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2014-03-24 Does justice mean anything without the gospel? | Convergence Magazine

2014-03-24 Does justice mean anything without the gospel? | Convergence Magazine

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Published by Plant With Purpose
Does justice mean anything without the gospel? | Convergence Magazine
Does justice mean anything without the gospel? | Convergence Magazine

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Published by: Plant With Purpose on May 12, 2014
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05/12/2014

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S
everal weeks ago, I attended The JusticeConference
(http://www.thejusticeconference.com/)
 in downtown Los Angeles.The event is an annual convergence of Christian thinkers and doers in theworld of social justice. Each morning before the conference began, my coworkerBecky and I walked from our hotel to the stately Orpheum Theatre, sweating inthe dry LA heat. The downtown setting felt fitting; for every issue addressed, thecity clothed it in personhood. We passed representatives of homelessness,immigration, and addiction on every block, and remembered that injustice has aface.Inside the Orpheum Theatre, advocates from around the world — speakers,
 
DOES JUSTICE MEANANYTHING WITHOUTTHE GOSPEL?
 
directors, students, pastors — shared their stories. We were reminded that justice is not a trend or a branding tool (though the past decade might indicateotherwise). Yes, terms like “social justice” and “sustainability” have gained valuebecause of their marketing power. But in development work, the wordsustainable is an indicator of real success. Sustainable development means truechange is taking place, and will continue to take place. In its fullest sense,“sustainable” means transformation over the long haul.I thought about this as Becky and I stood behind our conference booth. We hadbeen invited to attend and represent Plant WithPurpose
(http://www.plantwithpurpose.org)
, an organization that transforms the livesof the rural poor through environmental, economic, and spiritual development. Ithought about Jesus’ role in humanitarian work and wondered if Christians canwork toward sustainable change without also working toward spiritual change. Inthe context of Plant With Purpose’s work, spiritual renewal is crucial. Ourpartnering communities can lift themselves out of poverty, heal their land, andfeed their families because they’ve rediscovered dignity and a sense of purposethrough God.In the world of social justice, the greatest changes take place when individualsembrace their role as co-agents of change with God. For justice anddevelopment to be sustained over the years, something as transcendent asspiritual transformation has to bend the hearts of the community. People aremoved to work toward a better life when they catch a vision for God’s kingdom,when they realize they have a God-given potential to fulfill, and when theyunderstand that their unique gifts can be used to injustice.Dr. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., helped clarify thesethoughts during the conference. As she stood before us on stage one afternoon,she reminded her audience that the Christian church is critical to the success of any justice movement. Historically, the civil rights movement confirms this — itwas bred and nurtured within churches. They represented safe meeting placesfor planning, praying, grieving, and hoping. Churches were the hubs from whichthe spokes of the movement travelled outward. “In order to be effective in social justice,” Dr. King explained, “its adherents must know that God is on the side of social justice.”Her words struck me as both accurate and beautiful. Is it possible for humans tofacilitate change without Jesus at the centre? Sure. Secular organizations andnon-believing individuals do radical and humble good work. Jesus can workthrough any platform, and that’s good news for all of us. But I wonder if 

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