Referencing The Justice Calling, by Bethany Hoang and Kristen Johnson A woman that endures horrific abuse at the hands of traffickers. A sixteen year old girl who is forced to flee her home to escape rape and abuse from her own family member. A young man that is enslaved in unsafe work conditions with no contact to the outside world. These are the stories often told to highlight injustice and God’s heart for redemption. It is less likely that my everyday life will involve such heart-wrenching stories…or is it?
In an eight week course with Bethany Hoang, co-author with Kristen Johnson of The Justice Calling and speaker and advisor on behalf of International Justice Mission, we had the privilege of unpacking the world’s need for justice in light of a God who loves relentlessly. Hoang’s comprehensive approach to justice revealed that it is intricately woven into God’s character and the entire arc of Scripture. From beginning to end, the Bible speaks of a God that cares deeply about justice, righteousness, and the flourishing of all that he has created. It is safer to consider justice as a concept - a mere abstract idea that floats in conversation rather than exists in action. This course was a reminder that the call to justice is about real people. People suffering from injustice are our neighbors, both nearby and around the world, at this exact moment. Justice is deeply rooted into our lives and the world around us, including our work. If our work is to be a part of our call to live out the Gospel, it is essential that we pursue justice in our 8 to 5. These four themes from the book provide tangible ways to partake in God’s call to justice.
Although not an expected part of seeking justice, Hoang explains that if we can stop before we even start, we begin by remembering who is in control.
“If we stop our ‘doing’ to enter into Sabbath rest, we acknowledge that we are joining God in the work he is already doing in this world and are not ultimately responsible for its success. It is work centered in Jesus Christ, who saves us by grace and yet has created us as his own workmanship to accomplish good things (Ephesians 2:8-10).”
The Sabbath helps us to recognize that our Creator is Lord, and we are not. It is also where we receive the deep restoration, healing, and strength that comes only from the Spirit, so that we can continue to partake in the work God has for us. As we are called to rest, we are also called to extend and provide rest to those around us - especially those who cannot choose it for themselves. By keeping and extending Sabbath, you are offering others a glimpse of God’s character and his deep, deep love for them.
Move Toward Darkness
Not our natural instinct, is it? We would much rather walk in the light than move into dark spaces. Our instinct can be to shrink back - to run away. It may be counterintuitive, but the more we understand we “are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14), because of Christ living within us, the more we will know the strength we possess, even when facing impenetrable darkness. Hoang writes “To find life for ourselves and for the world God is calling us to love, we must run toward the darkness with the light of Christ.” We will not conquer darkness on our own, but pursuing darkness will foster an immediate need for God amidst it. Prayer is critical as we see Jesus as our constant companion that reminds us of our purpose in these dark places. Communing with God will also give us eyes to see the dark spaces that we so often overlook. Part of running toward darkness is about navigating darkness in our own lives, or about having the courage to enter into the darkness with people around us. It is sometimes easier to run toward the blaring injustice we see in the world at large than to walk towards what is close to home.
You Are Not The Hero
Prayerfully moving towards darkness in this world does not mean that we will be able to “fix” anything. The great temptation of our faith is to think it depends on us to change the world and change ourselves. Hoang reminds us that this does not correspond with what we learn in Scripture about God’s relentless grace. To be the hero is a glorious notion. We enter the story at the time of crisis and change the situation for the better. But in this scenario, the hero becomes the center of the story. They can take the credit, and all of the blame if they fail. Hoang and Johnson argue that the “hero calling” is not sustainable. While it might arise from one’s fiery passion for justice, it does not allow that passion to be transformed into perseverance when brokenness and opposition are met along the way. The word hero is accepted in our society. If you call someone a saint, it is usually prerogative, but this is the idea that Hoang and Johnson propose. “Saint” is never used as a singular word in scripture, but always plural, as a body of people. Saints, in the true meaning of the word, do not save the day. They don’t “provide decisive action that changes everything for good because Jesus Christ already has.” They don’t have to depend on themselves because God is at the center of the story they are living, and He is ultimately responsible for how it ends.
The final discussion in this comprehensive view to justice may be the most powerful, and yet the most unexpected. The night before his crucifixion, Jesus described himself as “the true vine” (John 15:1). Those who follow him are branches of this vine. If we remain in him we will bear much fruit, but apart from him we can do nothing. Apart from him we can do nothing… this means that without a deep connection to Jesus Christ, our very best efforts to pursue justice are fruitless. “Working against all that is broken in this world begins and ends with seeking God, who loves justice and longs for this world to flourish.” The work of justice is long and full of difficulty. But with each step we take, we are rooted deeper into this unfathomable, abiding space that brings fullness to us. Without Christ, we will wither, but with Him, we can continue the fight for justice for the long haul.
Pursuing justice in our workplace is no different. The suffering, oppression, inequality, and struggle exist in every city around the world, in every office building, every cubicle, and in every heart. We are all in need of Christ and the redemption He brings. Just as The Justice Calling was written as a comprehensive biblical theology, the need for justice in our lives is all encompassing. God desires for the entirety of his creation to flourish. Our work is no exception.