My old friend and I were talking about justice the other day on our way to our Doing Theology event about justice. He was telling me how he respected a famous organization called Doctors Without Borders. He told me one of the reasons he loved them was because they were committed to only doing good work, and not just talking about it. Furthermore, they did not connect proselytizing with their work, and were forbidden to do so. He thought keeping Jesus out of this compassionate work made sense. Sometimes it seems like compassion efforts and good will are a dangling carrot that we will offer so long as the people we are serving accept Jesus as their personal savior. I haven’t heard too many stories like that, and I think usually it is hyperbolic, but people certainly have that thought and that feeling.
I suppose if all we want is for people to utter a simple profession of faith before we serve them, that can seem a little manipulative. I’m not sure that such a dichotomy exists. I can’t seem to divorce justice and Jesus. And I wonder, is justice, true justice, really possible without Him? I think many hold that kind of view.
But I also contend that Jesus isn’t really possible without justice. Though there are many takes on what justice means, especially in the postmodern era, I think that real justice has to do with God reconciling himself with us. It has to do with salvation, and the endless hope and unconditional love of Jesus. Some would say that Jesus favored mercy to justice when he died for us, but I’d say there was nothing more just than his free and radical distribution of grace and forgiveness on us. There is enough love to go around—to us, it’s a free gift. We can receive it and share it. In that receptive and sharing, I think true justice can be achieved. And I think our acts of justice can lead people to Jesus. So, whether I profess his name with my mouth or with my actions, it will be professed I believe.
I think that’s why in Circle of Hope, we leave no stone unturned when it comes to helping people follow Jesus. Our compassion teams are leading us into ventures in the name of Christ. And so our cells and Sunday meetings. One of the reasons that our faith can be so all-encompassing is because the Spirit lives within us and we are the Body of Christ. We can’t divorce justice from Jesus, because we can’t, as Christians, divorce ourselves from Him.
So whether I profess his name with my voice or my story, in my being, in my body, he will be professed. The fact that someone can tell me not to talk about him, is almost like telling me not to live. Not because I can’t shut up about Jesus, but because for me to live is Christ! He is in my body, he is in my actions, my thoughts and my heart. I love him with all of those things, and so I hope you will see him in all I do. And if you do not, I have something from which to repent.
I suppose that is something we all have to wonder about. If I am not representing Jesus in my actions, then what am I representing? Myself? My ego? My own good feelings? Socially constructed morality? Modernistic imposition? Political philosophy? There are many things that we consciously and unconsciously represent. Even saying that we should not be evangelistic is a kind of evangelism in itself.
When the religious leaders tell Jesus that his disciples are being too loud, he tells them that if they do keep quiet, the rocks will cry out. If Christians are silent, or are not doing the good work of Jesus, someone else will. I think God employs the willing, not the entitled. So, it is as much our responsible to act on Jesus’ behalf but to speak for him too. We are his hands and feet, but his ears and his mouth too.
God is not far off from us and I think if we look for him, we may find him, too. I respect the work that NGOs like Doctors Without Borders do, and I think Christ’s love can be known through their service even if they are silent about it. I’m thankful for all the good work that humans do together and I, for one, will name Jesus and the Holy Spirit as responsible for all the good in the world.
So I don’t think you need to perform some great act of justice to represent Jesus, your little act of service and kindness goes a lot way to proclaiming Jesus name. You may want to name him with your voice while you do it, maybe the Spirit will do the heavy lifting.