There is no shortage of books, blogs, documentaries and stories on the topic of justice and justice issues these days. Their pages and pictures are filled with statistics, stories and scenes that have caught our attention. They have convinced us and our hearts are moved and on board with the fact that children shouldn’t be sold into slavery, race should not increase or decrease the value of someone, power should not be abused to take advantage of the poor, a lack of wealth should not be a barrier to basic human rights and the choice to live or die should not be decided for you before you are even born.
Why then does it seem our justice efforts stop right after awareness sets in? The conference ends, the last chapter of the book is read, the speaker at church closes in prayer and that moment of empathy has swiftly rolled out just as quickly as it rolled in. It seems there is a growing sense of awareness of the issues in the world today, yet coupled with that, a sense that simply having empathy for an issue is all that we are called or can do. Why do we pat ourselves on the back for merely caring? Our hearts must be moved, but if our hands and feet are not moved along with it, how much do we really care? When did we as a society begin to believe that caring from a safe distance away would actually somehow work to alleviate the suffering in the world today?
Maybe we don’t know how to engage, don’t know how to care well, and don’t know how justice can look in our everyday lives? The recent growth of awareness is an on-ramp, but it cannot stop there.
We know that International Justice Mission's Gary Haugen’s words are true, that, “nothing happens just because we are aware of modern-day slavery, but nothing will ever happen until we are.” But when the blog post has been read and the documentary is over, what does justice really look like in our day to day life?
What does justice look like when every day is juggling finances, meals, meltdowns and raising a family for the stay at home parent? What does justice look like when every day is scheduled down to the minute for the business professional? And what does justice look like when every day is battling the pressures of society for the young adult? Is there a place for the everyday person in the work of justice?
All of our lives look different and we are each unique parts of the body of Christ. For us to be homogenous in our justice efforts would be doing a disservice to God’s creativity within us, but what does justice practically look like in my life? In your life? How has God uniquely created you and how can that tangibly engage with God’s plan of restoring this world and the suffering in it into a new heaven and a new earth?
The answer is not a five point list, it is not a book and it is not a sermon. As much as we may want step by step instructions on how to open up our lives to become formed by God’s heart for justice, there simply are not any.
The place we must start is in prayer, wrestling with God about what he would desire our lives to look like with regards to justice. I beg of you, do not stop with just becoming aware of injustices in the world. Fight to see how your life can beautifully intertwine into God’s already in motion plan of restoring this world back to him, not the other way around. If our mindset is to go from hearing about justice work, longing to engage and then seeing how justice just might squeeze its way into our already in motion plans, we have it all wrong. This work is God’s and he is graciously inviting us to proclaim freedom for the captives (Isaiah 61:1), to be the homes that welcome strangers (Hebrews 13:2) and those upholding the cause of the oppressed (Psalm 82:3).
It’s a choice. You can choose to look the other way, you can choose to continue on each day not seeing those in the shadows and those weighed down by suffering both in our neighborhoods and across the world. Or you can choose to open your everyday life up to being a part of God’s heart for justice.
May we surrender our weakness, our plans and our pride as we fall to our knees and ask the God of justice how we may enter into to this work of his.
What will justice look like in your everyday life?
-Kelsie Doan recently completed an internship at International Justice Mission in Washington, D.C., and is currently pursuing a MA in Intercultural Studies and Children at Risk at Fuller Theological Seminary in Arizona
Need some help getting started? Take time to examine your city and identify the suffering that exists. What ways are there for you to engage in reminding the suffering in your city of the goodness of God?
- Look to see if your church has programs or events. Research local nonprofits that are working in this area. Make calls, send emails and choose to begin partnering with those already working.
- Think creatively. What part of your already existing life, position, friend circles, career, could you leverage for being light to the suffering in your neighborhood or the world?