For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
– Psalm 139
It really bothers me when something’s “not fair.”
We all have a “fairness barometer” in our gut. For some the needle just swings a little farther, and we react more strongly to injustice. I am one of those people.
I wouldn’t say my passion for justice came from my family. My parents were of the deference-to-authority generation, “If the doctor says lop it off, then lop it off.” (Not an actual quote but I can hear it as if it was.)
My father, a farmer, was a deep-rooted conservationist, a trait that came naturally to one who spent is life bringing life from the soil. I believe I inherited some of that passion.
But when it came to things political, I learned early not to talk politics around the dinner table. We were on totally different ends of the political spectrum and the space between could be a minefield.
I also can’t say that church triggered my activism. What I recall from Sunday School could be told on a flannel graph, and the rest of church seemed to be mostly of the be-a-good-person ilk.
Later I would attend more lively evangelical church groups in the city. But standing in solidarity with others didn’t get more radical than providing fellowship in a downtown coffee house ministry.
So then, where did my sense of justice come from?
My first stirrings of “we’ve got to do something about this” came outside of church. It was in an Oxfam Miles for Millions walk. We walked 40 miles, totally unprepared (I was sure I would die of blisters and sunburn). But wow, did it feel good to do something that helped those in need half way around the world. I knew something deep inside had stirred.
Later, in university, my Christian faith and my growing passion for justice finally met each other for the first time. Jim Wallis, of Sojourners, a U.S. Christian social justice organization, came to campus. Here was a man whose deep passion for justice was firmly rooted in his heart for God and God’s people.
Wallis told his own formation story of how he and a seminary buddy had cut all the verses relating to the poor and social and economic justice from a Bible. Cutting out some 2000 verses – a full one quarter of scriptures – left a Bible that literally could not hold together.
But what really stayed with me was when, after firing us up about God’s deep desire for justice, he quietly asked us a question. In view of those over 2000 verses, how often did we hear sermons or prayers on justice in our church communities?
The scripture at the top of this post points to where I think the desire for justice originates. While life experiences, and people I have encountered, have fanned the flames of my passion, I believe the fire was always there, an innate part of how my soul was knit together by a loving God. I believe this is the case for all of us.
In my next post, I’ll speak of working overseas, and some of the people and movements that have informed my thinking on justice and the church.
Until then, if you want to discover some of God’s messages on justice for yourself, check out the “Justice” section of our Resource page.