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Live Justly for Lent: for Middle School Students

An Open Letter to My Students: 

Dear 7th Graders,

It’s a privilege to get to spend everyday with you. You have such incredible hearts. You have a way of seeing things around you that are broken, unfair, or just not the way that God envisioned it, and feeling rightly frustrated about it. You have a keen sense of justice.

It’s that sense of justice that I want to encourage. While you are at a place in life where you’re starting to decide for yourself what you believe, who you are, and how you fit in this world, I pray that you find yourself firmly rooted in God’s love. From this identity, may you discover God’s call to partner in restoring the brokenness around us all—following God’s lead and coming alongside all sorts of different people in bringing redemption.

Lent is the perfect time to refocus on this mission to do justice. As we prepare our hearts this week to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus, some people repent by giving something up, but I’m going to challenge you to repent by forming new habits in your lives. These five ways to do justice are more like habits than one-time events, because that’s how justice happens—through many small decisions made time and time again.

  1. Make Friends — It’s often easy to just hang out with people who are exactly like you, but the friendships that guide you most towards justice are often with people who come from different backgrounds than you (whether its racially, socioeconomically, with unique abilities and disabilities, from different faith or non-faith backgrounds). Learn to see people for their strengths, talents, and abilities first and foremost, so that you come to value people for who they are. Differences help us see the world in unique ways, and there’s a lot that we can learn from experiencing life through someone else’s eyes! Meet someone through this video who might be very different from you.
  2. Know the world — Pay attention to what’s going on in the world around you. Keep your eyes open to news, stories, and reports so that you’re informed and aware. You’re a part of a world that’s so much bigger than just you and your family and your town, and to be able to respond to God’s call for justice, you need to not only be tuned in to what’s going on in your life, but also to what’s going on in the world beyond what you see on an everyday basis. God made a big world, and as much as he’s present in your life, he’s present in everyone else’s life, too. The daily episodes of CNN Student News are a great place to start!
  3. Consider your purchases — As teenagers, your interests and purchases have the power to drive the market, and there’s a significant part of the economy that’s geared toward you. So think deeply and think critically about the purchases that you make, why you make them, and the impact that they might have around the world. Watch Nike Sweatshops: Behind the Swoosh. Though Nike has changed some of their labor practices since this video was filmed, the types of conditions shown here are common throughout the developing world in places that produce clothing and other goods for consumption in North America and Europe. As you watch it, consider the impact your spending dollars might have!
  4. Listen well — Learn to be a good listener, especially to people who are different than you. You are special. And so is everyone else! It’s important then to always be willing to learn from other people and their experiences with an open mind so that rather than judging others or making assumptions, you seek to understand them. Take a look at author Chimamanda Adichie’s encouragement to embrace the many stories that surround us: The Danger of a Single Story.
  5. Be willing to act — So when you feel your heart stirred from all this listening and learning, be willing to have the boldness and take risks to act on it and respond in the way that God may be calling you. Remaining neutral isn’t an option. When you see that brokenness around you, choosing not to do anything about it is your way of saying that it’s okay. Nothing will change. So do something. Learn more. Listen to people’s stories. Change your habits. Get other people to change their habits. May this video inspire you, too, to be an ‘Unsung Hero’ in small and big ways.

I hope these habits help guide you as you grow into God’s call for your life towards bringing his shalom to the broken world that you live in and encounter every day. These may be small habits and decisions, yet I pray that they grow into opportunities for God to shape our lives and world in deep ways.

Thanks for letting me be your teacher.


Mr. Minkus

[Image: Flickr user Aaron]

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