I live in an old house.
It was built sometime in the early 1900’s. It’s drafty and creaky and the pipes make funny noises, but it’s home. The other day I was sitting in my living room, and I noticed how crooked the wall was. Not just a little crooked. Whoever built that wall was either blindfolded or drunk…or both.
There’s a famous scripture in Isaiah 28:16,
“ Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation,
A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation;
Whoever believes will not act hastily.”
I may be oversimplifying this due to my total lack of any engineering or architectural training, but the key to getting a straight wall is to pick a point, run a line from that point (called a plumb line) and follow that line. The key to building a structure that is square is to start with a perfectly straight cornerstone, run your plumb line from it, and follow the line.
We know the cornerstone to which Isaiah referred is Jesus. He is the perfectly straight foundation upon which the rest of the building must be based. Following a line based upon Him is the only way to ensure we are headed in the right direction. And how do we know if we are in line with the cornerstone? Look at verse 17,
“Also I will make justice the measuring line,
And righteousness the plummet”
Justice is the measuring line and righteousness is the plumb line.
We start with Jesus and follow out from there in justice and righteousness. That’s what James was talking about when he told us pure and undefiled religion means to care for the widows and orphans, and to keep ourselves unspotted by the world. Justice and righteousness. It’s what Amos meant when he said “hate evil, do good; establish justice at the gate.” Righteousness and justice.
Maybe that’s why today’s church has meandered off the path. Maybe that’s why our walls and corners are crooked and the structure is unstable. Maybe that’s why we are powerless to stop the onslaught of the world on our generation.
If you are not committed to justice, you are not following Jesus. If you are not committed to seeing the weak strengthened, the vulnerable protected, and the poor defended, then you are not in line with Jesus. This one litmus test provides the clearest and most accurate picture of where our hearts reside. It is not whether we have a perfect Sunday School attendance record or whether we don’t watch R rated movies. It is how we view and treat the poor, the weak, and the marginalized. That’s where they found Jesus, and that’s where they must find us.
If righteousness is not your plumb line, then you are not following the line laid out by Jesus. But that righteousness must be based, not on our works, but on His grace. We are not righteous because we do good works. We do good works because we are righteous. We have veered from the plumb line of His grace. We have constructed a modern version of Christianity that is largely focused on the works that men do. We blame disasters, like the Haiti earthquake, on the sinfulness of those who suffer. We force Christians to walk around with a load of guilt and shame over their inability to be “good enough.” We have caused sinners to turn from seeking Christ because they feel they will never measure up.
We have used many measuring devices.
We have judged ourselves by many standards. We have judged ourselves based on others. We have measured ourselves against the world. What we have not done nearly enough is to bring ourselves in line with the only straight and true reference point: Jesus. And he made it clear, the measuring lines of justice and righteousness can be summed up in one word: Love. Without love for others there is no justice. Without love for God there is no righteousness. Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Loving our neighbor as ourselves.