There is an inextricable link between the ideas of “worship” and “justice” in the Scriptures. Unlike modern church communities that are usually segmented into “worship ministries” and “outreach ministries,” it seems that God’s plan was that the two are one in the same. Two sides of the same coin. In the Old Testament and New, we see God suggesting that you can’t have worship without justice, and vice versa.

Most of the harshest words in Scripture were reserved for those who were pious and zealous about worshiping God, but negligent when it came to showing His justice and mercy to the world around them. Sometimes I wonder if we live in a similar culture, that has compartmentalized “worship” and “justice/mercy” to the point where (we think) we can have one without the other?

It’s a sobering and harrowing thought: we can’t claim to be “true worshipers” of God unless we are willing to be the carriers of His justice and compassion.

May our worship propel our heart for justice and our justice propel our worship of God.


Lord give us eyes that see like You see / Lord give us ears that hear like You hear / Lord give us minds that think like You think / Lord give us hearts that feel like You feel /

Let us be righteous, let us seek justice / Let us take care of the needs of the poor / Let us be peaceful, loving our neighbors / Let us be formed in Your image, Lord /

Lord let our worship, married with justice, be a pleasing sound to Your ears / Lord let Your Spirit reap of the harvest of seeds we’ve sewn through the years

How I wrote it.

Sometimes a set of rules or restrictions can help to channel creativity. For this song I had three main “rules”:

(1) The song had to be in 6/8 time signature;

(2) I wanted it to have as few of words as possible (total count ~ 60 words); and

(3) I wanted to somehow include pieces of my church’s mission statement.

“The mission of Common Ground is to call people of all ages to be formed into the image of Jesus so we can love our neighbors in Indianapolis and around the world.”

I admit it’s a cheesy idea. Writing a song from a mission statement like this has the danger of coming off as a jingle or a gimmicky sort of thing. But reinforcing common language can be a powerful thing. So rather than using the exact words, I hoped to capture the heart of the statement, something we could sing in responsive worship.

As I began to work with the theme, Isaiah 58 kept coming to mind. This Old Testament gem is a passage that’s become incredibly meaningful for me over the years. It was introduced to me by my buddy Brandon, a friend and mentor of mine who writes and preaches extensively about the interplay between justice and worship.

Isaiah 58:5-14:

“Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

“This is the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke. It’s sharing your food with the hungry and to providing the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood. Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

Musical influences.

Coldplay, U2, Pearl Jam, Damien Jurado, Iron & Wine, Sufjan Stevens, Nick Cave.

Further reading.

Isaiah 58, Romans 12:1, Romans 8:29, Mark 4, the book of James. 

The Hole in Our Gospel by Rich Sterns; Rich Christians in An Age of Hunger by Ron Sider; The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne.

Interesting fact.

The verses are a variation of an unfinished song that I wrote when I was eighteen, over ten years ago.

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