Taylor Seminary hosted its annual EP Wahl lecture at Beulah Alliance Church on the theme of Justice.
Danielle Strickland, a local officer in The Salvation Army who is impassioned about working with trafficked women began with her “confessions of a recovering Pharisee.” She retold the encounter of the woman caught in adultery in John 8 from the perspective of the person with whom she actually most identified; she let us walk with her though her discovery that she did not have a lot in common with the woman, or the adulterous man, or Jesus, or even the rocks that were threatened to be thrown. She had to confess, she had the most in common with Pharisees.
It was a good place to start, since I find that people in “justice” circles (me included) tend to be fairly cynical/critical of those not doing enough for justice (including me). The reality is there can never be enough done for justice – – though it would be good if we did something, wouldn’t it?
We can become a very pharisaical bunch of condemners in the name of being non-judgemental. Or should I speak for myself? Danielle said that “salvation has become so tiny that Jesus can fit into our thinking. But its not the case that a whole lot of Jesus can fit into you – it is that a whole lot of you can fit into a boundless ocean of Jesus. It is not a question of if there’s enough room in your little boat for Jesus – but that your little boat fits on His ocean.”
She referred to her book – Just Imagine: The Social Justice Agenda to speak to what I might call the triune nature of justice: Egalitarian (walk humbly), Legislative (act justly), and Distributive (love mercy) – corresponding, of course, to Micah 6:8.
Terry LeBlanc, a well known Mi’kmaq Native and Professor who is articulate on Christian faith and Aboriginal world views, presented on “When helping hurts” or “When helping doesn’t just hurt, it really screws things up.” He used Tom Harris’ “transactional analysis” to describe how western missions tend to be positioned as either “I’m ok – you’re not ok” or “I’m not ok – you are ok.” Terry said that this is the environment where dependancies are developed and maintained, where missionaries grow a “god complex” or become very paternal/maternal.
He encouraged us to ask, “what can I do to help bring the Shalom of God without being exploitative or enabling?” We were encouraged to look at justice, or at people who experience injustice, not from a deficit point of view – but from an asset point of view. “Who sinned, this person or his parents?” is a deficit question (John 9:2). Jesus response is an asset answer: “Neither…this is to display the manifest glory of God.”
It was a hopeful social justice seminar – led by two front line workers who have clearly devoted much of their energies to both thinking and acting. But there appears an outrage that rumbles under the surface with anyone in the current of social justice. So much of what energizes the cry for justice is having been “on the wrong side of judgement,” Strickland says. There are many responses to injustice: some are apathetic, some go into hiding, some respond with conspicuous charity, some undermine “the systems,” and some work upstream against inherent unjust structures.
One person came to me after one of my sermons on “Social Justice.” He said, “I don’t think God’s into social justice.” What’s a person to say to that? I said, “It’s actually worse than you thought. God is just; He is justice and everything about Him is just. He seeks to re-establish fairness, right-relatedness and justice in every sphere – criminal justice, social justice, restorative justice, and our personal right-relatedness to Him.”
I’m on a journey to be more like the One who made me for Himself – who adopted me as His child, and who is doing the profoundly transformational work of making me more like Jesus, while making me more like the me He intended. From Jesus’ first sermon in Luke 4:18ff, throughout His life and death and resurrection, Jesus comes to create justice on earth as it is in Heaven, and to restore our relationship with Him and His creation.
It is not injustice that energizes me (though it is often the spark for the fire under my ass); it is Jesus’ redemptive justice that inspires and that is the substantive grounds for “the Shalom of God.”