The Hope of Gospel Justice

Moody officially releases the book Gospel Justice on Monday, June 3.  Advanced copies have arrived at our office and I encourage you to add the book to your summer reading list.  The book also makes a great gift.  Please visit our website, www.administerjustice.org, to donate and receive a copy.

The hope of Gospel Justice is that “This book will stir your soul and prompt you to seriously consider what Jesus’ words, “Go and do likewise,” mean for you personally and practically.  Bruce Strom intertwines moving stories of real people in crisis with scriptural truths, producing a compelling call to action that no reader will easily ignore.” Carol Thompson, Executive Vice President, Christianity Today.

Gospel Justice tells the story of my personal journey toward understanding God’s heart for justice. I learned much about His heart through the parable of the Good Samaritan and the book shares the lessons I learned.  Along the way you meet real people with real needs who are beaten down by the effects of a sinful, broken world.  These victims of injustice need good news.  They also need practical legal help so they can be restored. 

As my friend Ken Sande states: “Justice lies at the very heart of the Gospel. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus fully satisfied the conditions of God’s justice. Now he is calling us to spread the precious gift of God’s justice into every sphere of life. Gospel Justice beautifully proclaims this call to action. Read it … and then take up its challenge.”  Ken Sande, Founder of Peacemaker Ministries and Relational Wisdom 360, author The Peacemaker.

The hope of Gospel Justice is that people will be inspired to take action.  For many it is a reminder of why they serve.  For others it is an opportunity to get engaged and make a difference.  God’s heart for justice should be evident throughout the book.  My prayer is that the book will be an encouragement to you and that you will respond as Ron Sider,

“Wonderful.  The stories will make you cry.  The biblical material will challenge your mind.  The stories of success will thrill your heart.  And the combination of evangelism and social justice is fabulous.  An inspiring book that nurtures hope and action.”  Ronald J. Sider, Founder, Evangelicals for Social Action, Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry & Public Policy at Palmer Seminary at Eastern University.

That hope and action is the hope of gospel justice.  Read it.  Share it with others.  Then dare to go and do likewise.

The Justice Conference

“Justice is a garment, a billion threads, interwoven, interlocked, knit together with strength and integrity. Pull one thread from the fabricimagesCAT60X30 and the garment begins to fray. Pull ten million threads and justice unravels into injustice.

The work of justice is to mend the holes injustice inflicts upon the garment. It is a brave, challenging, courageous work and it does not begin with expertise or duty. It begins with love… and love is a thread.”

This statement by The Justice Conference, http://vimeo.com/thejusticeconference, provides the underlying reason why Ken Wytsma and Kilns College joined with World Relief two years ago to launch a conference where varying voices of God’s heart for justice could be heard.  This last weekend was the third annual conference in Philadelphia and Marty Page, my wife Helen and I attended.  The conference draws approximately 5,000 people from across the country with varying backgrounds to join together around a discussion on justice.  Using art, music and speakers, the conference challenges us to think broadly about justice. 

Ann Mara was the conference emcee who began the conference apologizing for being so old – she had just turned 40!   Her comments were appropriate as at least 2/3 of those in attendance were between the ages of 20 and 35.  There is a movement among younger people today to be not only hearers of the word but doers.  The conference encourages them to explore how to not merely do, but intelligently and lovingly engage injustice.  As they state, “An understanding of God should compel love for others and engagement in justice.”

The conference certainly draws the right speakers to engage in this dialogue with a who’s who of the justice world:  Ken Wytsma, Leroy Barber, Noel Castellanos, Brenda Salter McNeil, Eugene Cho, Gary Haugen, Claire Diaz-Ortiz, Stephan Bauman, Sheryl WuDunn, Shane Claiborne, Chai Ling, Lisa Sharon Harper, Lynne Hybels and Dr. John Perkins.  Ken Wytsma has written a new book called Pursuing Justice published by Thomas Nelson which is an excellent backdrop to why The Justice Conference exist. 

As Administer Justice continues to expand its influence through the publication of the book Gospel Justice and launching of the national ministry, Gospel Justice Initiative, we look forward to being one voice among many in this justice arena.  A voice that seeks to encourage the Church and Christ Followers to join together to provide help and hope for those oppressed by legal injustice.  This voice has for too long been silent.  But no more.  In the midst of this broader justice movement, their is great hope and opportunity to engage, equip and excite God’s people to serve the legal and spiritual needs of the poor.  A new day is dawning.  Something new is coming.  The Lord is weaving a tapestry of justice to prepare the coming of his kingdom.  Join with us and

“Promote justice!  Give the oppressed reason to celebrate!”  Isa. 1:17 NET.

