Let me preface this by saying that ‘we’ means “me and the horse I rode in on.” Pretty much everything I write says more about me and my history and journey than it says about anyone else. That’s especially true when I’m trying to correct what I see as misunderstandings in the Church.
Having said that, four convictions about Kingdom justice have been growing in my heart:
— Recovering the Gospel. We have made some great progress in refocusing people away from programs and onto the simple Gospel, but we still have a long way to go. Too many of us don’t understand that salvation is more than spiritual rebirth. Our people don’t adequately understand that salvation includes growing in maturity. They see the abundant life of walking in God’s path as somehow an add-on. Discipleship comes after salvation, instead of being part of it. If we want people to understand the importance of doing justice, we need to help them see salvation more broadly, as the redemption of souls in captivity, as whole-life transformation. Salvation is journey and destination, as well as the metanoia moment.
— Local focus, near and far. The problems are big and complex, and our tendency is to look for big solutions … or think we’re too small to make a difference. We give influence to people who promise big fixes, who then blame “the other guys” when those big plans are stymied or fail. The truth is, transformation is about communities and neighborhoods. We need big vision focused on a small scale, whether it’s down the street or halfway around the world.
— Redemptive personal relationships. While we will make more progress with a small-scale focus on communities and neighborhoods, transformation is first and foremost a personal, individual experience. We will not see communities transformed apart from the transformation of individuals in that community. Neighborhood change is the multiplication of changed individuals. Doing justice is not fundamentally about program or organization. It’s about one redeemed individual helping another individual find new life and learn how to walk in God’s path.
— Tools to help churches and individuals. The problems people face, as individuals and in community, are complex. While a simple gesture like a box of food communicates God’s love in a powerful way, and while opening my heart to Christ the first time was not complicated, most people’s problems are not easily sorted out and solved. Walking naively into someone’s messy life usually ends in frustration and failure. Churches and individuals need tools to help them assess the range of problems they are confronting, engage in dialogue that identifies the solutions needing to be pursued in each case, and chart a course for development that leads to improvement.