I had the privilege of attending the Justice Conference in LA this weekend. To quote from the booklet we all received, the Justice Conference began just 4 years ago and has become one of the largest international conferences of its kind. It is a networking conference that educates, inspires, and connects a generation of men and women around a shared concern for the vulnerable and oppressed in our world.
Justice has become a buzz word in our society today. It took off very fast and expanded very quickly and with fast moving movements and ministries, it’s easy to lose sight of why we do what we do. This years conference had a different, refreshing feel to it. It was less about what we are doing about injustice, but how and why are we doing it. It felt like a honest reflection on the initial zeal of the first efforts of the current justice movement, and a call to slightly readjust and ground ourselves once again in the love of God to be more sustainable. I am reminded that God didn’t design me to complete tasks for him, but rather to experience his love and out of that my purpose will rightly flow. Thank you to all those who spoke, performed, and organized this amazing conference. Here are some summaries of the incredible wealth of information that was shared.
Justice is a very fast moving conversation and the moral vocabulary in the Church has shifted especially in the last 5-10 years. Is justice merely a fad?
If it is indeed a fad, there are probably worse things for people to bandwagon than the justice movement. Even if most of the hype blows over, there will still be a generation marked by the heart of this movement.
The Justice Conference seeks to spark conversation about Justice issues and to challenge people to weave their voice and tune their ears into the conversation. We are facing the challenge of a culture that does not value education anymore. This stems from the fact that we are an extremely educated culture and we are constantly bombarded by information. We have become lazy and don’t want to engage in deep conversations. We hold conclusions to which we don’t really know how we got to and stand like prophets inserting these definitive statements into our society. We have become a society of faux prophets, saying “we should do this, they should do that” but we don’t really organize ourselves to do anything. When everyone speaks in a prophetic tone, it becomes hard to hear the true prophetic voice.
Matthew 25 : When I was hungry you gave me something to eat.
Our ethical impulse says we better help the poor because it might be Jesus. This boils the justice movement down to benevolent impulse and crossing the good deed box for the day.
But if it was really Jesus, would we just give him food or would we ask him why he didn’t have food. If Jesus was really in prison, would we just visit him or would we go find a lawyer to get him out? It’s a big deal because it is Jesus. And if we were helping Jesus, we would not feel in the least like we were “giving down”. We would be honored to be in the presence of God to do him the smallest of favors. We would not be telling Jesus what he needs, we would be intently listening to him.
We cannot project our voice into the needs of others. We need to learn how to listen and see ourselves on a level playing field. We need to make louder the voices on the periphery of our society and in the center of injustice.
A body fully connected is a body fully alive, it’s not just about feeling the pain in the extremities, but see the value in the extremities.
Alexia Salvatierra took over for Ken at this point and told a story about a woman named Rosa in her church. Rosa worked on her family farm in Mexico. Subsidies by the government given to a competing farm in the US put Rosas farm out of business. She then went to work for an American company near the border until that company outsourced their work to Indonesia. At this point Rosas husband died and she had to provide for her kids. She ended up getting a job in central California with the very same agricultural company that put her family farm out of business. She lives away from her family and sends as much money as she can back to her kids in Mexico.
This story is not meant to be political. We simply want to ask the question, is her pain our pain? We are the body of Christ, so if the foot hurts, the whole body hurts. When thinking about injustice, we need to remember we are part of the body of Christ. A body fully connected is a body fully alive. It’s not just about feeling the pain, but seeing the value in all the parts.
How are we using our gifts to address systematic issues? Are we asking the right questions? Are we using our gift of democracy? Our we using our influence for those who lack it?
