Injustice is not okay.
In recent years, people have been waking up, some for the first time to the reality that systems do not work for everyone, that civic engagement is important and that leadership is needed to unite a divided people. Throughout history the fight for human and civil rights has never been just one issue at one time, in one location, affording one solution, march, mobilizing effort or request.
It has always been a series of necessary actions, spanning over decades. These ongoing actions, responding to the wisdom crying in the streets (Proverbs 1:20-22) is something that the church needs to acknowledge and wrestle with: how do we respond to injustice?
As the Church, we have spent much of our time proclaiming the good news of the gospel to the individual and not enough time demonstrating it for the holistic flourishing of all people. We need to move toward substantive, restorative action that moves against the current of conformity, demanding a better, more just way forward. And, here’s the truth, confronting injustice is not new nor is it mission drift for the people of God.
From the early days of the prophets who confronted leaders accused of the very same injustices leaders are today, to Jesus who stood tall against the rulers of his day, calling out their disregard for the marginalized and use of power to perpetuate fear, the Bible clearly shows how important and familiar this practice of faith is. Jesus’ radical message of a new kingdom defied power, religious practices and superiority.
Evidenced in humbly coming to earth, he demonstrated for us a new way forward, weaving together the justice of God with the sacrificial love of Christ. We see in I John 3:18 that it is not enough to simply love in words and in speech but we must also love in action and in truth.
Today, people are working to build power in the streets and confront formal power to make change, whether the church is aware of them or not. They are shaping and sharing a much-needed message for change. As the church we need to care enough to listen, to learn from and to join – whatever is needed – toward a more proximate justice. In joining we better understand the prophet Amos – who bore witness and stood up to the extreme injustices of his day and cried, “oh that justice would roll down like a river and righteousness like a never-ending stream.” (Isaiah 5:24)
The gospel of Christ is a restorative work whose center is God’s heart for justice. To be able to see pain, brokenness, injustice and oppression is a grace. To tell its truth is transformative.
When we join Christ in his restorative work toward individual, societal or structural entities, we join his kingdom justice. Our living, public witness to the wholeness of God’s restoration is the good, necessary work of the people of God.
Honest action that is founded on the justice of God, demonstrated in the love of Christ, and practiced by the people of God compels us to not stay silent in the face of injustice and instead speak boldly against oppression.
Michelle Ferrigno Warren is the President & CEO of Virago Strategies, a consulting group that works with churches and faith leaders to equip them to step more deeply into confronting unjust systems. She is an adjunct professor at Denver Seminary, non-profit leader, worship leader, advocate, activist, author and speaker.
Today’s blog post draws from themes in Michelle Ferrigno Warren’s recent book, Join the Resistance, Step into the Good Work of Kingdom Justice. Her book draws from nearly three decades of experience working alongside the poor and maginalized, collaborating with community leaders, marching in the streets, and meeting with and speaking truth to power.
If you are interested in reading more by Michelle Ferrigno Warren, her 2017 book The Power of Proximity: Moving Beyond Awareness to Action draws on her experience living in communities where they are “proximate to the pain of the poor” to challenge us to make a difference and overcome injustice.
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