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CPD oil for seeking justice

The Do Justice editor has invited me to contribute to “Do Justice” every three months, and this post marks the launch! This week I’m retiring from regular employment, and one of my post-employment goals is to live out Micah 6.8 more intentionally with my wife Evelyn in our local context here in Hamilton, ON:  “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

One thing I have learned as I prepare for this transition: seeking justice requires CPD oil.

Seeking justice requires Community. 

“Community” has become a relatively meaningless buzz word, but the New Testament reality of “koinonia” refers to people wrestling together as they “work out their salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2.12). Seeking justice is messy and filled with complex ambiguities, and rarely does one find “pure and clear” next steps in attempting to move the “justice needle” just a little. In our context this raises questions like, “How much charity do we give to refugees we support and when do we take steps to shift them to self-sufficiency?” “When refugees make poor financial decisions, do we just let them learn from the consequences of their decisions or do we say something?” I could quickly add a dozen similar kinds of questions that we have faced and continue to deal with. 

Evelyn and I can’t deal with these messy ambiguities alone. We need a safe, trusting community to ponder such things. I confess that at times I am afraid to raise certain questions because the questions themselves did not feel “politically correct,” and I’ve realized that working out such matters with “fear and trembling” cannot be paralyzed by PC-ness. I need to trust our partners with all my questions.   

Seeking justice requires Prayer.

In particular, for us it requires slow motion, reflectively pondering, discernment prayer. A typical prayer sounds like this: “Lord, we don’t really know what we’re doing here. We’ve been coached well by folks wiser than us, and we’ve read the “right books,” but the people we’re walking with are very wounded and the systems they’re enmeshed in are both helpful and paralyzing at the same time. Help!” This kind of prayer becomes a running dialogue that gradually leads to discerning the next faithful step of a trial and error journey. We’ve learned that we often have to choose between risking error or accepting paralysis, so, frankly, the choice is easy though the steps are not easy. I’m involved with a very complex situation in Zambia right now; I’m about twenty steps in, and each one of the twenty has been confusing. I received acres of good advice, and I know I’ve made some mistakes, but I’m at peace with the reality that trial and error is central to seeking the Spirit’s leading.

Finally, seeking justice is Disruptive.

I have found my assumptions challenged, my comfort zone dramatically shrunk, and my heart expanded. I’ve had the privilege of teaching the four gospels at the university level, and it has never ceased to amaze me how Jesus’ faithfulness left disruption in its wake everywhere he went, eventually leading to the cross. That’s helped me attempt to follow him as I hear him say, “Trust me, and I’ll disrupt you in good ways that might just bless others too.” 

I have met folks who believe that in seeking justice, they are called to be disrupters. I don’t share that view. I believe my calling is to open up my own life to disruption, and then discern the faithful steps that disruption calls me to. It may happen that these steps lead me to become a disrupter, but that is rarely the purpose. I love Paul’s advice: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12.18). 

CPD oil. You’ve noticed that community, prayer and disruption are completely intertwined. Each one strengthens the other two and needs the other two. I am so grateful for this combination. Experiencing the lubricating power of CPD oil through justice-seeking is a gift of grace.   

Photo by Susan Wilkinson on Unsplash

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