We cannot project our voice into the needs of others. We need to learn how to listen and see ourselves on a level playing field. We need to make louder the voices on the periphery of our society and in the center of injustice. – Ken Wytsma
Don talked about his struggle with the idea that “I am only lovable if I am succeeding”. At 17 in youth group he wrote a letter to his future self about his goals by the time he was 35. His list:
– Live in Oregon
– New York Times Best Selling Author
– Not married
– Certain amount of money in the bank
At 35, Don had really had done exactly those things. When he realized he met all these goals but did not feel fulfilled he stumbled upon the works of Victor Frankl. At the time of Frankl’s writing, the primarily philosophy was Freud saying human purpose and fulfillment comes out of his pursuit of pleasure. In his experience in the concentration camps, Victor Frankl came up with some different ideas on how to achieve human meaning.
Frankl’s Prescription for meaning:
1. Project: Have a project that is really important for other people. What is my responsibility in life today?
2. Redemptive perspective: We must have a redemptive perspective on our suffering. Pain is a part of life. Don’t make a list of whats going on, make a list of the positive things. There is always some blessing in struggle.
3. Community: Experience rich deep safe relationships
Frankl practiced this theory on 30,000 suicidal patients and under his watch not one took their life. Frankl was not a Christian, but don’t the three steps sound like discipleship?
As we seek meaning in our lives through the three steps, we naturally begin to change the world.
We change the world not to succeed but to try to experience meaning. – Donald Miller
Nicole spoke on Educational Equity in the United States. She grew up in Detroit and went to one of the 2 public high schools in the area that actually prepare kids for college. She went to Michigan State and became successful. But her childhood friend went to one of the 25-30 high schools that do not adequately prepare kids for college. Her friend was valedictorian at her high school and got into Michigan State, however she quickly flunked out. She thought she had a high school diploma but she barely had more than an 8th grade level education. How can we have such different experiences in public schools just a zip code away?
Why does education matter?
– Pathway out of poverty: they need to be equipped to take jobs so they don’t have to face the same challenges as their parents.
– Engaged citizens: We need to make sure we have leaders in our cities and churches.
– Purpose: Anthony being a great debater in 5th grade, but a 1st grade reading and writing level. He wanted to be a lawyer but his basic education left him behind and he couldn’t pursue that purpose.
All the statistics show that a majority of non-christians think that christians should be more involved in the public school system. Churches were polled and also think they should be more involved in the problems of public education. We are all in agreement, but this does not mean we are acting on it. We need to start raising our awareness on the scope of the issue, and become advocates in our churches for education in our country. We need to move forward in our communities with humility, civility, and compassion. Not only if we engage, but how we engage matters.
Check out the expectations project.com
Rick pastors Imago Dei church in Portland. His goal is that the church would be so involved in the community that if they closed their doors, the city would protest.
Imago Dei started with a group of 15-19 year olds wanting to do ministry in their city. As the church gained attention, the thought “We are like the Green Barrets and all other churches are like the army reserves!” In their passion for justice they began to be arrogant. Their work with street kids resulted in divisiveness and disunity. It came to a point where their ministry got disbanded. What has happened is that our justice work is being done unjustly. What is at the core to make sure it’s done in the way God intended it?
Rick stressed the key ingredient so that justice work has sustainability and integrity over the years. The Love of God.
The love of God has to be the center of what we do. When we say God is love we say that God is a communion of relationship that has been that way for all of eternity. If we would sit at the table of the trinity we would experience true peace. God imparts that love and communication to us. In our works of justice, we must remain in his love. We like serving God, fixing things for God. But being JUST loved by God often makes us feel uncomfortable. Shouldn’t we be doing more?
Rick has a daughter named Kaley who is high functioning autistic who has greatly helped him understand what it means to rest in the love of God. We come to life with questions like what school will I go to? Who will I marry? What job will I take? Will I be successful? Kaley’s questions sound like this: who is going to love me? who will see me? Her mental state allows her to be free of the “somethings” we feel we have to become. She can’t think of her career. She can’t think about “what’s next”. She lives her life as the beloved of God and she knows that.
The most important question God wants us to answer: Do you believe that I love you?
