The ONLY way to find abundant life and happiness is to give your life away.
If God designed us to experience true happiness and abundant life, why do so many Christians feel dissatisfied and purposeless? We try to make our lives better by chasing our own dreams, but that only makes the problem worse. Instead, the path to a just life that’s satisfying and permeated with meaning leads us alongside the orphan, the widow, and the powerless. Using clear evangelical theology and compelling narratives drawn from two decades of global ministry and travel, Ken Wytsma, the founder of The Justice Conference, shows God’s unchanging love for all His children. On the way, the author calls us back to a proper understanding of biblical justice, a redeeming glimpse into the true meaning of righteousness and the remarkable connection between our own joy, the joy of others, and the wondrous Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Pursuing Justice shows that God isn’t primarily concerned with personal piety but about empowering His children to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with their creator. The message is as hopeful as it is fresh: when you discover anew the meaning of the Gospel and give your life away, you will find it…and it will be the best life you can imagine.
First-time author Wytsma (with an assist from Jacobsen) is one of the new breed of evangelical Christians returning to scripture to redeem justice as a central tenet of faith…. Wytsma infuses his writing with fresh experiences from working with the millennial generation…. “Apathy tells us that it’s perfectly acceptable to live with illusions of our own justice,” he writes, neatly linking those concerns. This accessible guide provides trustworthy scriptural analysis, examples of contemporary justice issues…and a solid philosophy for understanding the role of justice in today’s society…. “Justice cannot be divorced from God’s heart and purposes,” he writes. “It permeates them.” Wytsma’s authorial voice is engaging, encouraging, and invitational. His humor helps the reader recognize her own humanity and transformative potential within the unfolding moral arc of the universe.
“Justice has become trendy. Ken Wytsma’s Pursuing Justice avoids all the pitfalls of trendiness. It exhibits a deep and accurate understanding of the nature of justice. It is an eye–opener.”
NICHOL AS WOLTERSTORFF, Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, Yale University; Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia
“Ken is a fresh voice of balance, humility, and collaboration. His enthusiasm is contagious and his challenge to the church to not only do justice, but to learn to do it well, is commendable.”
KEITH WRIGHT, International President of Food for the Hungry
“Ken Wytsma’s Pursuing Justice will rattle you. Not since C. S. Lewis put down his pen have readers been so provoked to think. It will change the way you approach others.”
KAREN SPEARS ZACHARIAS, Author ofA Silence of Mockingbirds and Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide?
“Ken Wytsma not only brings us back to a biblical understanding of justice, but also humbly calls us to pursue it in practice. I was both enlightened and motivated.”
RANDAL ROBERTS, President of Western Seminary, Portland, OR
“In Pursuing Justice, Ken is at the cutting edge of where God’s heart is. This book is timely and needs to be read by everyone in the church.”
JOHN M . PERKINS, Civil Rights Leader, Founder of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA), and Founder of The John Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation and Development
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About the Author
Ken Wytsma is a leader, innovator, and social entrepreneur. He is the president of Kilns College, where he teaches courses on philosophy and justice. He is the founder of The Justice Conferencea yearly international conference that exposes men and women to a wide range of organizations and conversations relating to justice and the biblical call to give our lives away. Ken is also a church planter and the lead pastor at Antioch Church. He and his wife, Tamara, have four daughters.
David Jacobsen holds master’s degrees in theology and creative writing. He teaches and writes in central Oregon, where he lives with his wife, Christine, and their sons. He can be reached through his website, http://jacobsenwriting.com.
Read an Excerpt
PURSUING JUSTICETHE CALL TO LIVE & DIE FOR BIGGER THINGS
By KEN WYTSMA D. R. JACOBSEN
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2013 Ken Wytsma
All right reserved.
Chapter OneREDEEMING JUSTICE
What Justice Is and Why It Matters
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Justice, sir, is the great interest of [people] on earth. It is the ligament which holds civilized beings and civilized nations together.
God calls everyone to pursue justicebut how?
My friend is a police officer because he believes in upholding our country's justice system. I understand that conviction, and I wouldn't want to live without the rule of law.
World Relief, an international relief and development organization for which I have enormous respect, works on behalf of some of the most vulnerable people in the world. I am proud to partner with them.
