As we move into week four of 40 Days of Community, we're focusing on what it means to be a community of justice. I invited Amber Robinson, author of Mercy Rising: Simple Ways to Practice Justice and Compassion, to share some thoughts on what justice is and how we can seek to live justly. In addition to taking the time to speak to us on the topic today, Amber has a special gift for some SortaCrunchy readers . . .
When it comes to hard things, I am a reforming coward. I will not see Hotel Rwanda, no matter how many friends insist. The one time I gave in to a similar movie (a decade ago) I found myself violently crying in the theater bathroom stalls and forced myself to walk back in long enough to retrieve my husband. I won’t watch video clips replaying tsunamis, earthquakes, or the like.
The irony is that I speak up for vulnerable children with Compassion International, help educate others to spot signs of trafficking in their own cities, and find peace in my backyard organic garden. Seems unlikely. When people have told me they themselves can’t be involved in justice issues –“It must be your thing”- I don’t believe them. Anyone can walk justly. I have learned the secret that in the most unlikely of places there is hope, joy, light, and real community.
WHO NEEDS JUSTICE?
Who needs justice? They seem invisible because the voices of the marginalized are often silent. Take a look at this list. There are many groups of people that need our help here and overseas.
You probably already help in some of these areas. Do you donate to a local food pantry? Do you participate in special giving during holidays? Do you buy local produce or fair trade items? You are living justice every day. But there is so much work we still need to do.
WHY IS JUSTICE IMPORTANT?
What is the big deal after all?
When I hear my friend Jo’s name, her face comes to my mind. What rushes into my spirit at lightning speed are her attributes: fun, joyful, and thoughtful. In fact it is not easy to separate those inner qualities from my perception of her.
In the same way God has many attributes. God often seems far away because I cannot see his face, but I can know his attributes: holiness, love, mercy, grace, and truth. Sometimes it’s hard to remember to put justice in that list.
We speak with our lips what’s on our hearts. Jo speaks most about family, friends, spiritual topics, and photography. Anyone who is around her knows that these things are important to her. When God speaks to us through his word, it seems fair to say that he speaks about what matters to him.
How many times in scripture do you think justice issues are mentioned?
Ten times, a hundred times, a thousand times? Tony Hall, former U.S. Ambassador for humanitarian issues, says there are over 2,500 verses in the Bible on justice issues!
Not only is justice a part of God’s character, it is a central issue repeated over 2,500 times. If justice is a key attribute of the God we serve, it needs to be a key attribute of his servants. Is it rare to hear these issues spoken about in mainstream Christian circles? In everyday conversations with friends and family? Why is that? Maybe it’s the connotation of the word “justice.” Sometimes when I say “justice” people hear “fanatical socialism.” Many people probably think of “social justice” in this context.
SOCIAL JUSTICE OR KINGDOM JUSTICE?
What is social justice? Social justice is “the distribution of advantages and disadvantages within a society.”(Websters New Millennium Dictionary of English) Others have told me social justice brings up images of government-run programs such as unemployment, welfare, and social security. I’m interested in a different society, a different kingdom. An upside-down kingdom. Where families and neighborhoods and faith groups do small things to enact change.
Society says to fight and claw your way to the top.
Kingdom justice says “The last shall be first.”
Society says to take care of yourself and your family first. If you have anything left, you can give that away.
Kingdom justice seeks first God’s agenda and then trusts that all the other stuff will work out.
Society glorifies the wealthy, the brilliant, the famous, the well-bred. Use those connections to win.
Kingdom justice humbles itself to aid those who are oppressed.
Social justice follows the whims of a fickle crowd.
Kingdom justice is an age-old wisdom, never changing, ever-constant, until one day when the Author of Justice returns and every wrong will be righted.
In my justice journey I have met “important people” changing their world as the heads of major non-profit organizations. Many of them are my heroes. But my greatest inspiration includes women like Angelina who impacts childhood nutrition when she sends her breast milk overseas with IBMP. Stephanie who feeds the hungry and brings the world home when she plays FreeRice and Quest for Compassion with her kids. Amy who ends her role in the domestic slave trade when she checks out companies at Chain Store Reaction. And Sara who offers hope to a pregnant teen neighbor in the shape of a baby swing.
We don’t need to join a committee. We don’t need to leave our family and friends and do it on our own. It is messy-it hurts. We grow and cry and learn to love. Not for what we can get or give, but to walk through fear into life and joy.
Parts of this article are excerpted from Amber's book Mercy Rising . Three SortaCrunchy readers will win an e-copy of Mercy Rising, thanks to Amber's generosity and thoughtfulness! To be eligible to win, simply share your response to this question:
What are some ways you see people working toward justice in your community, and how have you/will you contribute to the movement of those seeking to work towards justice?
COMMENTS CLOSED: Winners of the e-book are commenters 7, 9, and 14 - Amy Sullivan, danielle, and and Tamara. Thanks, everyone!
photo by Abi Skipp