The answer to this question is where our thoughts about justice should come from. Not our passion for the things of God. When we believe that we are truly loved by God, we can move out in authentic love towards others. It’s a love that moves us to love the victim and the oppressors.
How will we sustain our passion for people? How will we be in ministry in 20 years with a soft heart? Continual revelation that we are the beloved of God.
The most important question God wants us to answer: Do you believe that I love you? The answer to this question is where our thoughts about justice should come from. Not our passion for the things of God. When we believe that we are truly loved by God, we can move out in authentic love towards others. It’s a love that moves us to love the victim and the oppressors. – Rick McKinley
Bryan is a professor at Harvard Law and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative that represents people in prison. He discussed the dynamics of advancing justice.
1972 there were 300,000 people in prison
Today there are 2.3 million people incarcerated in our prisons
1 in 3 black male babies born after 2001 will be in jail once in their lifetime.
Dynamics of advancing Justice:
Proximity: To confront injustice and advance justice we have to commit ourselves to proximity. We can’t be agents of change if we are far away. It is getting close to the condemned and hearing something you didn’t expect to hear. Proximity will open our eyes.
Change the narrative: We have to learn to change the narrative. There is a story behind this that tries to convince us that this is the way it has to be. He told a story about a boy on death row because he was tried as an adult. Instead of going along with the current narrative of unjust laws, we must seek to change the story all together so this boy would not be in an adult prison.
Hope: Being fearful is often easier than being hopeful. We need to orientate ourselves in places of hopelessness and being a witness to hope. In our justice system its better if you are rich and guilty than if you are poor and innocent.
Choosing uncomfortable things: We need to choose to do uncomfortable things. Maybe not all the time, but sometimes. Great movements around the world were moved by people who chose to do what wasn’t normal/comfortable. Stevenson while on the phone with a mentally disabled man that was about to die on death row and he couldn’t get his words out. Bryan thought, “this is so hard, I don’t want to keep seeing broken people have to die”. But he still persists. Why?
Bryan realizes in that moment that he doesn’t do what he does because he has the skills, or that he thinks there is urgency, or even that he thinks it is an important thing. He does what he does, because he realizes he is broken too. And in his incredible weakness he finds God’s incredible strength. In the darkest places, God’s light shines the brightest. We fight injustice not because we are righteous but because we are broken. When we are content with discomfort, we can truly claim the biblical truth: we are weak and he is strong. Everybody is more than the worse thing they have done. The church needs to be the ones who stand when others are sitting, not because we are righteous but because God’s grace is sufficient.
Bryan got invited to have tea with Rosa Parks and her friends. They don’t talk about what they have done, they speak about what they are going to do. She turned to Bryan and asked him what he is doing in the justice system. He told her all about his work and she responded, “Boy, that is going to make you tired, tired, tired. But that’s why you have to be brave, brave, brave.”
We stand with the condemned. We will not achieve justice with just the ideas in our mind. The ideas in your mind are nurtured by what is in your heart and the cultivation of brokenness and bravery in Christ.
The church needs to be the ones who stand when others are sitting, not because we are righteous but because God’s grace is sufficient for us to stand for his kingdom on earth. – Bryan Stevenson
6. Panel Discussion:
Lynne Hybels – “Author of Nice Girls Don’t Change the World
Sami Awad – Executive Director, Holy Land Trust
Marcel Serubungo – Church Mobilization at World Relief DRC
We cannot be agents of reconciliation if we have untouched division in our lives. – Marcel Serubungo
As peace workers and justice workers, we don’t only offer relief, we ofter a place at the table, and an invitation to the kingdom of God. – Sami Awad
Lynne, Sami, and Marcel had a panel discussion on bringing justice and reconciliation to areas on great conflict in our world today. Marcel works in the Congo and Sami is a Palestinian christian working amongst the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Both of these regions need high level, top-down political change to bring peace. But there will never be more than a ceasefire agreement unless they are built on the grassroots reconciliation and forgiveness of people.
