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March 23, 2010

Practical Biblical Justice

A review of last week’s webinar

Last week Kyria held its first webinar with Kara Powell on what it means to live justly everyday. Kara is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute and has written several books on justice including Deep Justice Journeys and Deep Justice in a Broken World. Here are some notes from our conversation, which we hope will continue the rich discussion we started last week and encourage those who couldn’t make the webinar to join in.

What is biblical justice?
It is important to use Scripture to define justice. A simple definition for justice is righting wrongs. Justice is linked to restoring shalom or holistic flourishing. It is near God’s heart for all of his followers.

What is the difference between justice and compassion?
Compassion or service is a step on the way to justice. It is giving a glass of cold water to someone who is thirsty.

Justice is asking: Why is that person thirsty? What can we do so that they can get water on their own? What can we do to turn that person around so that they are able to give out glasses of water to others?

There is so much injustice in the world. How do you determine what the best course is for you to take?
The first thing is to pray and see how the Lord leads you. God speaks differently to us at different times about different issues. Then once you know the Lord’s leading, obey. To be most effective go deep in a few issues rather than go broad in many.

How do you bring justice into everyday living?
Evaluating the way we spend our money is a practical way to make justice more real. This involves thinking through the product and the people involved. This is where fair trade has seen such a rise in prominence as people are becoming more aware of how their purchasing decisions affect those who produce these goods.

What are some steps to help others see the importance of justice issues in your church?
The importance of stories in casting vision is central. Vision can be defined as shared stories of future hope. There is nothing more convincing for people than seeing your passion partnered with the truth of Scripture.

It is also important to help people get a taste for what justice work is. To make justice experiences stick, it is helpful to prepare people before the event and to debrief after the event. It is not just about the experience but how it relates to the rest of someone’s life that will make it have a lasting impact.

What role does community play in justice?
Community can help us bring the ideas of living justly down to our everyday lives. Living justly means living in a way that is different than the norm. You need others who know you to help you figure out what living justly looks for you at this time in your life and to help keep you accountable to pursuing that way of life.

Community also functions as a support in our justice work. Fighting injustice is difficult, tiring work, and burnout is all too common. You need people to help you set boundaries and tell you when you need to take time to rest, like Moses’ father-in-law did for him.

How do you get kids aware of and involved in justice work in a safe way?
Talking about news events and praying for the people involved in an age-appropriate way is one of the first steps to helping children become aware of the injustice in the world around them.

Partnering with organizations that are used to the dynamics of providing meaningful experiences for children is also important. Sponsoring a child through Compassion International or working with an organization such as Kiva.org are things you can do with your children without leaving your living room.

As children get older, you help them enter the world of those who are suffering through missions trips and volunteering with their parents.

When involved in such horizontal ministry, how do you keep your relationship with God front and center?
Spending personal time with God praying and reading Scripture is always going to be key in not forgetting that it’s his work for his glory and we engage in it because of his character. It’s also important to ask God to make us aware of what he’s doing and how he’s working, so that we can experience Jesus in everything we do.

Related Resources:
1. Social Justice in Your Community: This resource provides tangible tools for living the gospel where you are.
2. Serving in the Suburbs by Margot Starbuck
3. A Library for a Needy Neighborhood by Keri Wyatt Kent
4. Just Living: The February 2010 issue of the Kyria digizine. (Available free to Kyria.com members or for purchase here.)
5. Book Review: Everyday Justice by Bonnie McMaken
6. Justice for All, One at a Time: This Bible study explores the biblical model for ministry to the marginalized.
7. Service Rooted in Grace: We cannot change the world without changed hearts is the truth developed in this Bible study.
8. From Personal Faith to Social Action: This Bible study addresses how Christ’s command to care for “the least of these” translates to social action.

Related Tags: Social justice


Thanks for this beautiful article. I loved your description of the difference between compassion and justice. I'm going to share this with my children, to plant a seed of justice in my grandchildren. For whatever reason, they already show compassion, even though the oldest is only 11. I want their lives to go deeper, to justice.

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