New Hope for the New Year

“I am so glad to see you here!”picHispanicMan

Juan raced to the help desk where Pam was seated.  He had good news – his foreclosure suit had just been dismissed.  Pam was stunned.  The joyous man before her was far different from when she first met him at her foreclosure workshop. 

Juan’s mortgage had been purchased by another bank and he’d not been given instructions.  He kept making payments to the former company.  The checks were not credited to his account and the new company filed foreclosure.  Juan went to a business for a loan modification, met with an “attorney” and was charged significant money to resolve the matter.  The “attorney” provided Juan a signed approval but the bank denied the agreement existed.  Juan returned to the “attorney” who kept telling Juan he would appear in court and take care of the matter.  Pam discovered he was NOT an attorney.  That person failed to complete paperwork correctly, did not go to court, and Juan lost his case as a result. 

Juan meant to come to us sooner but his mother fell into a coma in Mexico and his friend, who was on the mortgage, had to make an emergency trip to California because his son was murdered.  The world was crashing in on Juan when he finally walked through the doors of Administer Justice.  He was feeling hopeless as he joined more than twenty others in the weekly foreclosure workshop. 

After the workshop Juan was able to meet with Pam, and hope returned.  Pam prepared paperwork for Juan and told him how to present.    Even as she sought to provide hope, she believed the delay would prove fatal.  “I prayed for Juan, but I confess that I did not believe that God would answer this one the way that I wanted him to.”

God answers prayer.  The answer came not from the judge, but the bank’s attorney who read Pam’s motions, reviewed the proof and understood the injustice taking place.  He dismissed the action and told Juan he would instruct the bank to give him the loan modification. 

“I could almost hear God laughing and saying to me, ‘O ye of little faith!’  And it is true; my faith is sorely lacking.  But God works miracles in spite of our doubts and in spite of our lack of trust in Him.  I really believe that this was a miracle.”

Juan has new hope for the New Year, but not only Juan.  Pam raised the issue with Bruce who recognized the systemic challenges within the system and he is addressing these with the judges.  He also called a friend in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office to pursue the fraud being perpetrated by the person holding himself out as an attorney so that others are not victimized.

Justice is ________

How would you fill in the blank?  Recently our Community Impact Director, Marty Page, had the opportunity to speak to a large group of Middle School kids.  Here are some of their responses:

Justice is….

“a word”.     There’s always at least one in a crowd.

“a clothing store for little girls.”       And sometimes there are two.

“Everyone getting what they deserve.”

“Being treated fairly.”

“Fairness for everyone, freedom, victory and a very happy feeling, hope.”

“Jesus”.

I was impressed with these and many other thoughts from the kids.  All these answers are true, though perhaps incomplete.  For many justice is getting what one deserves.  There are those who believe the poor have created their problems and are getting what they deserve.  I am certainly grateful that God does not hold such a view or the punishment for my actions would be hell.  Rather he sent Jesus to be our justice.  Jesus suffered the greatest injustice through a rigged trial, suffering and death, so that he could be our advocate before the Father.  In His grace and mercy he demonstrates his love for us and freely justifies – freely gives justice.

Part of justice does involve being treated fairly.  The challenge in this view apart from God is in defining what is fair.  When it comes to the poor God is very clear in using balanced scales, not exploiting, or taking advantage of the widow, the fatherless, the alien or the poor.  In fact more than 2,000 verses from the Bible address poverty and justice.

Ultimately justice is about freedom, victory and a very happy feeling of hope.  That freedom and victory come through Jesus.  No matter what our circumstances Christ loves us and wants a relationship with us.  That is good news.  That good news of the gospel is why we call ourselves a gospel justice ministry.  People need justice.  People need Jesus.  And yes that provides a very happy feeling of hope.  “So the poor have hope and injustice shuts its mouth.”  Job 5:16.

In the words of a sixth grader, Justice is… cool.  That God would so love us and ask us to demonstrate that love to our neighbors through acts of justice is very cool indeed.