Marcel: In the Congo he mediates conflict and helps enemies become friends in small communities through local pastors. Problems between tribes bring division in the church. Marcel creates a structure for people to come together and express both sides of complaints peacefully. Local pastors recognized that there needed to be reconciliation in their communities, and the first thing the Holy Spirit did was move them to reconcile their own hearts to each other. Marcel helps pastors see the purpose of being reconcilers in their communities. How can they do this if they do not have unity among themselves? We cannot give someone something we don’t have. We cannot be agents of reconciliation if we have untouched division in our lives.
Creating simple platforms to listen to people, bring problems into the light, and bring the reconciliation and love of christ between people. Even though the state of the Congo is failed, models like this in the local church give us hope. It starts in our own hearts first.
Sami: Sami grew up with Israeli soldiers controlling every aspect of his life, but now he works to bring reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians through non-violence. He asked himself the question; what makes my organization different from other organizations promoting non-violence and peace work?
We don’t stand against oppressors. Sami thought about Jesus standing against anybody and he didn’t think that he would. So why would we build an organization to stand against a certain type of person. If we come at reconciliation by merely standing against our human enemy, we will come out with hatred and resentment. God showed him this and that his ministry needs to come out of love and compassion. It’s not just about the political solutions. Conflicts happen. As peace workers and justice workers, we ofter a place at the table, and an invitation to the kingdom. Hating any part of God’s creation does not help anything, we need to work towards addressing the things that are producing fear and hate. When we are motivated by the love of Christ we are able to better see the full picture of the problem without bias and be able to bring true help and healing. Liberating the oppressed and the oppressor from oppression.
Justin was a music artist that let God disrupt his life with injustice. Now he runs an organization called made in a free world that aims to end slavery in our lifetime.
There are an estimated 27 million people today living in some form of slavery. Justin is an artist and he loves that art says what we cannot put into words. Justice is it’s own art form, it’s not just science. We need to approach justice like we approach art, embracing our vulnerability and making it not about us.
When you are making something new for the world, your audience might not like it. To make great art you have to do something that hasn’t been done before. You have to open your self up to failure. But our imperfections are a good thing because it opens up the opportunity for others to partner with you. Our work is not about us, it’s about everyone else. We so quickly want to turn things into our cause or our organization. But we need to learn how to work with the group. The world doesn’t need more information, they need invitation to do justice alongside us. Organizations don’t change the world, people do.
Justin and his friends were exploring the supply chains of their favorite products. So naturally they decided to email Steve Jobs. They asked him if he knew if there was any of a typically unjustly harvested metal in apple products. Steve immediately replied to their email. “I don’t know. I’ll look into it. – Steve” Since then, apple has continued to lead the industry in awareness about their supply chain.
Building a better world will take time and vulnerability and teamwork. Don’t let the darkness stifle curiosity. Be willing to take risks, keep your heart soft. Make your work easy for others to join you. When you talk about slavery, talk about freedom.
Awareness will never end modern day slavery, but modern day slavery will be ended by awareness first. – Gary Haugen
“Building a better world will take time and vulnerability and teamwork. Don’t let the darkness stifle curiosity. Be willing to take risks, keep your heart soft. Make your work easy for others to join you. When you talk about slavery, talk about freedom.” – Justin Dillon
What is justice anyways?
Justice is about the assignment that Jesus gave to the church 40 days after the resurrection. Justice is about the coming of the kingdom of God on earth right now. The primary mission of the church is transforming the world with the love of Christ.
Rich compared his experiences at two churches. The first was in Haiti under a year after the earthquake. Their worship leader was an amputee, and they had not one but two full sermons. Their church was so full of joy and energy. How could they do this after what had happened to them in the earthquake?
