What does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? ―Micah
“Release,” a sculpture by Marco Cianfanelli in South Africa, was designed as an ode to South African President Nelson Mandela. The first time I saw this photo I was struck by how Mandela could only be seen by looking through him; and how that South Africa could be seen by looking at Mandela. “Release” was a brilliant work of art that opened my soul to several spiritual realities: the resurrected people, justice and Jesus. I thought of how our acts of justice are like steel beams jutting up from the landscape of history, and how they work together to sculpt a portrait of Christ. As the world gazes long into the humanitarian efforts that were begun by Christians like Habitat for Humanity, Doctors without Borders, Red Cross, and World Vision, you see not only the character of Christ, but also catch a glimpse in the distance of God’s coming Kingdom.
The instillation of justice throughout the book of Acts depicts this very reality; in Acts 2 when the church pulled their resources and acted justly on behalf of the needy, this led to a daily influx of people coming see Jesus as King. In Acts 6 this same resurrected band took on the monstrous task of feeding all the out-casted Hellenistic widows, subsequently many wealthy and elite priests embraced Jesus because they saw the coming Kingdom. In Acts 11 the believers in the racially tense city of Antioch paint a picture of Jesus through ethnic equality and “a great number turned to the Lord.” Justice through the hearts God’s people is an art form depicting Jesus. And the world catches glimpses of the coming reign of shalom by looking through the slates of grace and steel columns of justice.
It’s not necessarily any single act of justice but the collective works over the span of human history that constructs the features of Christ’s character and grace. This second photo drives home the point that no single beam, and no identical beam is used to construct the picture. “Release,” situated at the site of Mandela’s arrest in 1962 is made from 50 steel columns ranging in size from 21 to 31 feet high, the arrangement appears random from most angles but align to form Mandela’s face at one point. What a fitting metaphor for Christ, the Church, and her acts of justice. The twisted acts of kindness and the sturdy beams of justice sunken in the world at varying heights of achievement and widths of location and depths of history work in concert to continue the story of Jesus.