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Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Tuesday Book Club: Justice in The Burbs 3
This is the third week of this month's book discussion on Will and Lisa Samson's book Justice in the Burbs: Being the Hands of Jesus Wherever You Live. The discussion the last couple of weeks has focused on feelings elicited by the idea of working for justice on a personal, national or global level and the importance of the participation of disciples of Jesus in the work of justice. I would like to challenge us this week to think about these issues in terms of our everyday lives so I have some thoughts and questions for reflection.

1. The byline of this book is "Being the Hands of Jesus Wherever You Live" and the Samson's talk about the potential disruption to relationships when you begin to focus on justice. What supports your efforts to be aware of and address injustice and need where you live? What works against those efforts? What is the level of awareness or interest in your current community, faith community, or close personal relationships regarding issues of justice? Who are the important people in your life that would feel uncomfortable with your increased interest in working for justice?

2. In the meditation at the end of chapter one, Brian McLaren makes the point that the word dikaios, or dikaiosuvnh, in the New Testament is often translated as 'righteousness" instead of justice and thus leads people to focus on God's desire for personal and private piety rather than on the need for corporate righteousness. He suggests that we read the NT and insert the word justice for righteousness. Click here for a list of the NT verses containing 'righteousness.' Read a few of these verses substituting 'justice' for 'righteousness.' Do you come away from the text with any new understanding or insight?

3. If our lives have not tended to be focused on working for justice, the change to placing more emphasis on those issues can feel scary and threatening. In her meditation on pp. 154-155, Christine Pohl articulates the anxiety that can be provoked by trying to live justly in a suburban context. For myself, as a parent living a firmly middle class life in a small city in the midwest, focusing on issues of justice represents quite a change and means a re-ordering of priorities and changes to my lifestyle. What would more focus on working for justice mean for your life? What status quo might be threatened? What might the change look like for you? If you have already made that shift, tell us what that has been like.

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posted by Betsy Whaley at 12:00 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 10/16/2007 09:12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Having a Mennonite background, I certainly can appreciate the idea of "justice" to be used in the place of "righteousness" in the word dikaiosynē - however - not to nitpick with Brian, but a short stroll through my lexicon suggests that the "justice" meaning is not used as frequently and is less widely accepted. I appreciate the sentiment, but am leary of "meaning-bending" -- even to prove a point near to my heart...


  • At 10/16/2007 09:57:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    I think as Brian even pointed out, when the justice/righteousness thing doesn't always work - just for certain words that are translated righteousness in english. But that in Bible in other languages, the equivalent word for justice is more commonly used. No wonder other cultures focus more on theologies of justice than we americans do!

  • At 10/18/2007 10:08:00 AM, Blogger Betsy Whaley

    I'd be interested in hearing how others are trying to live out God's call to justice. One thing we are doing is participating with a group in our community called Overcoming Poverty Together. This group brings together folks living in poverty with folks who are not living in poverty to form "Circles of Support" to help overcome the challenges that keep people in poverty. For more information about the "Circles Campaign" go to www.movethemountain.org

  • At 10/18/2007 03:52:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    I'm starting by responding to the original post.

    A few friends and I have been going through the book "Colossians Remixed", on of our previous book discussions. It's been a great group as we all have different areas of interest in justice and provide a lot of encouragement for each other. I find in other groups that justice is not easily separated from evangelism; the kind that looks for a moment of conversion as a sign of successful outreach.

    The change to seeking justice requires a shift in thinking. I live in the suburbs of big a city, our church is one that is relatively well-off and most people's priorities reflect the culture in which we reside. It is easy to get caught up in ourselves and our needs. It is much more difficult to live with the ongoing call to justice. So, for now, awareness is big for me. With the awareness, we are practicing change. I pray as time continues what feels very awkward now becomes a very natural part of our lives.

    Betsy, you asked about one thing we're currently doing. I have been volunteering at the local women's crisis center. I love it! We're also supporting a child through Compassion International and working with our three young children to discuss what poverty means and why it's our responsibility to help those in need.

  • At 10/18/2007 07:37:00 PM, Blogger Meg

    I am very aware of the potential distruption of relationships with a more focued life of justice. Christmas is a huge issue for me in this regard. Every year, I don't want to celebrate Christmas like we have always done...lots of presents, etc. But my mom and mother in law do so much for us, and you can't just not get people presents when they are getting you some? I tried to talk with my family about it last year and it just didn't work. Its hard. Any suggestions.

    From the book I see both my mother and mother in law in Christine's mom. My husband and I went to Honduras this summer and got a ton of questions from them and felt that they were too worried. Very discouraging.

    As I have started to explore justice issues we have first started with environmental issues. For me, it has given me a different perspective on how much I waste. Water is a big one for me. My challenge is to get through the winter in the north without taking long hot showers!!! The most challenging at this point is making new friends who are not so justice minded and how to relate to them and encourage them.

    Does anyone find that bringing up justice issues with new people feels alot like how it used to feel to "witness" to someone? I know that might sound wierd. While it feels similar I also know that I feel more free, more myself, and more purposeful in pursuing justice issue for Christ's Kingdom than pursuing people to check them off a list that they are going to heaven. It feels more real. Thoughts?

  • At 10/18/2007 08:27:00 PM, Blogger Betsy Whaley

    Meg, I can absolutely relate to the whole "what do you mean no presents for Christmas?" saga. I also find it harder now that I have kids. There is a book I read a few years ago called "Unplug the Christmas Machine" that I am going to dig out and try to get some ideas to use with my kids. In terms of my family, I've had to come to the place where I am at peace with my decisions whether they agree or not. One thing we have thought about is making donations to an organization in their honor.

    I too have recently started educating myself about environmental issues and am trying to work to reduce my consumption. I do feel uncomfortable bringing it up with people. It's almost like their eyes start to glaze over when I start talking about it. It definitely feels like trying to share those "four spiritual laws." In the end, I guess the way we live our lives is the best witness but put ourselves in a position to build friendships with folks who might not be 'like minded' on issues of justice.

    I know this is already a long post, but a quick story. There is a homeless man we pass almost every time we go to or from our church. My kids and I have stopped to give him food on more than one occasion and they always ask about him. Tonight, on the way home we saw him sitting in his usual spot, in the dark, with a storm on the way. My kids were so concerned that he might be out in the weather and it led to a good discussion about homelessness and what we can and can't do to help. What was most striking to me in the whole thing was that they saw him...he was not invisible like he is to so many who drive by every day. I felt glad that they are learning to see with the eyes of Christ.


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