Then Rich went home to his own church in the Seattle area and it was around Christmas time. There were two 30 foot christmas trees in the sanctuary, a 1.4 million dollar pipe organ, and extravagant lighting. This is to say nothing about the heart of the people in the church, but we have to ask ourselves the question: Is this what the kingdom of God should look like?
Luke 16: The rich man and Lazarus
19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
Lessons from this story:
1. Sins of ommission, apathy
2. Thinking his riches were deserved blessing, useful for nothing more than the american dream.
3. Objectifying people
4. Injustice is systemic. The same system that was creating his wealth was creating Lazarus poverty
5. Injustice is personal (it was not his fault that the poor man was poor , but it is our responsibility)
We are the rich men and we have to understand this. It’s not our fault, but it is our responsibility. Jesus wanted to know how the rich man responded. Jesus wants us to love Lazarus more than just helping him. Justice is not about “them” getting “them” to do the right thing.
Who is our Lazarus? Who has God laid near our gate? What would God have us do about it? Justice begins with you and me.
“We are the rich men in the story and we have to understand this. Poverty is not our fault, but it is our responsibility” – Rich Sterns
Jim Wallis – President & Founder, Sojourners
Noel Castellanos – CEO, CCDA
What does it look like for people to practically engage in injustice? These men do this with the issue of immigration.
Matthew 25 is changing the politics of DC. How we treat the stranger, how we treat 11 million undocumented workers, is how we treat Christ. Reform will come because of the faith factor. The God of the bible is not just a God of Charity and compassion, but Justice.
Get in contact with individuals, hear the stories before you form your opinion based on the news. For so long immigrants were doing the things we didn’t want to do, and now all the undocumented workers are ruining america? 70% of all agricultural workers in America are undocumented. Yet we benefit from that. Washington doesn’t see the people involved in this. It’s the stories of the people that change us and change Washington. Washington will never solve anything on it’s own. It is movements on the outside that change the inside. The words for justice in the scriptures come down to making things right. What will it take to make things right? There is no common good in Washington. It’s all about winning. We cannot trust politicians, but can enable them to do the right thing. Behind closed doors they know they are stuck and fear is causing the blockage. By 2050, there will be a majority of non-white people. We are afraid of that. But why? Is there a valid reason for this?
As a faith community we need to navigate our future and help them find a moral compass. God is bringing the nations to us, and in Revelation we see all nations, all tongues worshipping God, we are just getting to experience that reality early. When we are not multi-racial we are not being the body of Christ.
We represent the generation that integrates ALL of the teaching of the bible and begin to work towards deep justice. What is the burden that God has put on our heart, we need to move towards it.
We represent the generation that integrates ALL of the teaching of the bible and begin to work towards deep justice. What is the burden that God has put on our heart, we need to move towards it. – Jim Wallis
Eugene used the story of the samaritan women at the well and Jesus. The question is not does God care, but how can we engage as God would? Not do we do justice but how do we do justice? We look to the Bible to see how God does justice.
As a church we must let justice do this. We cannot as a church begin to monetize these “good things” or the “fad of justice”. If we aren’t careful we are going to be more obsessed in looking “good” and “just”. It is easy to elevate that which is good works over the gospel. Do not forget who you are and who you serve and why you do what you do.
Jesus and the women engage in conversation. We need to not see people as projects. Do not reduce them into projects or put them in a box. Jesus doesn’t see us like that so we shouldn’t see others that way. Look at the way Jesus engages people. We cannot reduce lives to a singular story through one lens. “The single story creates stereotypes, the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.”
We have great privilege because we get to be story tellers, we have a voice. We need to not get lazy and abuse that. Engage in honest human conversations leading to honest human relationships. There are things we have to learn from people. We should place ourselves in their narrative. We have to help people see their lives in a different way. The “people of God” had always told the Samaritan woman what she was and put her in a box. And then Jesus comes and breaks all these barriers.
We should be like the antique roadshow appraisers for people. What looks like just another statistic, we come alongside and describe great and detailed value. We can see the world as it is, but only the Holy Spirit will lead us into the deeper narrative with a fresh imagination.
