This past weekend NCC ASE leaders embarked on a trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in order to participate in the 2013 Justice Conference. We were excited to grow in knowledge, spirit and in community with one another and with Christ.
Thousands of like-minded individuals were gathered in attendance with thousands more joining via web. Great leaders in the field of social justice poured into us with their wisdom and experience. We heard from renowned speakers such as Gary Haugen and Eugene Cho, among others. We learned about the importance of inter-agency and inter-NGO collaboration. We were entreated to consider social justice as an issue not just for the moment or for its sex appeal, but for the long haul.
“Redemption is the byproduct of long and tedious obedience.” (sic) Gary Haugen
We also learned about the theology of justice. The theme of justice is found repeatedly in the Bible. Justice is incredibly near to the heart of God, but the key thing to remember is that it does not exist without grace and love. Following in the way that Christ loves us, we correct but do not condemn (Romans 8).
We learned about buying repurposed materials such as old guns in order to support reconciliation. We had the opportunity to meet and network with other organizations with similar objectives as us. The meaning of collaboration in Christ’s work became very real.
There are too many takes-away from this weekend to capture in a blog post. However, perhaps the most important was the power of stories told. Hearing from world leaders on the subject of social justice from a social and biblical perspective is amazing and useful.
Yet nothing will substitute for the power of stories told.
Hearing personal stories from people like Chai Ling and Sheryl WuDunn about the tragedies facing our brothers and sisters does more than show us that justice makes theological, economic, and emotional sense. It galvanizes us to act because the spirit of Christ that lives within us cannot reconcile with complacency. As Gary Haugen stated “compassion is not a feeling – it something that takes a hold of your gut and doesn’t let go.” (sic)
On the car ride home, we began to share our stories. Why are we here? What has galvanized our efforts toward ending slavery? How did we get to know Christ?
Everybody’s story is different. We all have different upbringings, struggles, and spiritual awakenings. However, inasmuch as we are different we are all the same. Everybody has been born into sin, and everybody who accepts Christ has been redeemed by grace. It is as simple as that.
This is why we engage in social justice. It is because everybody deserves the opportunity to be redeemed by Christ.
And we want to be the window through which they see Him.
Brooke M. Birkey