Many of my spiritual mentors have demonstrated to me, year after year, a commitment to pursuing discipleship and righteousness. Their goal is to become more like Jesus in the way they think, believe, and act.
Another friend is a teacher in an English as a Second Language (ESL) program. She believes, as do I, that education is a way to provide equity of social access to people in a community who might otherwise be at a disadvantage throughout their lives.
The church I pastor, Antioch, organizes outreach and missions into the categories of food, shelter, and love. This lets us connect our people with others in the community who are already working in these areas.
I've been blessed to interact with colleagues who teach and write about justice, history, and ethics. They've helped me understand what the past can teach us about how we ought to live in the present, and how that can shape the future.
Several pastors I know work in countries that have been torn apart by generations of war, hunger, and political instability. They give their lives to help bring justice to suffering families and communities, and to help bring the perpetrators to justice.
I'm incredibly grateful to be surrounded by such a diversity of people pursuing justice. Their example challenges and inspires me. They, like so many others I meet in my congregation and at schools and conferences around the country, are daily giving their lives away on behalf of others.
However, this array of justice stories also presents a question, one you have perhaps asked yourself: If I want to pursue justice with my life, how and where should I start?
It's natural to want direction or a clear call. For most of us, however, that never happens. We aren't told explicitly to move to a certain city or take a certain job or study a certain thing ... yet the hunger remains to "change the world."
That's exactly why it's vital to consider the widest, most biblical definition of justice we can. Each of these applications of justice is good, but none is complete. Justice is something far broader than a single life can hope to capture, no matter how well it is lived. Justice can be messy on its borders and unclear in the exact ways it ought to be understood or pursued or appliedand that's a good thing!
It means that God, who is perfectly just, and who desires justice for all of His creation, can ask us to use our unique talents and passions and experiences to pursue justice. Wherever we find ourselves, we can make a differenceand that difference starts with understanding more about what justice really is.
A WIDER VIEW
Back when I was studying philosophy in graduate school, we learned to distinguish the difference between simple concepts with a single or easy definition, and complex concepts that required multilayered definitions. Often, for these more complicated concepts, a cluster of definitions was needed to fully capture their meanings.
There are many singular examples of justice, some of which we looked at to begin this chapterbut the wider concept of justice requires a cluster definition to fully capture its meaning. In a cluster definition, the parts of a whole are necessary, but no single part is sufficient. This is familiar to usif you drove a car to work today, you drove a cluster concept. Many parts of a car are necessaryaxles, a steering wheel, the brakesbut no single part is sufficient to define the whole car. You don't drive your engine to work, and neither could you drive your car to work without the engine. Similarly, no individual application of justice in the real world is, by itself, sufficient for understanding all of justice, even though each sphere of concern is important.
The biblical concept of justice has a lot of shared space with synonyms such as love, mercy, charity, the law, righteousness, and more. Justice is a sum of many parts, with many similar overlapping concepts, as the following illustration makes clear.
One of our most important tasks in this book will be to hold up justice and examine its many elements together. Like art students instructed to study a still-life composition at the center of the room, we will strive to see justice from many angles and appreciate its unique qualities. We need to consider its meanings, its theology, and its history. In our effort to understand justice, we must take as wide a view as possible.
This is one reason for the interludes I've included between many of the chapters in this book. I've learned from diverse voices, and I wanted to bring imagery, poetry, short meditations, and even interviews to help illuminate a brighter understanding of justice.
THE MOSAIC OF JUSTICE
When I was in Turkey recently, I toured the Hagia Sofia, a former church in Istanbul that was first dedicated as a Christian worship site more than fifteen hundred years ago. It was converted to a mosque in 1453, when Sultan Mehmed II sacked Istanbul (then called Constantinople), and reconverted by the Turkish government into a nonreligious museum in 1935.
Inside the museum is one of the most iconic and compelling works of religious art in the world: the Deësis mosaic, which dates from the mid-thirteenth century. In it, the figure of Jesus looks wisely and sympathetically at the viewer, making a sign of blessing with His right hand. He is clothed in a blue robe draped over a golden shirt, and a halo frames His head.