“Don’t be enamored by Justice, be in Love with God.” – Eugene Cho
Stephen’s son at 13, while they were visiting Africa said to him, “Dad, Do you every feel stuck to the earth? I feel like God has put something inside of me but I don’t know what it is.”
Is justice possible? Yes but you have to choose one thing and give everything you have and it’s going to be really hard. Something is happening and it is bigger than us. There is a groundswell in our midst. What are our complaints, what will we do about it? 1 out of 6 people on the planet lives in a slum. The just will live by faith. Our faith will live by justice. We cannot pursue only personal piety, we also can’t just put fires out in the world without going back to God and crying out for him to make us justice. The world is flatter than it ever has been in history with internet and communication. What great reformation will come next?
Parameters defining a reformation: reformations are sparked by a recovery of truth from a periphery and sustained by sacrificial love.
First comes the poet and the prophet leading a recovery of truth. God’s giftings are disproportionate to the way we think they should be. It’s always on the fringes. We look to the center of society, God looks to the edges. God begins reformation on the periphery. We need to be looking for leaders and input all over the world, not just in the west. We need to hear more of these stories of hope on the periphery.
There are many people who want to change the world, there are very few who will actually give there lives for it. Zeal will not make this groundswell into a movement, God’s love will. It’s so easy to do this stuff for a while, just be putting out fires and lose sight of God. It’s easy to give up at this moment, but we must remain in His love and do justice.
“Reformations are sparked by a recovery of truth from a periphery and sustained by sacrificial love.” – Stephen Bauman
Gabriel and his wife run a church in New York. As pastors They are wrestling with taking care of their hearts as they are continually doing justice. They used the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19 calling down fire from heaven and looking really cool with the prophets of Baal.
The work of justice is important, but the soul and the character must be inoculated from certain temptations. We must have vaccines in this work because there are giants against this movement. We are not just justice workers, we are primarily christians. We are not the only ones who will work for justice. But our christianity informs why we do what we do and the motivation matters.
Giants against us as justice workers:
When Elijah comes down of the mountain he faces the temptation of ego. We are beginning to make justice a commodity. We must be put in our place and keep a good perspective. To stay grounded we need to stay connected to people. We like too much to be the saviors.
We need to find time to rest. Because an unrested worker is a dangerous person. They release anger and toxicity in the world. We seem to slay one giant and another one shows up. Do what you can and leave the rest to God. Take time away.
3. Emotional Toxicity
Be careful if you begin to get angry around injustice. Be careful when you start exclaiming, “I can’t believe this!” There is a difference between righteous frustration and blind rage. Sometimes it get so bad that we begin to hate the people we are trying to transform. We suffer from a holier than thou attitude. We think that justice work is only talking at people, pulling fire down from heaven. We disembody our justice work with our hard hearts and lack of God-perspective on people. Nurture your soul with humility that balance your indignation.
Don’t forget. Love wins, Jesus has overcome the world.
Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther shared her wisdom on justice and culture today. Here are some of her amazingly inspiring definitive statements:
This is a season of necessary shifts and adjustments to help us survive as a nation. We must organize our theology and justice. She takes solace in knowing that God can and will correct all things. Nothing is beyond his ability to make things new. Conflict is not abnormal to growth. We must persevere. No weapon formed against us will prosper. We must form our movement on biblical principles. As my father said, “True peace is not the absence of tension but the presence of justice.”
The moral arch of the universe may be long, but it ends at justice. We are on the right track and we are on the winning side.
Before Dr. Martin Luther King died, he wrote a book about what comes next. His blueprints for the future of justice were to choose community over chaos, and to organize our strength into compelling power so that the systems cannot elude our demand. The enemy seeks to divide and conquer. On our own our zeal will wear off, but if we are together in groups it will be more sustainable. We cannot just be concerned about the victimized.
