The book of Habakkuk teaches us how to respond when we are surrounded by injustice and violence. He responds with a psalm–a song. This is why I chose Habakkuk to be the focus of a Selah Worship Arts service I led at my church in September. The songs, creative elements, and prayers used in the Selah service were all shaped by Habakkuk’s book. We practiced three movements of Habakkuk’s psalm as a church.
During this service I taught through the entire book in 15 minutes.¹ Obviously there is more to Habakkuk than can be covered in fifteen minutes. As such, I wanted to share one more thought that ended up being cut from the message. In addition to teaching us how to respond in worship when surrounded by injustice and violence, Habakkuk also teaches us how to embrace correction.
The book begins with Habakkuk crying out to God. He asks how long God will ignore the violence and injustice that surrounds him. It is not the violence and injustice of foreign nations that has him distressed. No, it is Habakkuk’s own nation. The people of Judah have perverted justice. They have turned away from God’s righteousness and towards violence. Habakkuk wants this corrected. He wants things to be made right. He wants God’s justice to fall. God says that he is raising up the Chaldeans (also known as the Babylonians) to come bring judgment upon Judah. At first this horrifies Habakkuk. The Babylonians were a wicked nation. Surely they were far worse than Judah. They did not even serve God. Rather, they served themselves, worshipping their own strength. God calls them impetuous. How could a holy, just God use a sinful nation to bring correction to Judah?
Does Habakkuk reject God’s plan for correction? Does he take back his cry for justice to come to Judah? Does he turn to self-righteousness, knowing that Judah is still holier than this wicked nation? No. Justice is needed. Correction is needed. So, near the end of his psalm of worship, Habakkuk resigns to the coming judgment:
I heard and my insides trembled
At the sound my lips quivered.
Decay entered into my bones
And underneath me, I trembled.
Yet I am at rest for the day of distress
For a people to come up to attack us.²
The Babylonians were more wicked than Judah and yet Habakkuk waits quietly for the coming day of distress when the Babylonians will invade Judah. He is at rest. Habakkuk knows that it is better to be corrected than to be self-righteous. So he awaits the coming judgment.
We do not like to receive correction. Especially from people who seem to have bigger issues than we do. It is easy to write off their feedback saying “How could they know what they are talking about? They are far worse than I am.”
We struggle independently with receiving feedback. Whether it is from a boss, a teacher, or a spouse, receiving feedback is difficult.³ But what about receiving feedback corporately? Habakkuk was not looking for individual feedback or correction. He was looking for justice to come for the nation. How does the church do when it comes to receiving correction?
During the weeks when the #MeToo movement was constantly trending on social media, another related hashtag started to trend. #ChurchToo documented stories of abuse and sexism that people had experienced inside the church. I hope that we can recognize the seriousness of these experiences. However, most of the conversations I heard at the time from church leaders were focussed on how the #MeToo movement would be exploited by people antagonistic to the church to bring down respected leaders. There was fear of what a false accusation would do to a Pastor in the ministry. I think this misses the point of the movement. Where were the conversations about addressing issues of sexism, equality, and abuse inside the church?
Over the last number of months, students across the globe have been leading a #ClimateStrike. They are demanding action be taken to care for the planet and stop polluting it. The Bible begins in a garden. God creates humans and gives them the task of tending the garden. How are Christians not the ones leading the #ClimateStrike fight? How can Christians even be opposed to fighting for better justice for God’s creation?
Receiving correction is difficult. Habakkuk even refers to it as a ‘day of distress.’ So how did he come to accept the coming correction from an evil, foreign nation? I believe it started with the recognition of how badly justice was needed. Habakkuk cried out against the violence and injustice in Judah. Perhaps, before we dismiss the social justice movements of a secularized society, we could take some more time in self-examination. Perhaps we will come to see areas within our institutions that are actually furthering violence and injustice. Perhaps this reflection will lead us once again to cry for God’s justice to come to us, to our nation, to our tribe–even if God decides to bring about correction using those who are not part of our nation or tribe. Who are not part of the church.