Why are so many of us upset about the concept of Social Justice?
Simply hearing the phrase Social Justice can make us cringe.
A major problem with our dialogue concerning Social Justice today is that it immediately enters into politics and government (at least in America). We discuss federal and state legislation, raising the minimum wage, and universal healthcare, and we make decisions that affect people that we don’t even know (for the most part, the rich and powerful deciding on behalf of all others).
But in my mind, the biggest issue is that our dialogue often lacks any sort of community with those whom social justice is most concerned. More often than not, we find ourselves surrounded with people that are very similar to us - racially and ethnically, sexual-orientationally, socio-economically, politically - and so, any discussion about social justice is concerning the other, or even worse, it turns into an us versus them conversation.
And this is where the most necessary change needs to occur in our lives.
If we are going to be concerned with issues of Social Justice, we must follow the Biblical principle of becoming one with the outcast, the enslaved, the poor and marginalized, the widow and the orphaned, the imprisoned (guilty and not guilty).
We should choose to live in places where poverty, lack of education, and incarceration are the norm, because it is in these situations where Jesus implanted himself.
We should be neighbors and best friends with people that are less educated and generate less income than we do, and we should be neighbors and best friends with people that are more educated and generate more income than we do.
We should choose to live in community with one another and right next to each other because then we can together pursue Social Justice that follows the Biblical model of Jesus Christ becoming a human being.
Something that only some people know about the story of Amor Ministries is that when it started in the 1980’s, we served in urban inner-city communities in Orange County and then in San Diego when we moved here in 1988. A major reason for the move to San Diego was to be in a location that was close to the border as the number of participants was continually growing. As my parents developed this plan, my mom stated one desire, “If we move to San Diego, we will live in an underserved community.” We landed in City Heights, a three-minute drive from Crawford High School and Horace Mann Middle School. My parents started a church, Community Christian Church, in an area known for its racial and ethnic diversity, high crime rate and low median household income. I was one of the only white kids at my school and at the church.
As a family and a ministry, we served alongside families in a community that was ours, not just theirs.
While we could have lived in the suburbs or other more socio-economically developed communities, my parents strategically placed us where they believed Jesus would be. They put us in a place where God wanted us to be, and because of this, I grew up thinking of the issues of poverty as my own even if I wasn’t necessarily living in poverty.
I went to church with people that were homeless, so their life struggles became ours.
I attended school with kids whose pops were in jail, so their anger and sadness became ours.
I had sisters and brothers that came and lived with us. Their greatest hope was to be the first college graduate from their family, so their pursuit became ours.
They came into a home with an only child, so they became my sisters and brothers.
They joined a family that was committed to working alongside families in Mexico, so they went to Mexico and built houses alongside of families.
They entered a church that believed in the holistic gospel of Jesus Christ, so they committed themselves to lives pursuing excellence in every area.
We all became the reality of Proverbs 27:17 where iron sharpens iron because we were, in the most beautiful sense, the genuinely diverse community of God. It was here that we found that the us versus them dialogue did not work. We broke down each others barriers and walls. We destroyed the boxes of thinking that we had locked ourselves in. And it was from here that together we were able to march hand in hand toward the mountain top where “every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight ‘and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together’” (Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have a Dream”).
From my experience, this is precisely where Social Justice becomes Biblical Justice because those with power and rights and education and resources become willing to use all that they have, and even to do away with all of it because they have become one with those that do not. The issues of injustice are no longer stats and issues read about on the internet; rather, the pursuit of justice has become people that have become family whose experience of injustice is mine just as much as it is theirs.
So, the challenge is there. Jesus wrote and lived out the blueprint - leaving his place of power and authority and divinity, comfort and security for a place of powerlessness and weakness and humanity, discomfort and danger. Jesus left it all to become one with those to whom his Father sent him. Will we follow Him and pursue Biblical Justice?
When confronted with that question, we tend to ask ourselves, "what now?". Here is a small step that you can do right now to come alongside families that live in Juarez, Mexico through Casa de Amor. For many years, we worked alongside of pastors and families in this city, building houses for people that do not have a solid foundation and roof to protect them. Now, we are co-laboring with the communities there by purchasing the materials needed to build houses and the people of Juarez are building the houses for families in their communities. Join us in this effort to continue to provide transformational experiences in Ciudad Juarez!