On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In order to be effective in social justice, we have to know that God is on the side of justice. He is with us. Martin Luther King’s movement did not come out of a zeal to do good “in a small good thing” or just go along with what society really wanted, it sprang out of the deep possibility coming out of human beings that they could be co-workers with God. If it was done God’s way, then that was the only way they would prevail. But people today are seeking to do the work of justice without God. God was in every aspect of the movement my father led. Justice is not a philosophy, its more of a theology and we must not cut out the roots. Dr. Martin Luther King and his team were not perfect, but they chose to pursue a Biblical view. When God says he is our father, we cannot divorce ourselves from the fact that everybody else is our brother or sister. We cannot live apart. We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools. THIS only works when you keep the fatherhood of God in it. If we cut out God, we are no longer bound together.
Critical to the progress of the justice struggle is if the people God would be the head and not the tail. Christians ought to me thermostats NOT thermometers. The church is supposed to transform and raise the bar in society. We cannot merely record and complain about the current ideals and morals of society. No one is exempt from what is going on in society. Too many people are so self-centered. We are all in the same boat. The work that we do is not about helping someone else, its about helping all of us. It is increasing the kingdom of God in the world which is a good thing for everybody.
We have to saturate our culture with the idea of non-violence to move the justice movement forward. Non-violence works because it is based of the word of God. Love your enemies. When you joined Dr. King, you had to turn in your guns and knives. Originally they didn’t even use the word non-violence. They just called it Christian love. Non-violence takes more courage than violence. There is a thin line between passion and anger which leads to hatred. We need to be careful not to be overcome negatively by it. We cannot become bitter. It seems so unfair that innocent people have to suffer. Non-violence should separate the person from the act. At the end of the day violence only begets more violence. Dr. Martin Luther King didn’t just use this as a clever social justice tactic. Non-violence was part of his being because he had allowed God to transform him in that way.
We must remember we are preparing a way for the place of the coming generation. It’s not about us. We have to see more than our own stories. Let us dare to be creatively maladjusted citizens to the way our world works. Let us seek the kingdom of God and spread this maladjustment to the masses. We must be disciplined non-conformists remembering that our roots are in the gospel.
Gospel rooted justice opens up a possibility of hope. God’s word shows us that every one of us is in bondage to sin. A yoke is upon us. We live under a spiritual yoke of slavery unless Jesus Christ sets us free. He invites us to join him in breaking the yoke of slavery of others. He has rescued us to make us rescuers with Him.
How do we enter in to breaking our own yoke and helping others break theirs?
Prayer. IJM recently had a prayer summit and felt like God asked them to pray for movement in the government of a specific country. There are good laws in these countries against injustice, but they are not enforced. Rarely do local authorities actually do stuff about injustice, and typically they profit from it by keeping their mouths shut. But two weeks after this prayer meeting, the local police brought evidence to IJM that led to the releasing of 514 people from a brick kiln in India. God is doing amazing things in the world. We should praise him for it, and pray for more.
Prayer is the the only power that will enable us to make it in this work of justice over the long haul.
As we begin to make progress in justice, violence will fight back. There will be a great temptation to rely on the limits of our own strength. But we must remember, Jesus invites us to take his yoke.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
– Matthew 11:28-30
Justice begins in the heart of God and is core to the gospel itself. – Bethany Hoang
1. God’s Justice in the Psalms.
I love the reading the Psalms and as I move towards the 90s, I sense a shift in the narrative. We begin to see in the latter Psalms the trees and the animals and the sea are celebrating because God is going to come put things right and “judge the earth”.
Psalm 72 – Praising God for his justice
Why are we celebrating this king? Because his royal agenda is to care for those nobody else is caring for. God’s justice is a present and future reality. Not just something to look forward to but God is sovereign in the moment.
