Christian Social Justice

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
love and faithfulness go before you.
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
who walk in the light of your presence, LORD. (Psalm 89:14-15)

What is Christian social justice? Put simply, justice is making things right. When the psalm says that justice and righteousness are the foundation of God’s throne, it means that God brings justice by making things right. Are you hungry? Let me make it right by feeding you. Are you thirsty? Let me make it right by building you a well and bringing safe water to your family and community. Are you an orphan, with no home and no mom and dad? Let me help you to an orphanage. Are you a slave, working for no pay, not allowed to leave? Let me free you. Let me make things right for you, because I know that when I do it for you, I do it for Jesus.

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It can be pretty tough to respond to injustice without anger. While there are times when it’s appropriate, anger is not always the response of wisdom. When you respond to the hunger, thirst, homelessness, loneliness, and enslavement of fellow human beings, especially children, you need to use wisdom. Through wisdom, you can find lasting, sustainable solutions to the problems facing people in poverty-stricken areas. When you act with anger, you might alienate people. When you use wisdom, you can get them to listen to you.

One misconception people have is that Jesus went around making things right in anger, but I can only think of a couple of times when Jesus got angry. He got angry with the Pharisees, calling them “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27) and a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:33). He only did that because the Pharisees were the religious teachers of Jesus’ time, and teachers are held to a stricter standard (James 3:1). Jesus told the Pharisees, “You represent my Father, and yet you act like this, judging people and casting them out of society. That’s not okay. Do not claim to be guardians of the truth, and then turn around and judge people. When you do that, you misrepresent my Father.”

Of course, we don’t know that Jesus spoke to the Pharisees with rage in His voice. That’s not a conclusion I would leap to. I’m pretty sure that Jesus was fairly self-controlled. Think of the other time He got angry, when He drove the money changers out of the Temple (Matthew 21:12-13). He flipped the tables and drove them out, but when He did it, people listened to Him. That’s because they already knew who He was, and they trusted Him. They’d seen Him do miracles, signs, and wonders. They’d seen Him love on people. You see? Before He flipped a single table, Jesus had already earned the people’s trust. So when He got upset, people didn’t write Him off. They wanted to know why He was angry.

We can learn a lot from Jesus. If we talk to people about social justice with anger, then they won’t listen to us. Why would they? To make things right, we need to use wisdom, just like He did. Jesus served in love! There’s no other way to go.

To reflect the justice and righteousness of our Father, we need to ask for wisdom. We need to ask for calm. We need to ask to be loving and kind, peaceful and self-controlled, and full of mercy and grace. That’s how Jesus did it, and when we walk in the light of His presence, then those around us will feel nothing but love, and grace, and mercy. That is Christian social justice. That is making things right.

See you Monday.

Abundance: Simpler Than We Realize

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10

Abundant life! What a gift! But what is it? An abundant life is a life without need. You don’t need to find food, because you have food. You don’t need to find water, because you have water. You don’t need to find a place to live, because you live somewhere. You don’t need to find a job. You have one.

It doesn’t mean you have millions of dollars. We think “abundance” and we see dollar signs. I think that’s America. But abundance is much simpler than that. Abundance is having enough, plus something for somebody else. If you have enough, and you have extra, then you live in abundance.

Clean water is abundant life.  We saw the joy clean water brings when Generation Alive built a well in a Ugandan village.

Clean water is abundant life. We saw the joy clean water brings when Generation Alive built a well in a Ugandan village.

Think of what abundance means in other parts of the world. There are so many places where people are locked in a daily struggle to keep themselves together, body and soul. You could go to any one of those places and ask, “What does abundance mean to you?” And they’ll say, “Abundance is a home. I don’t care if it’s a 600 square foot home. It’s a home. My family doesn’t have to live on the street. My kids are going to school. I’ve got a job and we’ve got food on the table. I’ve got access to a well with fresh water, so my kids aren’t dying of dysentery. Now that’s abundance. I know what it was like to try to live without a home, a job, clean water, and food. When I have these things, my family is safe. That’s abundance!”

Sometimes we struggle to understand the simplicity of abundance because we live in a consumer culture. It’s hard for us to see it, but consumerism can actually kill people. We get caught up in buying stuff that we don’t even need, while there are people around us who will literally die if they don’t get our help. That’s the situation we’re in.

I know people are going to tell me, “Well, Jeremy, you have stuff.” And it’s true. I mean, I have an iPad, an iPhone, and a laptop. I can access the internet with three different devices, all at the same time! Do I need to do that? It’s probably excessive. But I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have anything. I’m not saying that you should never buy anything for yourself. I’m only saying that we also need to have a mindset to help someone in need. If our drive, our heart, and our focus is simply to make sure that we have what we need, then we have the wrong heart. If we’re always thinking about what we want and what we’re going to get, and at the same time we don’t have a thought for anybody else, then we’re being shallow. We have the wrong mindset.

