“Faithful political action is about pursuing public justice.” – Rev. Dr. Michael Goheen in Seeking the Justice of the Kingdom
This post is the 2nd in a 3-part introductory series entitled, “Politics with Jesus in Mind.” The first post was: How the Hope of Belonging to Jesus Shapes Our Politics
The Faithful Pursuit of Justice Revealed by the Story of God
As we continue this introduction to being conformed to Christ and seeking His Kingdom first in relation to how we engage each other and practice politics, I wanted to also reference theologian and practitioner Michael W. Goheen.
Rev. Dr. Goheen writes about the story of God, including how it must be our foundation for faithful political action and justice: As Christians we believe that the Bible tells the true story of the world. It is a story of God’s renewing and healing work to restore His just rule over the whole creation. It is a story of God’s battle against human sin and injustice for the sake of the world He loves. It is a story that involves His chosen people in His journey to participate in His redemptive work. Our answers to questions of public justice and of political action must be found in this story (Seeking the Justice of the Kingdom).
As we grow in wisdom, listening, understanding, and communication about politics with Jesus in mind, do we live in the reality that justice is a core theme to God’s action in the world as our Creator, Righteous Judge, Redeemer, and Advocate?
I think the Bible Project’s video on justice included in the previous post provides a thoughtful introduction for learning and communicating about this. Two other voices that I have also greatly benefited from in understanding our justice calling in the Story of God are Bethany Hanke Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson.
Dr. Cornel West said, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” In order to continue to be oriented to a Kingdom view of faithful political action that pursues justice in public, I would highly recommend reading The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance by these wise, experienced, and faithful women. Their book is brief (less than 200 pages), potent, rich, and provides a wonderful scope from Genesis to Revelation showing how God planned and continues to govern our world with us with justice and peace. From the beginning, He has invited us into being the co-regents He made us to be as His image bearers and creation cultivators that aim to bless because we have been blessed. This can and should shape our view of His Kingdom near and coming fully while we engage our current politics in this world that belongs to Him.
Below are links that provide some introductions to the content of The Justice Calling in relation to the arc of Scripture:
Considerations for Conversation
Does Jesus’ View of Justice Shape My View of Politics?
Ruth Padilla Deborst, director of Christian Formation and Leadership Development with World Vision International and board member of the Latin American Theological Fellowship, provides a thoughtful quote at the beginning of The Justice Calling that can help us enter into the Story of God in order to seek first His Kingdom of justice and righteousness as we re-orient again and again to politics and justice with Jesus in mind:
‘I often think about the disciples on the way to Emmaus. When they were blind to Jesus, He explained ‘all the Scriptures.’ Too often we don’t look at all the Scripture, all of life, and God’s comprehensive intentions of not leaving any corner of the earth untouched by His love.’ Jesus is with us on this road, just as He was with the disciples, and by His Spirit He will provide everything we need to know and understand the interconnected story of Scripture more deeply, to love the world and those in it, and to join Him in all He is doing in this world. As we wade into the murky waters of injustice, corruption, and violence, we need to know God’s Word in such a way that we are buttressed by its truth in the face of darkness and lies. We need to be immersed in the story of Scripture to see more and more of the God who is leading us and calling us as we follow Him beyond the borders of what we know. If we ask God to help us better know the entire story of Scripture, God will show us not only His consistent concern for justice but also His consistent calling to His people to seek justice in the world (The Justice Calling, pg. 16).
When was the last time you stopped to ask God for help to better know the entire story of Scripture in relation to His justice and righteousness so that it might transform your approach to politics?
Have you recently had a conversation with someone of a different political party, ethnicity, culture, etc., in relation to why they voted differently than you because of their desire for justice in which you listened and did not defend yourself or criticize their political philosophy?
Would you be willing to humbly pray to ask Jesus to lead you into considerations of His justice and righteousness in the realm of politics beyond the borders of what you know today?
As Eugene Cho, author and President/CEO of Bread for the World, says in his recent book Thou Shalt Not Be a Jerk: A Christian’s Guide to Engaging Politics:
If we want to be a people who bring hope and healing to a broken culture, with the message of Jesus, we must be willing to scoot over to make room at the table for the untouchables, no matter who they might be.
Who are your “untouchables,” and how are you learning to sit with them and listen?
Becoming the People of God Who Exercise the Kindness, Justice, and Righteousness of God with Him for Others
If we continue to root ourselves with this God of the Scriptures who loves righteousness and justice (Psalm 33:5) and exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness because in these He delights (Jeremiah 9:24), I think we can discover just how much our love for Him will become exercised in embodying kindness, justice, and righteousness for others with Him. Jim Martin, vice president of spiritual formation for the International Justice Mission, writes:
The God who is love calls the people of God to love. That same God who is just calls the same people to do justice. To extract or to separate love and justice from the character of God would be impossible, just as it should mean these qualities in action are inextricable from God’s people. The body of Christ is meant to be the enactment of God’s life in the world. Jesus says the evidence will be measured by whether we actually live our calling. It’s not whether our lips say Amen, but whether our lives do. Our lives are to be recast, reordered, and filled by God’s love and by the world’s need (The Just Church).
If we continue to pray, ask for the Holy Spirit’s help, and return to the Story of God in the Scriptures with others who are different than us in political party, culture, ethnicity, etc., I think we will move towards bearing the fruit of the Spirit in our political motivations, conversations, and actions as Jim Skillen invites all of us to consider:
A Christian view of justice, a Christian view of modern politics, I believe, should be built on this understanding of God’s gracious patience during this age. It would not be Christian justice for Christians to enjoy some political privilege denied to others. A just state, a just world, is one in which all citizens enjoy the same civil rights and public care. Christian politics cannot be the Church’s attempt to control the state for its own well-being. Christian politics cannot be constituted by typical interest-group competition to make sure that Christians get their way while others have to fend for themselves (“The Bible, Politics, and Democracy: What Does Biblical Obedience Entail for American Political Thought” in Confessing Christ in Doing Politics).
Christian politics will grow when Christians begin to take seriously Christ’s command for us to love our neighbors. The love command will lead us to be dissatisfied with the unloving injustice of … every type of organization of political life which discriminates against some to the advantage of others (“Public Justice and True Tolerance” in Confessing Christ in Doing Politics).
>>Continue reading Part 3 of this series: Listening to and Pursing Unity with Jesus’ Church.