This has been bothering me a little bit. I’m getting really tired of hearing about justice.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not agreeing with Glenn Beck’s xenophobic outcry that any church that preaches social justice is unbiblical. In fact, I think that social justice is one of the most important neglected subjects of the Bible that the church must think about. We should be involved with the poor, the hurting, the oppressed, those on the fringes of our communities. And I think a lot of churches have hopped on…
…to the bandwagon.
It’s cool to donate to a catastrophe. It’s cool to say you’re not cool with slavery. It’s cool to get organic and fair trade products. It’s cool to wear TOMS (I myself have a pair).
Call me a hipster that hates bandwagons (and yes, I am one, minus the mustache and plaid), but there’s a reason why. There’s a danger of jumping onto hot topics and bandwagons in ministry. The danger we run into is the tendency to turn important topics into just… trends. I cringe every time I go to an evangelism seminar and somebody (sometimes myself) says “Let’s focus on justice because it’s what this generation cares about! They’re activists! Let’s use that to win them to Christ!” And so, justice has become a tool, a means to an ends… a trend. And unfortunately, trends tend to go out of fashion. What will we do when justice goes out of fashion?
When it comes down to it, we must care for the issues of social justice not because people care about it, but because this is something God cares for. Justice was not a means to an ends, but was included in the all encompassing vision Jesus had of the Kingdom of God. He proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was a coming shalom, peace and rightness back to created order, which transcends the physical tangible world, but never excluded it. It was a revolution of wholeness that was both earthy and lofty, of right reconciled relationship with God personally, but also physically, emotionally, relationally, systemically.
Then after proclaiming this grand vision, demonstrating power and might through some cool miracles and cool statements- Jesus pulls a fast one. The path He calls us to is not a path of power, glory, showiness, cool campaigns… but a slow, hard, suffering journey, ironically filled with joy. And how we have taken the easy path of charity, where we can look good helping others by doing it at a distance, throwing money at people, voting for the right things! Jesus did not call us to charity, but called us to justice. He calls us to walk alongside the oppressed in reconciliation. He calls us to compassionately share in suffering. He calls us to live incarnation, to go to their house, to eat with, to heal them (and perhaps receive healing from them as well). Jesus calls us out of our ADD compassion and to actually walk the whole journey with people, where the people cease being the ones we help… but our friends; to keep walking the journey even after walking alongside people stops becoming glorious, when it gets frustrating and hard, when the drug addict relapses, when the homeless guy you helped get out of homelessness goes back on the streets… (Reminds me of what I read Habbakkuk 2:4b “…but the righteous will live by their faithfulness”). One of the terms in the old testament that has been doing a number on my soul is the term most used to describe God’s love- hesed. It basically means covenantal love- not love because God feels like it or he whims it out of His existence depending on His mood, but a committed, promised, faithful, enduring and promised love. Justice without hesed- the hard long term commitment to whole relationship- is just a really cheap substitute- a really weird generic and flat safeway select cola that tastes nothing like the real thing.
And please, keep giving donations. Keep caring. Keep signing petitions. Keep buying with a lens for justice. But don’t let that be where the pursuit social justice ends. Do it not because other people care about it. Do it because God cares for people, and that He calls us to incarnationally and sacrificially be a demonstrating witness to His care and deep love.
Justice. It’s not that cool. It’s ugly. It’s hard. It gets you bloody and dirty. Really, it’s not the most attractive thing. Sometimes it disappoints. Often, it breaks your heart. But there’s a strange and incorruptible joy that comes out of it if you stay with it after it breaks your heart, where it’s not about yourself, about telling people you did something good, but that you are doing what is on the Father’s heart.
And it’s funny. Thinking about it, i’m pretty far from the standards that i’ve laid out in this rant. I’m just as bandwagonny as the rest of us. I am completely content being at a distance so I can protect my heart from breaking too much. I’m okay just giving some change instead of actually sitting down and eating with the person I give to, committing to friendship. Perhaps it’s a call for myself as well, to stay faithful to the ministry God has called me to- to stay engaged with the people I meet at MiraCosta, oppressed or not (aren’t we all oppressed in different ways anyways?); to lean into what is hard; to stick with the annoying students; to demonstrate what true faithfulness is to my leaders and to rediscover what true joy is in ministry when all the flash and bang is gone.