I was privileged to attend The Justice Conference via a satellite site this last weekend.
“Justice is rooted in the character of God and flows from the heart of God.” Ken Wytsma
Chocked-full with those leading the way in various dimensions and expressions of justice I came away chocked-full myself with new wisdoms and continued clarity to my own thinking and life and ministry.
In the past I’ve worked through refusing injustice in my own life personally. Since then I’ve journeyed others through the labyrinth of advocating justice within their own lives. Today as I work alongside indigenous pastors I’m joining conversations of justice at the rural indigenous church level.
“Justice is not just about solutions per se, but for us as peace workers it is an invitation to the table.” Sami Awad
What I so appreciated from the weekend was the reminder that justice issues are complex. Injustice comes about with varying and multiple realities that are often woven together in inexplicable ways resulting in disparity.
“Justice is always about disparity.” Rich Stearns
I recall the conversation with two women deep in rural Uganda with the one telling the other that she just had to accept and make do with her newly polygamous marriage.
(Her husband had just taken on a second wife and not only had she lost the intimate and joy filled friendship with her husband but she was now responsible for some twelve children with the other wife refusing to lend a hand)
And as I listened to this ‘advice’ everything in me screamed, “NOOOOOO!!!!!”
“There is no older injustice than the treatment of women.” Eugene Cho
But I kept my silence. I didn’t know what the answer might be for this situation.
In the years since that conversation there has opened quite naturally and with no effort of my own opportunity to speak to injustice within marriages and churches in regard to women.
“Peace-making is cutting-edge discipleship of the 21st century.” Lynn Hybels
“Not superficial optimism but deep faith in the power of individuals allowing God in.” Bernice King
My recent trip to Mozambique resulted in many convictions of necessary change. “Well and if any of us have been beating our wives we will stop that now.” said one lead pastor of a church where I challenged them to regard their women.
And spoken by this same man and others, “We too must have our women, our mamma’s, grown and leading and teaching in the Kingdom of God and in our churches.”
“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” Jesus, John 10:10
Here are a few of the things I’ve learned over the years about justice:
1. Justice must first be waged within our own lives. Where we are victims we must advocate strength and come to a firm ‘no’ in both word and action. Justice, anywhere we might advance it, will demand change, deep change. This change we must first live out in our own lives where applicable for only as we do this will we embody justice in a way that carries strength inherent. Once we have found justice for ourselves we have justice to give to others.
“As we seek to be agents of justice how do we allow our hearts to be changed.” Mae Cannon
“There is no justice without courage.” Bryan Stevenson
2. Justice conversations and resulting change come about by coming on the inside. We cannot understand the multiple dynamics until we willingly enter into perspective from the inside out. And quite frankly our well intentioned advice means nothing unless we are giving our lives to those we serve and from within these systems of injustice. Our efforts miss the mark unless we live and breathe the changes that need to take place.
“Becoming a witness to the suffering transforms us.” Sami Awad
“Proximity is key to advancing justice.” Bryan Stevenson
3. Justice requires patience and wisdom. Justice is not a project it is a way of life. Introducing #Justice2014 Ken Wytsma said it well, “Justice is a bigger deal than my charity.” Justice is not our pity or our enthusiasm to set things right. Justice, from what I know, is a sober, tenacious, focussed, direction and journey. We will get there if we set our sights and stay on course.
“We do not go after short term needs but long-term systemic change.” Nicole Baker Fulgham
“Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.” Isaiah 50:7
In pursuit of the justice we are seeking, within whatever context, requires that we set our face like flint.
“The people provide moral courage to those in government to make decisions towards what is right.” Jim Wallace
“Reformations are sparked by a recovery of truth from the periphery and are sustained with sacrificial love.” Stephen Bauman
Justice will never be accomplished by do-gooders who over enthuse about ideals. The work is just so much harder than this. Flitting from this shiny object to that shiny object, from this tragedy to that tragedy, taking on first this and then that, eager to help everywhere won’t really get us anywhere.
“God must be in the plan and in the strategy.” Bernice King
For justice is the cumulative effort of many small steps, decisions, choices, and clarity resulting in systemic change in peoples hearts and minds, what we believe, in the community levels, how we live, and in government levels, the laws we make.
“Jesus compels us to live justly.” Eugene Cho
Many small steps add up to a journey of a thousand miles. This is the way of justice and for those taking these steps and living these lives I am simply honoured to be in your company.
“How we treat the stranger is how we treat Christ himself.” Jim Wallace