Act Justly and Love Mercy

 

It’s been two months since I attended the 2012 Justice Conference, in Portland, Oregon. It felt like coming home. It changed my life in a big way and many small ways. What I see in the rearview mirror is familiar, comfortable. I’ve been on this road before, but now I understand why.

He has shown thee, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

My journey to do justice began before I was born. I can’t pinpoint the actual “when” – it started with my Pappous (Grandfather), a Greek-Italian man who displayed humility in many tangible ways. Based on his character, I would hazard a guess that someone in his life influenced him to do justice. The best way to learn justice is to see justice in action.

Our childhood, my siblings and I, was sprinkled with fascinating stories of my Mother’s life in Greece and England. Those stories were the foundation, the mirepoix, that flavored the recipe of our lives. Here’s a little snapshot:

In 1940, during WW2, the “Battle of Greece” began with the Italian occupation. By 1941, the Germans advanced on Greece. In 1943, in the midst of death, and grief, and sorrow, my Mom’s older siblings (Uncle Gaby and Aunt Charlotte) befriended a British soldier. They brought him home, introduced him to the rest of the Cutayar family, and there they harbored him, on and off, for a few weeks. He was safe with them. In their naivety, they began introducing him to friends. Amongst their friends were some Italian soldiers. The “British” soldier turned out to be a Greek freedom fighter with an exceptional command of the English language. The Italians, when they found out the Cutayars had harbored the enemy, were not so agreeable.

Italian soldiers invaded the family home and turned it upside-down in search of the “British” soldier. He was not found. My Pappous, Uncle, and Aunt were taken away. Eventually, they were released. Sometime later, the Italians left Greece and those Greeks who supported the King were rounded up by the Greek communist faction. My Mom and her family were taken to a concentration camp.

When my Mom entered the camp, she had long, silky black hair. She was, and still is, a natural beauty. Soon after they arrived, the lice did, too. My Pappous made the decision to shave my Mom’s head rather than let her suffer. He was grieved at having to shave her head and asked her to never cut her hair again. My Mom honored his request for more than 70 years. Food was scarce and, that which was available, was barely edible. They scraped the mold off food and the adults sacrificed their portion so that my Mom could eat.

It came time to be questioned and the family was brought before the soldiers in charge of the camp. A man stepped forward and spoke on their behalf, the same man they had harbored in their home. They were set free and walked for miles and miles to reach their home. But they still weren’t safe. They packed as much as they could and crossed over to the “free” area and, eventually, moved to England.

For as long as I can remember, my Mom’s been scraping mold off food and re-warming leftovers. She doesn’t waste food and hates it when I do. She remembers the mercy God extended to her and her family and takes every opportunity to feed everyone who walks in her door. We laughingly suggest it’s a “Greek” thing, but her determination to do justice extends far beyond food. There is no doubt she passed the desire to “do justice” on to her children.

Justice restores hope. When you see injustice, it either breaks your heart or makes you mad.

Jesus intentionally and publicly chose his natural companionship among those disinherited from the power structure. Justice requires casting our lot with them. – Walter Brueggemann

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