Through various speakers, artists, and panel groups the topics of day 2 at The Justice Conference 2014 ranged from immigration to criminal justice reform and nonviolence to exploring biblical stories and themes of justice. In this post for tonight I want to share a few themes that were very prominent and a few quotes from speakers. I know that sound bytes alone won’t justify all that was shared, but I want to give you the lessons that God has started to put on my heart.
1. The necessity to believe that justice is an essential attribute and action of God.
Pastor Eugene Cho shared that our justice must point people to Jesus. Stephen Bauman, from World Relief, reminded us that Jesus is the anchor of sacrificial love that will sustain ongoing justice work as Christians who see that we must move back to God’s center (faith AND deeds in light of the Gospel), which is often our periphery. Reverend Gabriel Salguero (National Latino Evangelical Coalition) reminded us that we must “Do what you can and leave the rest to God.” We need to be faithful and remind ourselves of God’s faithful character to pursue justice by his divine power (not only by our human agency). Lastly under this category, theologian N.T. Wright motivated us to believe that “God’s royal agenda is to take care of the poor and broken things in the present and the future.” Justice in God’s character, kingdom, and actions displayed throughout history is why believers must be serious to act as people made in the image of God to reflect Christ to the world by the power of the Spirit.
2. The road to justice through nonviolence, civility, and humility towards the oppressed and oppressor.
On a panel discussing international reconciliation and peacemaking efforts, author Lynne Hybels stated, “Peacemaking is the cutting edge of Christian discipleship in the 21st century.” She has been exposed to international conflicts in Eastern Europe, Israel, and the DRC. I think this just echoes Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Pastor Marcel Serubungo from the Democratic Republic of Congo was sharing how pastors are becoming agents of reconciliation. This really makes sense seeing that as N.T. Wright pointed out, reconciliation is a key ministry to Paul (2 Cor. 5:18) for people’s spiritual lives with God and personal relationships with one another (Philemon, for example). In our American context it can look like speaking more respectfully to people we disagree with and admitting where our experience falls short, in order to avoid claiming the corner market on justice. Dr. Bernice A. King (Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter) reminded us that nonviolent conflict-resolution takes courage and that we need to guard our heart’s from bitterness (I will address her session in a later post).
3. Allow the Holy Spirit to help you to reimagine the kingdom of God, believe change is possible, and give your life to others for the sake that others will come to know holistic community in light of God’s love and justice.
Eugene Cho shared that in John 4 with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus spoke to her intentionally to show his love and concern for her as well as to show the true concept of God’s kingdom and worship through reimagining the possibilities that he had come to make a reality. Bethany Hoang, representing International Justice Mission, shared that events of justice to free labor slaves had a kingdom backstory of prayer, worship, and community to see unfolding miracles happen because people believed that God would intervene. Noel Castellanos, CEO of CCDA, reminded us that “Our faith needs to confront injustice.” Let us be known for a vitality and creativity in our faith and justice solutions that create space for others to enter God’s kingdom in fresh ways. For some people they will be reimagining their possibilities as believers; for others they will be encountering the gospel of Jesus for the first time and must be convinced that faith AND deeds are required for displaying the change God’s kingdom is making space for others and for an eschatological renewal.
4. (Last but not least)…Care for your soul and the souls of others in the long-haul fight towards just living.
Every person that spoke at one point or another shared how justice helps you identify where you are broken, your own need for God’s love to be a balm in the cracks of life, and the importance for community with others. Issues of ego, exhaustion, and emotional toxicity can plague your long-term effectiveness, according to Reverend Salguero. Attorney Bryan Stevenson reminded us that “In our brokenness and weakness God’s strength is made perfect in us.” A lot of other presenters shared that prayer, Bible study, and accountability from others alongside them in similar justice work has helped them sustain their ministry. I think a lot of people need to be reminded of the need for preparing our hearts, minds, and lives while we are undertaking difficult situations, people, and systems.
I pray that each of these lessons that I have shared will help you think more about your own formation as you desire to help do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before God in community and solidarity with others.