have a glass of wine, the children play in the fenced in backyard equipped with a swing set, swimming pool, and maybe a trampoline. At another house in another part of town, other children use their spare key to enter an empty house and check to see if there is anything they can fix for dinner. Upon finding nothing of substance, they eat what scraps they can find and go to bed hungry and alone. Later that night, they feel a kiss on their forehead as their single mom comes home from her second job.
During the night, some of those kids sleep peacefully while others are woken up again and again by gunfire, a loud party, or their parents shouts coming through the paper-thin walls of their government housing.
In the morning, one family sits around a table for a healthy breakfast. Across town, a child wakes up to an empty house, grabs what they can find, and hurries off to school in tattered shoes.
The bell rings, the teacher enters the room, and they stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance again… “with liberty and justice for all.”
Two of those words in the pledge stand out above the others. They’re the words “under God.”
These words are interesting because one would think that liberty and justice would look quite different if the nation the children pledge their allegiance to really was “under God.”
Have some of those families built nice houses by imposing heavy rent on the poor? (Amos 5:11)
Perhaps others enjoy a surplus because they have neglected the cries of the orphan and the widow? (Isaiah 1:23)
It could be that some families have a stroke of luck, so they tear down their barns to build bigger barns, join house to house, and join land to land so that they can live all alone live in the land of liberty, justice, and freedom. (Isaiah 5:8; Luke 12:13-21)
Instead of leaving behind the corners of their field along with what they dropped during the harvest for the poor and the foreigner to glean, it could be that they blame the poor for their condition and look down on foreigners within their land as they add to their unbelievable wealth. (Leviticus 19:9-10)
So you can imagine how confusing it must be for these families when they go to church on Sunday, if they do, to hear these passages read, if they do, and wonder why the ones sitting around them seem do not hear these verses from the book they claim to follow because is from God, the same God the nation they live in is apparently “under”.
But if we really believe that God is a God of justice, if we really believe that Jesus gives us liberty, then we should boldly embrace the “weightier matters” of justice, mercy, and faith (Matthew 23:23).
Instead of being complicit to the ongoing injustices in the world (injustices by God’s standards, not ours), then Christians could major in justice. We could be experts in mercy. And we could lead the way in practicing our faith. Yes, sacrifices may have to be made, but if we trust the words of Jesus, then God provides for those who “seek first the kingdom and the justice of God” (Matthew 6:33).
While nations of this earth are incapable of bringing about this vision (a nation’s success is often reliant on other nations not having success, which isn’t liberty and justice “for all”), the kingdom of God is able to realize this vision because the kingdom of God has no borders, lays its own life down before taking someone else’s, and really is “for all” inclusive of our enemies.
Any peace, any justice, any freedom that is eternal and “for all” only comes from the love of God and the God of love. So above all else, let’s pledge allegiance to the one who laid down his life for all of us that we might live: the lamb of God.