To create this mosaic, which is a picture formed from the careful arrangement of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or tile, an artist must have painstakingly added color and form, bit by gleaming bit, until the shape of Jesus began to emerge. Centuries later, visitors continue to take delight in the mosaic, every piece of stone working together in a stunning whole.
Here's a thought experiment. Suppose, when I was in Turkey, I had flipped open a pocketknife and, when no one was looking, pried away a single fragment of the mosaic. Then, upon arriving home, I set the piece of blue stone on the kitchen table and proclaimed to my family, "This is one of the most beautiful works of art in the world!" No matter how lovely that single shard was, in no way would it capture the glory of the whole.
Justice is like a mosaic. It's not only about single piecesit's also about all the pieces working together in a stunning whole. All too often we believe that our desire to pursue justice can only be lived out or understood in a single shard. Criminal justice. International development. Creation care. Education. Anti-trafficking. Works of mercy and love.
All of these shards are vital parts of God's mosaic of justice.
SHARDS INSTEAD OF THE WHOLE
Many of us want to pursue justice. Even if we don't understand justice as a whole, even if we are thrown for a loop by the words social justice, we want specific injustices to be rectified. So we pursue a single cause, which is wonderful ... unless we allow that to be the sum total of our engagement and understanding. I may volunteer to help homeless veterans, and you may send money to build a well in Africa, in lieu of birthday presents. But if we let those good, necessary things become sufficient for understanding justice, we're neglecting far too much.
When we think a single shard of the mosaic of justice describes the whole, it's as if we're cataloging one particular butterfly and assuming we've understood every other species that swoops and sways through the sky.
In Francis Schaeffer's words, we "have seen things in bits and pieces instead of totals."
One of my fellow pastors once stated that it was fine for me to preach about justice, as long as I started giving equal time to other areas of the Christian life, such as marriage and spiritual growth. I realized I'd failed to communicate to my congregation the reality that justice is universal. We can study justice by itself, but we must also incorporate it when we study nearly every other subject, from marriage to spiritual growth.
In that sense studying justice is like studying grammar. We can learn how the structure and elements of a particular language work together, but we also need grammar to study nearly every other subject, from history to sociology to law. Grammar is laced throughout these subjects, and we cannot understand them apart from it.
We're familiar with how a concept can be thoroughgoing and foundational. Think of truth. We wouldn't suggest that truth was an optional add-on, a subject that should only be studied and preached about occasionally. Rather, we understand truth to be so crucial that it is a universalit is upon the foundation of truth that we build our ideas about other subjects. Truth is not simply one valuable subject among many; it is, in a sense, the one subject that is part of all others.
I've come to see justice in similar terms. Through studying, reading the Scriptures, traveling, dialoguing with brothers and sisters around the world, learning how to serve with my life, and always trying to ask good questions, I've become convinced that justice is every bit as universal as truth.
Put simply, truth corresponds to what is; justice to what ought to be.
We understand truth is a universal, a paradigm, a lens through which we can look to see what is real. Justice, likewise, is a lens through which we can look to determine what ought to be in our relationships both with God and with others.
Truth and justice as lenses for perceiving reality.
Justice has many facets, but we can't lose sight of the fact that justice itself is never peripheral. Rather, it is integral to the way we think, pray, act, hope, believe, work, spend, live, and love.
This isn't really a book about how to do more justice. Pressuring people to act is, ironically, a good way to ensure that people burn out, and that less justice gets done. It can also potentially even create injustice.
Rather, this book is about recovering the full-orbed biblical concept of justice and inviting it back into our lives. When we understand that justice is rooted in the character of God and flows from the heart of God, we can begin to see that it permeates all of life.
The heart of this book is an encounter with the heart of God, and God's heart beats with justice.
AN ONGOING DEFINITION
Justice is the single best word, both inside and outside the Bible, for capturing God's purposes for the world and humanity's calling in the world. Justice is, in fact, the broadest, most consistent word the Bible uses to speak about what ought to be, and it has been used throughout the centuries by Christians and non-Christians alike to describe vital areas of human and divine concern.
To "do justice" means to render to each what each is due. Justice involves harmony, flourishing, and fairness, and it is based on the image of God in every personthe Imago Deithat grants all people inalienable dignity and infinite worth.
Justice describes both our rightswhat we are owedand our responsibilities that we owe others and God.
