Posted on January 17, 2017.
This is a story from a book we read called possible, this specific story, although short, has stuck in my mind ever since I read it. The story speaks of a western researcher who came to a country in Africa wanting to find out what made a western missionary affective in an African culture, he went village to village asking the locals who did it best and why were they effective. Each group replied with the same answer, they said, we can not tell you who was most effective but we can tell you the man that we love. Over and over again the researcher got this same response, each village talking about the same man. Finally the researcher asked so why did you love this man so much? Why did you embrace him over other western missionaries. They responded that after some years of working in the village an emergency came up in this mans life back west, a family member had passed away and he needed to fly back, when this happened he didn’t go to his supporters back home to ask for money, instead he asked the villagers where he was living to help him. In fact most of the time this man was in need he didn’t ask for support from the west, he went to his friends the locals. You see this man wasn’t lording over the people with his western money saying you need me but I don’t need you. No, he was there doing life with them, working with them, recreating with them, and when hardships arose he needed the people as much as they needed him. He knew the true meaning of walking with the broken while at the same time acknowledging our own brokenness and out of that place came true intimacy with the people he was called to and in that intimacy he could genuinely share the love of the father.
SSJ has been a journey of wrestling. I have wrestled with so many of the injustices, scriptures, and commands from the Lord that we have discussed, but I have come out the other side with such a greater understanding of the things and people that God’s heart beats for. I have found that justice isn’t something that only a few are called to, in fact it really isn’t a calling at all, it is a command from God to all believers that we are to Do Justice, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly with our God, and a command of God is not something to be taken lightly. It has been about God’s heart for reconciliation within every injustice and with in every soul. I have learned that we are created in God’s image, this is common christian rhetoric that, in my head, I have always known, but i have learned what that truly means. For me as a Christ follower that means that I am commanded to do the things that God does. So what does God do? He brings shalom out of chaos, he gives his people defiant-hope no matter the situation, he sees the values of every person and loves them in the place that they are at. I have learned that we are not a voice for the voiceless, but that we are a stepping stool to empower the oppressed to speak for them selves. I’ve learned that worship is not only a positive emotional experience that happens every once in a while in a sanctuary, it is also the dirty and nitty gritty every day work of loving the least of these and bringing the kingdom and leaning into the Father’s shalom. I have learned that we need to have discernment because often times we can easily confuse God’s call with our own lust for adventure. I have realized that I don’t get to choose if the battle exist I only get to choose how I participate in it. And I WILL NOT choose to be a bystander. It all comes down to the simple fact that social justice is the heartbeat of the bible, and the bible is the living word of God so that makes social justice the very heartbeat of the Father. So what is Social Justice? I would summarize it as up holding and defending the sacred value of human life, walking with the broken while acknowledging our own brokenness, and believing in the humanity of the oppressed and oppressor alike.
You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.
The thing that struck me to the core in this school is how our best intentions as missionaries and the church will be completely put to waste if we do not do two things before taking action to fight injustice.
1) Seek God’s heart for the oppressed and for the oppressor and only act out of his heart for those people
2) Think instead of react.
We owe it to the victims of injustice to be thoughtful in our actions. If we strategize and find the most effective methods to fighting injustice we can do a lot more helping and a lot less hurting.
-Hannah Wattnem, School of Social Justice, Fall 2016