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Justice Practices for a Fast-Paced World

Do you find working for justice overwhelming? Same. It’s overwhelming because there is no-one-size-fits-all formula that lays out best next steps. It’s overwhelming because it taps into a lot of emotion. It’s overwhelming because there is so much need for justice that we often don’t even know where to start. Pursuing justice can feel overwhelming because our world moves so quickly, but justice comes slowly.

Pursuing justice can feel overwhelming because our world moves so quickly, but justice comes slowly.

While reading Slow Kingdom Coming by Kent Annan, the co-director of Haiti Partners, I found some helpful tips that I would like to share. Annan guides his readers on a journey towards understanding that since we serve a God of justice, justice work helps God’s kingdom come on this earth. As Christians working for justice, we want His kingdom to come soon and can often be tempted to take shortcuts in the work. This kingdom motive is certainly a right desire, but when pursued without wisdom it can lead us down paths that cause more harm than good. Annan points to a few helpful practices for pursuing justice well in the midst of this slow kingdom coming.         

The Practice of Attention

So often we hear of war, murder, hunger, poverty, suffering, corruption, and other tragedies and feel broken because we can’t give the attention or help we feel is required. As Annan puts it, “the headlines call us in a thousand worthwhile directions”. When we are awakened to the presence of injustice in the world, we can be tormented by an overwhelming desire to see it put right. I found Annan’s advice helpful. He recommends that we first narrow our focus. Focusing our efforts deeply on only a few areas of need helps us to avoid spreading ourselves out too thin over many areas. If we are involved in too many places of need, we may not be making a difference. Once we are focused, we are better able to hear perspectives and voices from affected people which we might not have otherwise heard, and can understand the problems more deeply. I encourage you to find freedom in knowing that you are accountable for your own calling and responsibilities, and not for every need. Annan encourages us each to focus by getting rid of distractions and asking God what, specifically, breaks our hearts. How can you focus your attention to help this slow kingdom come?

The Practice of Respect

It’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing those who are suffering from injustices in a negative or paternalistic light. Annan suggests that the key to respectful justice work is listening. This is often hard for the adventurous, eager traveler or justice worker. Staying quiet while listening and learning about the suffering group’s culture, language, and history can be hard to do when all we want to do is help. But listening is crucial for helping. Annan points out that compassion is cheap when we rush to help without being willing to listen. When you walk away from time spent among with the poor and your main takeaway is that you are more grateful than ever for your own way of life, you disrespect the poor. We disrespect those who are poor when we make no changes to our choices and lifestyles after visiting them. Annan so beautifully points out as well that it is disrespectful to the poor when we view them from condescending or paternalistic perspectives, rather than seeing them as brothers and sisters. I encourage you to ask yourself: how can you listen better to respect more?

The Practice of Truthing

“Truthing” helps us to love our neighbours not because of what people say about them and what we can see, but because we have been with them and experienced some of what they experience. We aim to love and seek justice out of beautiful practical love, not just from a distance. As Annan puts it, truthing is not about basing our choices on “the proverbial satellite photo”, but going in, getting stuck, needing others to help you, praying, being, and acting out of faith. How and where might God be calling you to go and experience truths first hand?

Maybe, while reading this post, you have reflected on the way you are living and been reassured to realize that you are already following these practices. But maybe you find yourself thinking about your life from a new perspective. First, go pick up Slow Kingdom Coming for more helpful practices, and second, let me provide us with a question to ask ourselves:

Where and to whom might God be calling us to focus, listen, and seek truth?

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