Many Christians I know hold up Micah 6:8 as one of the prime examples of how to live a Christian life. The verse is often translated: “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God?” Really nice sentiments, and honestly, not a bad way to live. I think we could all use a little more justice, kindness, and humility in our lives…
I’d also like to offer an alternative translation to “do justice.” One of the ways the word ‘do’ can be translated in Hebrew is ‘make.’ How does that change our understanding of how we are called to be in this world if we are called to make justice, rather than just doing justice?
I think the whole enterprise becomes explicitly communal, as opposed to individualistic. As an example, if I’m called to do justice, that tells me how I should be in my interactions with others, but it doesn’t necessarily convict me to do anything. Conversely, if I’m called to make justice, there’s a clear call to action in those words; I’m being called to specific action, to recognize and name that injustice exists, and to actively work to see that injustice is made right, while still dealing justly in my interactions with others. As Lutherans love to say, it’s not an ‘either/or,’ it’s a ‘both/and.’
Many North American churches these days, particularly the ones that are doing well financially or growing in numbers do a really great job at charity. That is, we’re great at giving money away, but often that’s all we will do. There’s a hesitance, or sometimes even a resistance, to committing ourselves to the work of justice. Advocacy and justice are different things from charity. Charity often implies that if I give enough money to something, it will go away. Advocacy and justice means that I recognize that there are systemic problems in our society, and those require changes in the way things are done. And sometimes those changes involve dismantling years and decades and centuries and, sometimes, millennia of entrenched status quo and “the way things have always been done.”
This past Saturday, a group of 4 of us from Luther Memorial attended the 132nd Annual Assembly of the Community Renewal Society. It was a morning full of worship, prayer, visioning, and organizing. There was some business to take care of, such as elections and reports, but after that, the real work began. Community Renewal Society has constructed a Renewal Platform that will guide their work for the next year. This platform is focused primarily on justice system reform, such as anti-violence and restorative justice programs. One of the first goals of this platform is to call for an increase in the Cook County Budget by putting an additional $1 million into the Violence Prevention, Intervention, and Reduction Grants for the 2015 Budget Year.
During the Platform portion of the Assembly, CRS invited some of the Cook County Commissioners to be present and asked for their verbal commitment to this goal. 4 Commissioners accepted CRS’ invitation and they all agreed to help push their colleagues on this matter. The Platform is off to a great start!
To get policy makers and stake holders to make firm commitments to effect systemic change is what the work of community organizing is all about.
As people of faith, we have strong convictions and clear ideas about what life together in the kingdom of God should look like. As citizens, we are all involved in the political processes through elections, town meetings, and conversations with our representatives. Community organizations like Community Renewal Society give churches a united voice and an arena in which to coalesce those convictions and ideas and seek to effect systemic change through those political processes. We’ve long held on to this idea of separation of church and state, when the truth is, we all inhabit both of these spheres simultaneously every day.
As people of faith we have a clear call from God to be God’s hands and feet in the world. These feet and hands are not passive, they are active and busy and working. They are also open and inviting and loving and embracing. I hope you’ll join us in our work to make justice in our world, for the sake of the one who has shown us what justice is.