Mike and I have been supporters of International Justice Mission for several years now and I was excited to be a part of the review team for their newest book “The Just Church”. If you don’t know about their work, I encourage you to read about the amazing work they do serving and protecting the “least of these” around the world. The book was written by Jim Martin and it’s basically a roadmap to starting a Justice ministry in your church.
Do we as Christians really believe we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14)? And what about Luke 12:48: “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” Is this how we live and relate to the world around us?
Jim Martin’s book, “The Just Church” starts out by asking a lot of hard questions about the state of the church in America and how very comfortable we are in our safe, insulated world. This book is great on many levels. If you have never thought about the vast amount of injustice and evil in our world, or heard of organizations like the International Justice Mission, this book is for you. If you know about this topic, but are paralyzed by the thought that you can’t “do” anything about it, this book is for you. If you are a pastor, in church leadership or member of a church and wondering how you could move your church forward in the area of Justice Ministry, this book is for you. Each chapter ends with questions to get you thinking deeper about the content of the book. Additionally the resources at the end of the book are very helpful.
Martin speaks to the fact that as we (as individuals or as a church) grow more affluent we do all we can to make ourselves more and more insulated. This causes us to look at the world and relate to it with a view of keeping our family and ourselves safe. When you inject the stark reality of violent oppression into the mix he says, “It’s about deciding to peel back some of the layers of our insulation so that we begin to experience the world as it really is.” He then offers some stark stories about horrible injustice in the world while also offering hope that we as the church can make a difference. He helps the reader see how they can “find their voice” in the fight against injustice. He offers great analogies and a basic step-by-step overview on how to take your church from thought process to actual ministry.
He shows that loving our neighbor includes those near and far from us, and that the church is God’s plan to stop injustice. He also shows that fighting injustice is going to take churches into a place many have not gone before, but that will lead to a much deeper relationship with God as we see the world through His eyes. He says, “Responding to violent oppression will lead into direct and often shocking confrontation with real evil and complex need.”
There is so much good contained in this book, especially this quote that has stuck with me and caused me to pray differently about injustice since reading it: “…subsequent experiences have left no doubt that many of the psalms (and many of David’s in particular) are not abstractions; they are describing real life – the life lived by billions, indeed, the majority in our world today.”
I know that as a member of the affluent Western world that it’s much easier to close our eyes and ears and pretend that the horrors of slavery and injustice aren’t occurring, but the sad fact is; it’s happening in our communities too. We don’t have to look very far to find people who desperately need the love, hope and compassion of the church. Over the last year my heart has become more and more burdened to find a way to help in this fight even more than Mike and I already do. This is a great book to get you thinking about your part and your churches part in the fight.
The horror of injustice and violent oppression around the globe is real, but YOU can make a difference.