--Obrey M Hendrick in "The Universe Bends Towards Justice"
One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that should always pray and never give up...Learn a lesson form the unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don't you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the Earth who have faith?
--Luke 18:1, 7-8 (NLT)
The first 6 weeks of 2017 have been remarkable in almost every sense. The election of Donald Trump to President of the United States has literally pulled back the covers on some issues, identities and priorities that were not clear. I think its been particularly polarizing for people of faith, where some have supported Mr. Trump and others have protested against him, his policies, and his character. One of the positive effects of his presidency thus far has been the organization of those concerned with issues of justice to mobilize and advocate collectively for peace.
As a participant in several groups centered around justice, I want to encourage those who are already feeling tired, overwhelmed and frustrated. A couple of thoughts
1. The work of Justice is arduous and require endurance.
Eugene Cho once asked "Is it possible that we all love compassion and justice ... until there's a personal cost to living compassionately, loving mercy, and seeking justice?". The assumption behind the question is that there is always a personal cost to seeking justice. The call of God that is often quoted to walk humbly, love mercy and seek justice requires sacrifice. The agency of Justice is love, and love is clearly built upon the foundation of sacrifice and service. In other words, the work of justice is hard, long, and WILL take a personal toll.
2. Effective advocacy is relationally driven.
I was once asked by a member of a church that I pastored why do I always talk about racism and sexism. (I do not really, but thats a different blog). I responded that for me to not talk about racism is like asking a fish not to talk about water. Since it has been my experience and the experience of those who I identify with, Its natural. Many people have the option to simply opt out of the discussion on issues of injustice because the issues at hand do not affect themselves, or their community. Justice advocacy begins with identifying with the pain and the life of those being victimized. This is the essence of Jesus' challenge in Matthew 25 when he tells his followers that whatever they have done to the most marginalized, they have done towards him. It is imperative that advocacy work begins with the victims of injustice, is done among victims of injustice, and is expressed in their words, shaped by their stories.
3. The work of Justice, like all ministry, flows with a relentless rhythm.
Jesus told his followers to relentlessly seek justice (Luke 18). He encouraged his people not only to pray persistently, but to be the vehicle for justice (think the feeding of the 5000, using a justice or liberation hermeneutic). We need to understand that perseverance is part of the Jesus justice strategy.
In all work, including justice advocacy, there is to be a rhythm. Times of work launched from times of rest and contemplation. This is the creative and the redemptive model. A former martial arts instructor of mine used to sat "Just because you are tired and stopped fighting, doesn't mean that the fight is over". What she was alluding towards, was the idea that the issue that we are facing often overwhelms our energy and tenacity to face it. Justice work is long and it is better described as a former mentor frequently described it as a "relentless stream barreling toward its goal". The movement must be flexible and adaptive but none-the-less, relentless and focused.
All that to say, rest but do not give up. Take time to gather, meditate, contemplate, re-focus, and re-direct, but do not give up. Work from your rest; do not simply rest from you work.
4. The prophetic ministry of shalom-making provokes a response, and too often it is negative.
Protest typically invokes a negative response from others who are happy with the status quo. Sometimes, it is the "good people" whose idleness and indifference makes it possible for injustice to flourish. Prophetic ministry need never apologize for the truth, but you will be misunderstood, persecuted, and marginalized. Jesus also explained that if he was persecuted, misunderstood, and marginalized, that we could expect the same if we truly follow him. While, we never desire to be provocative for the sole purpose of being provocative, we should expect pushback as we "share in the sufferings of Christ". The prince of peace brings a peace that is dangerous and subversive. Brueggeman states that the shalom that Jesus brings "overrides the expectations of our society, which awaits a peacemaker who will ensure our advantages in the world".
So I want to encourage you to keep on sharing! Keep on protesting! Keep on praying! Be the voice out of the wilderness that prepares the way for the prince of peace. Do not be afraid or intimidated to speak the truth. Tell the stories of injustice because "to remember truthfully is to render justice to both the victim and the perpetrator and is the first step towards reconciliation" (Miroslav Volf). Be part of the solution and the change that you want to see.
as one of my favorite artists sang:
God bless you all as you advance the Kingdom