I am currently living with the question: how can I, a self centered person, learn to care more for others.
I bring these ears to the current Capital Mosaic series called Just Words. In which we have invited inspiring ordinary people to share their stories of growing hearts for justice. Last week we were honored to have Chris Marshall in our midst to share his journey with justice. Chris shared his story of engaging in restorative justice and let us examine it for any ingredients that might nurture a heart for justice. As I listened four of these ingredients seemed emerge;
1. Awaken the longing for justice within you.
2. Live the good news.
3. Participate in communities of peace.
4. See injustice.
When Chris looked back over his life he didn’t see any significant nurturing or events that triggered his heart for justice. Yet it seemed to be always with him. He didn’t say it but his story pointed to a longing for justice that seems to be in us all. He said that while most scholars can’t agree on what justice is they can point to areas of injustice. It seems growing a heart the cares for others may not be as forced as we think but may require us to open ourselves up to the suffering of others and as we listen we may find a natural cry in our hearts for justice.
I was inspired again by Chris’ provoking account of how Jesus’ message of the kingdom was meant to transform this world. Chris set out that for followers of Jesus participating in justice is not some optional extra but central to our faith. From the Torah, to the prophets, through Jesus, and Paul all point to God caring for, even favoring, the oppressed and marginalized. Our traditions fall short when they preach a privatized faith only concerned with getting people in the life boat. I was challenged to remember that the gospel came from beyond us, its not just a nice idea, but it has the power to transform us and our world. That this is not just a faith to believe but to practice in every area of life.
“We cannot be human on our own” still rings in my head. Because of this Chris said that all issues of justice are deeply relational and so is engaging in justice making. It was clear that for Chris being a part of peacemaking Mennonite community was very formational for him. Not just being part of the community living today but those that had gone before. It seems a consensus from our speakers that we cannot care for others on our own. We need the wisdom of those who have gone before us and the strength of those we walk with.
Seeing first hand the impersonal nature of the court room shook seems to have given Chris the courage to take on a violent system. Behind his story I was again reminded of the importance of looking; letting ourselves see what really going on. So often I refuse to look afraid of both what I will see out there and what I will see in me. But unless we look will never be able to care.
Chris said that to do justice we need to reach a turning point when we have compassion for another’s suffering. That is to say we feel their pain in our guts, we share in their suffering. That holy heart break as Wayne described it. He challenged us as recipients of this good news we are called to make radical commitments to be agents of renewal in all areas of life.
It is safe to say that my head is still spinning from his challenging words. However complicated it all seems Chris inspired me when he pulled it all together simply with three words; justice, mercy, and faith.