Jesus came so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. When He came, He gave us the message, He gave us the example, and He gave us abundance in Him. When He left, these things didn’t leave with Him. He gave them to us so that we’d live accordingly. Now we are His ambassadors! So if we are to represent Him, we need to focus our minds and hearts on bringing abundance to others.

See you Monday.

Abundant Life

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10

Abundant life! What does that mean? Well, abundant life is a life that is not in need. It doesn’t mean you have millions of dollars. It means you don’t need to find food, because you have food. You don’t need to find water, because you have water. You don’t need to find a place to live, because you live somewhere. You don’t need to find a job, because you have a job. If you have enough, and you have extra, then you live in abundance.

If you could go around the world and ask people, “What does abundance mean to you,” a lot of them will tell you, “You know when I have abundance? It’s when I’ve got a home. I don’t care if it’s a 600 square foot home. It’s a home. Even in a small home, my family doesn’t have to live on the streets. Abundance is when we’ve got a well to get fresh water, so my kids aren’t dying of dysentery. Abundance is when I’ve got a job so that my kids are going to school and we’ve got food on the table. That’s abundance. I know what it’s like not to have those things. When I have them? And my family’s safe? That’s abundance.”

Sometimes Americans have trouble grasping just how much we have. We’re so accustomed to abundance that we don’t recognize it! Instead we define abundance by how much we can buy. But consumerism can actually kill people. We can get caught up in buying more stuff, and people that need our help can die.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have anything. It comes down to what you have in your heart. We have to have it in our hearts to help those in need. I’m not saying that you should never buy anything for yourself. I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying that if our drive, our heart, our focus, is simply to make sure we have what we need, then we have the wrong heart. If we’re always saying, “I want this and I want that, and I know I could live without it but I’m going to get it and I’m going to get that too,” and we don’t have a thought for anybody else, then we have the wrong mindset.

An abundant lifestyle is so much more than having a lot of consumer goods. We think “abundance” and we see dollar signs. I think that’s America. But abundance can mean something really different in other parts of the world. Let’s learn to think about abundance in a new way. Let’s say that abundance is having enough, plus some for somebody else.

Jesus said He came so that we may have life and life abundantly. He gave us the message, He gave us the example, and He gave us that quality of life when He was on earth. These things didn’t leave with Him when He left! He gave them so that we’d live by them. As Christians, we’re ambassadors for Christ! It’s our awesome calling to represent Him.

How do you know when you have enough? This is where reverential fear can help you. More on this next time. See you Thursday.

Sharing Abundance

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10

Abundant life! What does that mean? Well, abundant life is a life that is not in need. You don’t need to find food, you have it. You don’t need to find water, you have it. You don’t need to find a place to live, you live somewhere. You don’t need to find a job, you have a job.

It doesn’t mean you have millions of dollars. I think abundance is having enough, plus some for somebody else. And if you have enough, and you have extra, then you live in abundance. Continue reading

Your Neighbor is Hungry!

When I first started learning about the love-your-neighbor-as-yourself mentality, my spirit grabbed it. I mean, I was really excited. I said, “This is it!”

But then when God started teaching me about poverty, I really started digging. I’ve been researching poverty ever since. Poverty is a whole world of interconnected causes and consequences. The more I learned, the more I understood poverty’s complications, and the more I understood how people get trapped in it. And I could feel myself shifting.

I used to look at a homeless guy and say, “Man, you know what, how about you just go get a job. Shave, and go get a job at McDonald’s. It’s not that hard.” That’s how I used to look at it. I had no compassion. Continue reading

Know Your Neighbor’s Needs

The first great commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself. The day I realized that these are not two commandments, but one single commandment, was a day of revelation for me. It took me a few years of searching to see it, but when this realization came home, then BAM! I thought I knew all I needed to know. I was so excited to get started. So I founded an organization called Generation Alive.

Initially, it was about training young people to lead, and to dream really big. That’s why I started Generation Alive. I said, “Okay, you know, I have to figure out some way to love my neighbor as myself. I want to love on young people. I want to tell them to dream really big.” So I got this huge idea to start a non-profit. I hired a guy to serve as Generation Alive’s director. We got into a couple of schools, and we talked about dreaming big. It seemed like it was going well, but nothing ever really caught on. Generation Alive was failing. Continue reading

Abundant Life

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10

Abundant life! What does that mean? Well, abundant life is a life that is not in need. It doesn’t mean you have millions of dollars. It means you don’t need to find food, because you have food. You don’t need to find water, because you have water. You don’t need to find a place to live, because you live somewhere. You don’t need to find a job, because you have a job. If you have enough, and you have extra, then you live in abundance. Continue reading