Justice is broad enough to speak about truth, love, forgiveness, and grace, and it is woven consistently throughout Scripture. It conveys, through the prophetic images of Scripture, a picture of what God's kingdom will look like, and what it can begin to look like now.
During a radio address in 1933, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian and pastor killed by the Nazis, offered three possible stances for Christians to address systemic or state-sponsored injustice: speak truth to and criticize the state; give aid to victims of the state; and directly engage the unjust system ... "not just to bandage the victims under the wheel, but to put a spoke in the wheel itself."
In this I see a spectrum of justice, moving from dialogue to works of compassion and mercy to actively attacking unjust structures. All are part of justice, and all can and should be done. Abolitionists in the 1800s wrote newspaper editorials, organized the underground railroad, cared for injured slaves, and boycotted the products of the slave economyall while working to pass laws banning slavery. They didn't pit one aspect of justice against the others, but pursued justice along the whole spectrum as the building of God's shalom demanded.
A biblical understanding of how expansive justice is will carry us into a strong, broad, and deep appreciation of the fullness of God's heart for His creation.
A SCEPTER OF JUSTICE
Throughout history, a scepter has been a near-universal symbol of a ruler's sovereign authorityof his or her expansive responsibility and power. A scepter defines the kingdom, linking the ruler as a person to the kingdom as a whole. What happens to the kingdom happens to the ruler, and vice versa. When a pharaoh carried the scepter of Egypt, not only did he possess absolute authority over Egypt, but Egypt became his primary concern.
The psalmist said of God: "Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom" (Psalm 45:6). God's primary concern, His sphere of influence, is a kingdom defined by justice.
If we know the kingdom, we know the king.
To know God, we need to know His will for His kingdom, and to understand His will for His kingdom, we need to understand justice.
There are more than 2,100 verses in the Bible that mention poverty. Rock singer and humanitarian Bono called attention to this in his address to the National Prayer Breakfast in 2006, stating, "It's not an accident. That's a lot of air time, 2,100 mentions." By contrast, praying and prayer are mentioned less than a quarter of that.
Justice isn't a nice addition to God's otherwise perfect character. If we ignore justice, like ignoring love or truth, we create a caricature rather than the divine character we meet in Scripture and in our lives. Justice is a hallmark of God, a distinctive and pure feature of His character that defines Him and His will for the world.
Justicea right and equitable relationship with God and with peopleis truly a word worth redeeming.
HUNGRY FOR JUSTICE
That's part of what led me, along with a group of colleagues, to launch The Justice Conference. We wanted a way to gather people around a crucial conversation, to get twenty-first-century Christians talking about the word justice itself, carefully but with open hearts and minds.
"All virtue," wrote Aristotle, "is summed up in dealing justly." We need to begin pursuing justice by escaping fragmented causes and the latest social fads. We need, instead, to consider the big idea of justice, a theology of justice, and how it relates to God.
The most helpful conversation to begin with focuses less on specific actions and more on a deeper understanding of God's character. In Psalm 146:69, God's power as Creator is linked to His design for justice to be enacted in His creation, demonstrating that justice is an aspect of His character as foundational as love and truth.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them he remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
People are hungry for justice. They want justice for those they know who are suffering injustice. They want it for themselves and for their communities. They want to practice justice, experience justice, and know God through the universal quality of justice.
These things are what God wants too.
My race, gender, class, and education have shaped me to recognize some facets of justice and injustice more readilyand to be blind to issues that are clear to my brothers and sisters who are different from me.
Recently I tried to capture some of my understanding of justice in a poetic exploration called "Justice Is."