2. Jesus’ Promise of Praise
The kingdom of God is what Jesus talks about. God is in charge, but he wants humans to steward the earth. Daniel and Isaiah prophecies of a final ruling of a certain kingdom. Jesus redefines the expectation of this kingdom. Through Jesus’ life and ministry, He is showing us how it will look like for God to be reigning on earth. God’s vision of justice works different than we think. Jesus is setting out an agenda of putting things right using humans.
3. Onesimus and Philemon
The cultural context of this story is slavery in the 1st Century Roman Empire. There were more slaves than free people at the time. Paul is addressing Philemon to receive back into his household his runaway slave named Onesimus. Paul could have told the church, “all slavery is wrong”. But this statement would have been as extreme as us saying to a congregation today, “We heard smog is bad for the atmosphere, so we are no longer using gas as a church. Leave your car in the parking lot.” Instead of being extreme, Paul goes for the real prize which is reconciliation of relationship.
Paul shows us what it is like to bring kingdom principles to a specific relationship. He is sowing a seed in the church to reconcile difficult situations.
4. Current Justice Issues
Justice in relation to the global economy. Whole populations find themselves enslaved because they planted the wrong crop. Justice is what love looks like when it faces the problems it’s dealing with. We need to educate ourselves on current justice issues.
5. Language of Justice
Justice is a buzz word. That which began of christian language has been taken to serve secular agendas. What is the difference between human rights language and biblical justice? Justice in the Bible is associated with old creation and new creation. It’s not just enough to raise a flag saying, “justice, justice!” We must be made new. Human rights languages perpetuates that which we were “born” with. No need to make new that which came “natural”. The Biblical view of justice says, all have fallen short, all need to be made new, let’s become the beautiful community that God created us to be.
Justice is what love looks like when it faces the problems it’s dealing with. – NT Wright
3 pivotal life experiences that prepared her and sustained her through ministry:
1. At 39, she burnt out of ministry spiritually, emotionally, and physically. She kept her view of God from childhood of an unrelenting God with an endless list of tasks for his people. She turned her back on God and decided to just sit around. In those moments she found silence and it was soothing. Something in the silence began to heal her. In time she felt that there was some kind of presence there healing her in the silence. That someone or something was kindly disposed towards her. After time she concluded that God was healing her. He was not just a task master but he actually loved her. At the bottom of her self-loathing she found Jesus there loving her. At the bottom, in the silence, in the dark is the foundational presence of God. When you hit the ground you will find Jesus there. With great gentleness God calls us to let this voice of God speak through us to others.
2. Visiting war zones in Croatia and Bosnia. It was the first time she had seen war up close and was stunned by what humans could do to one another. She took some time alone on a mountain and felt God bringing up the question: Am I my sisters keeper? The answer was yes, you are. Every person in the world means as much to God as we do or our families do. It’s a profound thing to really feel that.
3. She had the opportunity to sail for 3 weeks near Tahiti with her grown son. During her time on the boat she was awestruck by the beauty around her. But in her spare time she was reading all these books about injustice. Her senses were overwhelmed with the stark contrast of beauty her eyes were beholding and the evils her mind was processing through her reading.
Then God spoke to her, “I created a world of beauty, nature, and systems that work, and babies with bellies full and compassion for prisoners, and rest, silence and freedom. Whenever you see or feel or touch such beauty know that it is from me and let it fill you. Out of this fullness I want you to go out and fight for the beauty with all that you have. When it is being threatened, protect it. Fight for the beauty to flourish.”
She needed permission to accept the beauty of this world to enjoy and to be reminded that at the core of everything there is the heart of God beating for us.
Be filled by beauty to fight for beauty. Is there some treadmill you need to step off of so you can find the silence and hear God’s love for you? Is God calling you into some new thing? What is the beauty you are called to fight for? Ask God what he would have you fight for. There is no higher calling in life than to fight for beauty. We have agency, so let’s do things. Let’s dare to disturb the universe. Let’s watch and see what God will do. – Lynne Hybels