I stumbled upon this video by Walter Brueggemann a few days ago. He’s describing the kind of prophetic vision of what Justice means in the Scriptures. And he’s doing it for a conference that is all about Justice. Which from looking at, sounds like an amazing conference. But it did get me thinking: Since when did Christians hold conferences on Justice? Since I’ve been around, most of our conferences are on preaching, or church leadership. But then it struck me, this conference isn’t for churches. Not once in the brochure did the word church show up. It’s a Christian conference for Jesus-followers, complete with worship leaders and Christian speakers talking about Biblical Justice. But it’s not for churches.
Because church leaders probably won’t show up.
Several times this week I have had significant conversations, with different people, about what Justice looks like in this time and place. Now these conversations are not new for me to stumble into. Unless someone has their head in the sand, it’s easy to recognize that God is stirring this passion up in the world again. Unfortunately, some (but not all) of our churches are the final ones to recognize this.
But I’ve been lucky.
Both churches that I’ve worked at, work hard to embody God’s call to, in the words of Bruggemann”s video above: “Correct the Mistaken Arrangements” of some having so little and some having so much. And it has shaped the way I think of church in a profound way. I hear my generation talk about church as bankrupt selfish institutions, and I think, “Not all of them.”
I’ve said this before, but I think the question that Christians of the 70’s asked of our churches were “Why were churches of the past so racist?” I think the question that Christians of the 90’s and 2000’s were asking was, “Why were our churches so Patriarchal?” And I think the question that our next generation is asking is, “Why are our churches so selfish? Why do they spend so much of their resources on themselves?”
But it’s not just enough to work at an organization that is doing it…I think the call of Jesus is to take part of what He’s already doing in the world. In Fort Worth, I worked in jail ministry and my wife worked with foster children. Now it seems like life is going a thousand miles an hour, and we are struggling to find time to breathe. Or where to pull up our sleeves and start at.
This week, in staff meeting, we were talking through Tim Keller’s book “Generous Justice.” It’s a great book, and if you haven’t read, it I highly recommend it. At one point, we were discussing the parable of the Good Samaritan…and it struck me how offended I should be by this simple little story. It is after all a story about a priest who had more important things to do. And just in case other leaders feel off the hook, a Levite, the deacon of the day, walked by. Both had legitimate reasons to keep on walking. They had programs to run, ministries to serve in. They were needed elsewhere.
And they were wrong.
In the words of my preaching friend David Clayton, “It stinks to be a full time minister and a part time follower of Jesus.”
So here’s my question for you? How does this play out in your life? Have you made intentional decisions to pursue justice? How? What does that look like for you? And if you are a church leader, what decisions are you making to shape a community that looks outside of herself?
I hope to be able to answer both of those question soon too.