Excerpted from PURSUING JUSTICE by KEN WYTSMA D. R. JACOBSEN Copyright © 2013 by Ken Wytsma. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Redeeming Justice: What Justice Is and Why It Matters 1
Chapter 2 Dynamic Art: Justice as a Way of Knowing God 17
Chapter 3 Advent: The Gospel and Justice 37
Chapter 4 Human Rights and Happiness: Recovering the Moral Value of Happiness 51
Chapter 5 Love as Sacrament: How Justice Informs Love 71
Chapter 6 Stained Glass: When Religion Gets in the Way of Justice 85
Chapter 7 Remember What You Saw: How Empathy Carries Justice 107
Chapter 8 PlayStations and Poverty: Growing Up (in) a Consumer Culture 125
Chapter 9 Compassion Can Kill: The Need for Wisdom and Accountability in Generosity 141
Chapter 10 Why Do You Call Me Good? Reflecting the Goodness of God 159
Chapter 11 God's Love Language: The Love of Others in the Love of God 169
Chapter 12 The Anatomy of Apathy: How We Settle for Less than the Golden Rule 183
Chapter 13 Justice in Society: Why Justice Is Always Social 203
Chapter 14 Rediscovering Worship: The Role of Justice in the Pursuit of God 221
Chapter 15 Debt to Society: Grace and Reconciliation in Establishing Shalom 235
Chapter 16 Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe: How Justice Surfaces the Need for Grace 247
Chapter 17 Learn to Change the World: Education and Knowledge in the Pursuit of Justice 261
Chapter 18 Give Your Life Away: Why It's Better to Give than Receive 277
Chapter 19 Live and Die for Bigger Things 293
About the Author 325
About D. R. Jacobsen 327
Interlude Authors 329
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In Pursuing Justice, Wytsma has assembled a fascinating hybrid of memoir, theology, sociology, history, and art. Always honest, authentic, and transparent, he bares his soul on his lifelong struggle to understand and imitate God’s heart for justice and what he has learned along the way. The book is filled with anecdotes and personal stories, including Wytsma’s spiritual journey and how he nearly partied himself to death in his twenties before he began to search for meaning and fulfillment. Illustrations illuminate every chapter, and one of my favorite things about the book is the poetry, short stories, photographs, and drawings in the “Interludes” between chapters. Instead of being a profound addition to the theological discussion of justice, Pursuing Justice flips the entire conversation: justice IS a part of theology. In Wytsma’s view, by pursuing justice we ARE pursuing relationship with our creator. Stopping short of theological liberalism and the Social Gospel, Wytsma powerfully points out that while justice isn’t the entirety of Jesus’ message, it IS a necessary, undeniable part of it. Pursuing Justice has been a powerfully transformative book for my wife and me. Since reading it we have drastically changed the way we eat, the way we spend our money, and the way we consider many of the social issues facing the church today. I highly recommend it, regardless of your age, background, or line of work, as the variety of subject matter, approach, and artistry will keep anyone engaged and leave you hungry to grow closer to God, educate yourself on justice, and change the world.
This was, all in all, a great and inspiring book. Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma is written in a very straightforward manner but each chapter takes breaks from honest truth to tell an anecdote or two. Although written very differently, I hold this book in as high regard as I do Radical by David Platt (which is very high). It brings home many truths that, as Christians, we tend to overlook simply because it's easier to turn a blind eye or possibly because we haven't been taught how to look. Always tying his beliefs back to Scripture, this book moved me to look at things very differently than I have been and has pushed me to action in many areas where I have been pitifully complacent. Anyone wanting to walk in justice and truth the way Christ did needs to read this book and apply its simple, but profound methods for living the way we all should be. Justice isn't only for the courtrooms, and injustice is everywhere we turn... Pursuing Justice brings to light the fact that we can no longer say that our righteousness is up to par if it's void of the constant pursuit of bringing justice to those suffering from the lack of it.
booksbysteph says "been there, read that" First I want you to know that I did not complete this book. I read the first few chapters and then put it down. This author uses theology and philosophy to talk about justice and its relationship with God, using every subject. I absolutely detest philosophy, especially when I cannot ask questions or be a part of the conversation. So my review of this book is based on my emotions about how the subject presented. With that being said. I did not like this book. It angered me. The author used many quotes from well known historical authors that made me feel like he was not using his own words to talk about justice. One review of the book states, "Not since C.S. Lewis put down his pen have readers been so provoked to think." A quick glace through the 18 pages of citations from other books, the work of C.S. Lewis is cited at least a dozen times. I refuse to read a book that has already been written by another author. Until next time, live life one page at a time!
