"The pursuit of society's well being is not about charity, but about justice, and it's an essential part of our commitment to the reign of God in our city."
Justice is a big word. It’s almost kind of a trendy word right now, which means it is easy to dismiss, but when I look through Scripture, there is justice written ALL OVER it. Justice can be defined as making everything right or fair, but it seems like God's definition goes a little deeper and means setting things right, to their original purpose (thinking back to the Garden of Eden, and humans in holy relationship with Him and one another). Yes, sin has made the world broken and messed up, but God is still present here, and His people are still present here, so we are able to give glimpses of the original purpose of creation--the love God and love others.
God goes as far as saying, “I, the Lord, love justice.” (Isaiah 61:8)
“'Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow.' And all the people shall say, 'Amen.’” Duet. 20:29
“He loves righteousness and justice; The earth is full of the lovingkindness of the LORD.” Psalm 33:5
“I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted And justice for the poor.” Psalm 140:12
And that’s just a few. Do you know that the Israelites, God’s chosen and set apart people, were almost completely destroyed by the Babylonians and Syrians, and God said He didn't hear their prayers because THEY FORGOT TO TAKE CARE OF THE PEOPLE IN NEED AROUND THEM (Isaiah 58, please read it!).
Did you know in the New Testament Jesus says God will divide his followers into two groups: those that took care of people in need and those who didn’t. And to the people who didn’t take care of people in need, he says, Go away, because you actually didn't serve me. (Matthew 25:31-46; Matthew 7:21-23).
Justice and service are so integral to who God is that if we are not fighting for justice and helping people in need here on earth, we actually might not know God after all. (Matthew 7:21-23)
Justice as fairness can be tricky, because God is this beautiful paradox of grace and justice. He made a way where we didn’t get the punishment we deserve. He could have left us all to die without the hope of eternity, and that would have been a definition of justice. But He didn’t leave it at only fairness. His justice is filled with mercy and love, too, and He seeks to bring all of creation back to rightness and perfection.
Because if God wasn’t a God of justice and mercy, He also wouldn’t have had to send Jesus to die for our sins. By sending his son to be punished, God fulfilled the requirements of the law, showing His heart of both justice and of love and mercy.
When I look at the headlines, it is SO easy to write off the hurting. So easy. I mean, why didn’t they try harder in school? Why did they choose to enter that profession? Why did they buy drugs or alcohol with the money for their family? I can think of a million and one reasons why I can shut my eyes and turn away.
But I can think of the one reason why I can’t turn my head on the partnership of justice and mercy: God didn’t turn his head to me. He, full of mercy and love for justice, plowed a path for both justice and grace in my life. And He has commanded me to do the same on the earth.
So what does this mean for me, honestly and practically? It’s a journey I’ve been on ever since I spent every night for three months praying with 40 orphaned children that God would set them in families. But here’s the thing, even four years later, I still have to fight against apathy in my own life and for justice.
Here’s where that quote comes in--I am 100% committed to the reign of God in my community, and that means I am 100% committed to seeing the hurting healed, those in need provided, cared for, and known, and seeing the broken and dark places of Denton redeemed and full of light. If I am committed to the reign of God in Denton, I am committed to seeing justice and mercy reign.
And furthermore, I personally have to commit to giving my hands and feet and time and money to see this happen, not only because I want to see it happen but also because God made sure it happened for me.
How do you do it? I have a few things I do, but I honestly feel like God is calling me to so much more, so I don’t want to sound like I have it together or have something to teach you. But here’s what I am trying to do:
- Research the specific needs of your community. Who is hurting? Where do they live? How are they living? Who is helping them?
- For instance, Denton County has over 800 homeless youth, over 300 prostitutes, and is a major stop along one of the most popular trafficker thoroughfares (I-35). There are 115, 480 individuals in Denton that are classified as Food Insecure (Source).
- Don’t turn away. When I see a shocking news story, I most of the time would rather walk on by than stop and read it. But I have to know the needs, to both honor the people walking that story and to be able to pray about how God can extend redemption to that community, and how I can be a part of it.
- Pray for your church to be the church to people in need. But only do this if YOU are willing to act as the church to people in need.
- Get to know the people in your community that are different than you. Race, class, religion, etc... You can't serve them if you don't know them.
- Give your time away. This is the hardest for me because I would honestly rather read a book each night than attend meetings or hang out with people I don’t know, but every single time I give my time away I walk away knowing Jesus better than I did before.
- Figure out where your strengths and skills meet a need in your community. Take personality and spiritual gift tests. Identify what you really love doing and figure out how it can help. Can you teach a class? Can you run the social media for a ministry? Can you give money? Can you pray? Can you rally people to volunteer? Can you cook a meal?
- Talk with anyone you can about what they see as the biggest needs in the town and find out what they are doing to help. See if there are ways you can join them, either with time or prayer or money.
Just throwing this out there, but I have been super convicted for the last year about the fact that I live in a very Hispanic community and I don’t know any Spanish. We live in a college town and hardly know any college students. There are so many international families in the neighborhoods within walking distance from our church and I personally haven’t done anything to make them feel welcome or invited to our church!
I feel like the Holy Spirit in my soul is just crying out for justice in this city, this country, and the world, and I just can’t, I can’t, I can’t continue to ignore Him.