Sometimes I feel like giving up on trying to make a difference in the world. Life can be too hard and it can hurt too much. It can feel like I’m not making a dent. I can feel miserable and frustrated with the way things are.
I was encouraged by a youtube clip about justice. It reminded me that being the church – following Jesus, doing mission, working for justice, and bringing the kingdom of God (heaven) to earth – isn’t sexy. It isn’t hip, clean, prestigious, or flashy. There is no glitz and glamour here. As soon as working for justice becomes about me, making myself look and feel good, then I’ve missed it. I’ve got the wrong heart. Working for justice is messy. It’s horrible, dirty, painful, and hard. Why do I keep looking for things to be easy, clean, and pain-free?
Sometimes I want to wash my hands of me, the church, humanity and the world. I want to walk away and be done with it and go to something cleaner. But God never washes his hands of me, his church, humanity or the world. When we continually war with each other and tear each other apart, God never walks away from us. Instead he got right into the mess and became flesh to make things right. So when I find myself in mess, I can know I’m in the right place. When the mess of injustice is painful, uncomfortable and makes me cry, I can know I need to stay there and not walk away from it.
It baffles me that God’s plan to bring justice to the world includes people being his hands and feet. Have you seen what people do to each other, God? Have you seen what your church does to each other? Have you seen how people view the church? Have you seen how I view the church? But we are plan A, there is no plan B. So washing my hands and walking away is not an option.
I can get so frustrated and miserable about the church because we are God’s plan A. Man, that sucks on one hand. It is so ridiculously messy. Sometimes I just want to walk out of the church and not be associated with it and the negative views we get. But being part of the church is what I’m called to. I am part of the church, I am in the thick of the mess. And this is where I’m to stay. Working for justice while being ridiculed, misunderstood and unaccepted by both those in the church and those out of the church. It isn’t always fun or comfortable but that isn’t a reason to go looking for outs. God never looked for an out. He stepped right in.
On the other hand, being God’s plan A is humbling. It is the genius of God that people are his plan A. It is genius only because one day the church will be people of justice and on that day we will reflect God fully. But as I was challenged a few years ago: why wait for one day? I need to do what I can to bring justice now.
What I mean when I say justice:
Treating people well and valuing people. Loving God, ourselves and others with our thoughts, words and actions. Being the church and doing mission. Bringing the kingdom of God (heaven) to earth. The restoration of all things.
What justice looks like:
No revenge just because of a bad feeling inside us. No attacks just because we fear people different from us and don’t understand them. No oppression just because we want to keep our position of power and comfort. No murder just because we don’t know how to get along with people. No hatred, cruelty, self-harm or unforgiveness just because we don’t know how to love ourselves and love others.
What it looks like bringing justice in an unjust world:
Mess. Uncertainty. Choices between two wrongs. Treated badly when standing up for what is right and going against the grain. Enduring the pain of being treated unjustly and seeing people treated unjustly when we’re doing everything we can to bring justice. Enduring the pain when we get it wrong and our brothers and sisters in Christ get it wrong and we become agents of injustice. Accepting the consequences when we get it wrong. Loving those we have wronged and who wrong us. Loving those who don’t agree with us, understand us or like us. Loving the unjust as much as those who are treated unjustly.
Am I willing to bring justice?
Am I willing to give up my comfort so others can have justice? Am I willing to be part of the church and accept the disagreements and negative associations that may come with it? Am I willing to accept accusations without defending myself, either because the accusations are true or because defending myself wouldn’t help bring justice? Am I willing to let working for justice speak for itself even though it sometimes appears it is futile? Am I willing to do what it takes to stand up and say: ‘Hey, this isn’t right. We don’t get to treat people like this.’ Am I willing to stay in this mess and learn to be okay with the discomfort and frustration, pain and tears?
I want to say to myself:
JD, don’t let the remorse for our own acts of injustice overwhelm you. Keep bringing justice. Don’t let the injustice you receive overwhelm you. Keep bringing justice. Don’t let the injustice you see all around you overwhelm you. Keep bringing justice. It isn’t a lost cause. Don’t give up. Don’t wash your hands. Don’t walk away. Stay in the mess. Keep your hands dirty. Keeping going when it’s frustrating, horrible, hard, and painful.
God entered the mess so one day injustice will not exist. Do what you can this day and every day to see this reality. Don’t give up on the church or this world. Too hard, too painful, too messy? No excuse. God became a man and died on a cross. He put aside his own comfort to bring justice to the world. He loves the church and he loves the Earth. He persists with his plan of using his church to bring justice to the Earth. So work with the church no matter how messy. Put aside your frustration and work for unity to bring justice.