When we hear the word justice, and particularly social justice, it’s easy to think of just one specific cause. Justice is ending human trafficking. Or it’s providing clean water. Or feeding the hungry, caring for the environment, or ending racism. But what if it’s all that and so much more? What if, instead of being about this cause or that fad, it’s about God and what he loves? We don’t have to look far in scripture to see that God cares deeply for the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the widow, and the fatherless. What if it has a lot less to do with us and a lot more to do with others, yet is the thing that brings us the deepest joy? The truth is that we were made to love people. We were made to live in shalom. We were made to bring God’s right-side up kingdom to earth. And when we live to fulfill that purpose, we’ll find a deeper passion and joy than we ever knew was possible. But if we’re going to seek justice, we need to know what it is. In Pursuing Justice, Ken Wytsma helps us do just that. He unpacks and reclaims words like justice, righteousness, love, and happiness. When we understand how close to God’s heart justice is, it’s impossible for us to worship without loving others as He does. That’s why this book is important. It challenged me and got me thinking, for which I’m grateful. It’s a challenge to live and die for bigger things, and it’s a book worth reading! (Bethany Winz)
Pursuing Justice The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things Ken Wytsma ©2013 With D. R. Jacobsen Thomas Nelson Publisher ISBN Something deep within humans desires justice. But how do we pursue justice for ourselves and especially for those who need it most? How can we fulfill the desire to change the world for the better? Ken Wytsma teaches answers to these and other questions. Wytsma has written an important book about how justice relates to love, empathy, righteousness and true religion, among other themes. We often hear of these other concepts, but not how they relate to justice nor how major an activity justice is. The author wants readers to consider the widest possible view of justice as something bigger than we often understand the word to mean. He teaches how to apply justice in all areas of our lives in a satisfying way. The book contains many inspiring ‘Interludes’ between chapters…quotes by other writers that will encourage readers. Personal stories add to the readability of this well-written volume.
I have been using the term biblical justice for years because it truly explains the call to justice that God places on our lives. Ken Wytsma does an excellent job of explaining our call as Christians to justice, based on biblical truths. We are definitely seeing a change among believers in their ideas of justice and Ken explains so clearly throughout this book why this is so central to our faith. It is time that we all embrace these truths and see justice as truly a biblical command. “Giving our lives away requires us to understand biblical justice. Justice is a word that has often been hollowed out, muddied, and even shunned, but one we must necessarily redeem to its full significance if we are to embrace a God of justice and his call to be agents of justice. Justice is rooted in the character of God, mandated by the commands of God, present in the kingdom of God, motivated by the love of God, affirmed in the teaching of Jesus, reflected in the example of Jesus, and carried on today by all who are moved and led by the Spirit.” While the term “social justice” has become somewhat divisive among people of differing faith and political backgrounds, Wytsma does an excellent job of explaining to us the biblical basis for all justice, and God’s call in all Christians’ lives. For us to fully follow Jesus, we have to live out a life of justice, love and mercy. Wytsma shows the reader how justice is central to every part of God’s Kingdom and plan for redemption for His people. Ken uses a lot of personal experiences and stories to express ideas in the book that might otherwise be complicated to some. His intelligence, knowledge and wisdom shine throughout the book , yet he writes in a way that all can understand and follow. This is a great book for anyone interested in biblical justice, whether it is the first book you have picked up on the subject or your tenth. Everyone will learn from Ken’s teachings and the stories and experiences will keep the reader fully engaged.
