“The truth is, we are all giving our lives away…”
Pursuing Justice showed up in my mailbox sometime before Christmas, and then sat on the workbench in my garage for a few months. I’m not sure why I put off reading it for so long – maybe because the idea of reading and reviewing books still reminds me a little bit of college, and it’s much easier to spend the evenings watching Netflix on my oversized TV. Or maybe it’s because I knew from the title that this book, like Red Letter Revolution, would walk right up in my face and smack me and leave me questioning my entire lifestyle (especially my oversized TV).
But once I finally picked up Pursuing Justice, I had a hard time putting it down. I read most of it in one night, circling and underlining paragraphs like an over-eager freshman, turning pages at a rate that would make Good Will Hunting proud. And now, on the day of the book’s official launch, I am here to break it all down for you so that you don’t even have to read it yourself. Just kidding. I’m gonna tell you just enough about the book to make you want to order it on Amazon, and then leave you with a fistful of quotes that you can feed into the Twitter machine and spray out across the interwebs for the good of the people whilst waiting for your very own copy to arrive in the mail.
As Ken Wytsma notes throughout the book, “social justice” has somehow acquired a sort of political designation over recent decades. For a while, it was the nearly exclusive property of the “liberals”, whilst the “evangelicals” focused on, well, evangelism. Now, “justice” is making a comeback in popularity amongst the trendy Scripture-tattoo v-neck Christian generation (a group which includes me and my sadly ink-free skin). However, Wytsma digs into the Bible and emerges with a pile of Bible verses which make a pretty compelling case for “justice” at the heart of all Christian faith and expression. (see: the book of James). Throughout Pursing Justice, he answers some basic but important questions:
What is justice? Why does it matter? How should it affect my life?
And instead of providing easy answers to these difficult questions, he leads us into a conversation that is just the starting point for a justice-oriented life. A righteous life requires more than just the avoiding of sinful actions; it demands that we labor along with Jesus to heal the brokenness in the world because of sin. I love that his reference for justice is shalom. “Injustice and sin”, he writes, “tears the fabric of shalom. The astonishing reality is that we are also part of God’s plan for meding the fabric of shalom.” This is his starting point. All the details – the specifics of a justice-centered life – are shards in the mosaic of justice that God is creating.
God has given all of us a deep desire for happiness. Sadly, we usually try to find happiness by piling up wealth and comfort around us. But Wytsma suggests that the desire for happiness is only fulfilled when we live for something bigger than ourselves, when we live for justice.
“The truth is, we are all giving our lives away – the only question is, to what?”
That’s all I have for now. Buy the book. Read it. Let its words sit with you. Underline some stuff. Let Jesus whisper into your heart about what you should do. Listen to his invitation to join Him in the big, beautiful work of justice.
And now, as promised, here are a few words from the pages of Pursing Justice for your copy/paste pleasure:
“Pure religion, then, is a reflection of God’s love.”
“God’s heart beats with justice.”
“He is greatly concerned with how we treat each other, our use of material wealth, and the extent to which we care for the marginalized.”
“All too often, we fixate on the static study of God at the expense of participating in what God is doing in the world.”
“God’s love in us should compel us to be tangibly involved in the needs of the world.”
“Justice has no finish line.”
“The way we consume directly affects the lived realities of other people, whether we want it to or not.”
“God never asks us to choose between doing justice and loving Him… He asks us to do both at once.”
“Grace allows the unjust to stand next to a just God as if we are just. It covers our sins and reconciles us to God.”
“Justice is a thread running throughout the gospel.”
BONUS: If you buy this book, you’ll learn the dark history behind “eenie meanie miney moe.” Spoiler alert: It’s about slavery and rape.