“Let’s not argue against helping orphans; instead, let’s find a better way of helping orphans.” Despite a full section devoted to “The Politics of Justice” and addressing the notion that social justice and “doing justice” is often equated with liberal politics or theology, Wytsma manages to steer clear of political divisiveness and denominational differences, and instead presents a logical and cohesive argument as to the biblical universality of justice. He calls on the entire Christian community to ‘do good’ and live daily in the presence of God, and warns against becoming entrenched in politics. While centered on what can be a touchy topic (especially in the Christian community), Pursuing Justice is completely void of negativity. There is no finger pointing or blame. No one is bashed or made to feel ‘less than’ anyone else. Instead we travel with Wytsma on his own lifelong journey to understand justice and its role in his own life. Consequently, we are challenged by his journey to give our own lives away in pursuit of justice.This book is as relevant to readers unsure of what “doing justice” looks like in their day-to-day living, as it is to those seeking to give up everything, take up their cross and follow Jesus. In fact, I’d say it’s even more applicable to the former group, as Wytsma reminds us repeatedly that justice is an ongoing process reflected in the small decisions we make on a daily basis. Wytsma finds his “sweet spot” amidst the passion of an entrepreneur, the vivid storytelling and relational perspective of a pastor, and the informative style of a teacher and scholar, all written with meticulous attention to historical context and detail. It is perhaps this attention to historical detail that I find most fascinating. For example, we’re introduced to the social gospel movement in the context of the social and economic realities of the 19th century. While this may seem an obvious way to approach the topic, I’ve found that context and historical understanding can often be missing from these conversations.While I took a great many things away from this book, ultimately—for me—what it boiled down to was Wytsma’s clear distinction between fixing the world and changing the world. If we focus on fixing the world, we’ll most likely find ourselves burnt out and discouraged. But we can all change the world… one person, one life, one prayer, one action, one choice at a time. “There will always be injustice and sin, but even though we can’t fix the world, we can certainly change it.”
What Ken produces in this book is a gospel centered approach to God's call to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. It encompasses God's intrinsic design and command that we do justice. An impassioned plea to redeem the word and concept of Justice and restore it to it's rightful place deep within God's heart and subsequently,ours. Once we embrace the template God provided for why we pursue justice and shalom, Ken moves into an overview and analysis of many of the obstacles present including apathy, blind spots, politics, and social structures. He easily blends history, philosophy, theology, and ethics to address some of the solutions to engaging this not just as activists or soap-box-ranters but as grace soaked administers bent on seeing God's intent fulfilled as we obey his call. He covers a lot of ground in 307 pages and his tone, while intellectual makes subjects such as the theological necessity of justice easily within reach for any reader. He intersperses segments of his life experiences and encounters with others to demonstrate many of his points and includes interludes between each chapter where many diverse voices contribute art, lyric, poetry, and dialogue on a myriad of topics. The end result being a mosaic of creativity and collaboration. He gives almost no application in the book's entirety. There are no lists to check or steps to follow or obey so that you can be assured you are living a just life. It was most certainly intentional. Ken doesn't fill in all the blanks for you, challenging you to engage the topic personally and spiritually. My mind was provoked, leaving me with a lot of questions. I found at times I was arguing with the book, yes, hypothetically in my head like a crazy person, but I realize that is the very thing that makes this book magnificent. It inspires thought and questions which then drive engagement and dialogue. It offers something for people in all the different arenas of justice. It will resonate differently in a twenty-something college kid burning inside to change the world, a thirty-something housewife with three kids in the suburbs, a young single mother raising her child in the bad part of town, a retired grandfather, or an entrepreneur or CEO of a major company. But unlike some books, it has value for them all. It induces engagement. Without those provocations, I might not have asked the questions. He may not give you all the answers, but he'll certainly challenge you to think.And that's a great place to start.
The Justice Conference founder Ken Wytsma was the opening speaker at last year's conference in Portland. He told the crowd they were at a "conference to die to yourself" and were "among 4,000 people who believe it's better to give than to receive." Ken spoke about giving our lives away for the betterment of others. As the conference kicked off he said, "I hope you get crushed this weekend." Boy, did I. My friends and I left the conference different than when we arrived. And there was one sentence he spoke that has stuck with me since and is what this blog is named after: "We may not be able to fix the world, but we can change it." As soon as I started to read Ken's first book, "Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live & Die for Bigger Things," I was back at the Portland Convention Center listening to empowering and encouraging stories about justice, faith and finding true joy in giving ones life away. In "Pursuing Justice" Ken uses the gospel, life experiences, history and various works of art to explain what justice really looks like, and how it's knowing God as much as it's serving God.
With the pursuit of justice comes a great deal of responsibility. Ken Wytsma has taken up that responsibility in providing the beautiful work of his life, out-working of God's vision of justice, and now, this book. Unlike the commonly known phrase, you'll actually want (need) to put this one down. You'll crave reflection and response as the call to radically shift that paradigm of how we view, do, and teach justice rings clearly. Ken has asked us to turn around and look through the heart of God and how He's asked us to be involved in His restorative justice in this world. Read Pursuing Justice, be blessed, be challenged and be changed.