God's Great Expedition for the Restless Christian
Gary A. Haugen
InterVarsity Press, 2008, 148 pp., ISBN 978-0-8308-3494-5
Gary Haugen is president and CEO of International Justice Mission (IJM), a human rights organization. Previously he worked in the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice and was director of the U.N. genocide investigation in Rwanda. His previous book is Good News About Injustice.
The book is an apologetic for the priority of justice ministry. The central tenets are that justice is central to God, injustice is the cause of many other poverty-related needs, and very little effort is being devoted to it compared to all other mission efforts.
"Jesus beckons me to follow him to that place of weakness where I risk the vulnerability of a child so that I might know how strong my Father is and how much he loves me. But truth be told, I would rather be an adult. I'd rather be in a place where I can still pull things together if God doesn't show up, where I risk no ultimate humiliation, where I don't have to take the shallow breaths of desperation. And as a result, my experience of my heavenly Father is simply impoverished." (17)
"Mother Teresa said that she couldn't imagine doing her work for more than thirty minutes without prayer. Do you and I have work that we can't imagine doing for thirty minutes without prayer?" (23)
I sense many Christians are disappointed in the way their lives are turning out. It is mostly a harmless routine leading to a gathering discontent. A restless voice asks, Now what? Our rescue is not our destination but a means God uses to rescue the world. "The world is a dark and hurting place, and the Creator of the universe has one plan to bring light to it--and through Christ, we are that plan." (30)
"By divine hardwiring, we desperately want our lives to count--really, significantly count--for God's rescuing work in the world." (34) "Jesus is offering this generation a very fresh and powerful pathway to courage." (35)
We choose whether to go, but not the path. "God is calling his people to a pathway out of fear and triviality through the struggle for justice in his world." (38) The work of justice is fundamental for discipleship for every Christian. (See Mt 23:23 and Micah 6:8). (39)
"Certainly the work of justice brings marvelous rescue and joy to the victims of injustice, but God wants his people to know that the work of justice benefits the people who do it as well. It is a means of rescue not only for the powerless but also for the powerful who otherwise waste away in a world of triviality and fear." (41)
"I believe that God has specifically tailored the work of justice for Christians of this era in order to address our need to be rescued from fear." (41)
"The sin of injustice is defined in the Bible as the abuse of power--abusing power by taking from others the good things that God intended for them, namely, their life, liberty, dignity, or the fruits of their love or their labor." (46) The biblical response is to seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. (48)
The focus of IJM is to "help inspire and mobilize the body of Christ to love those who are suffering injustice." (48)
At the root of much suffering is violence. Food, shelter, schools and medicine do not meet the root cause of violence that lies beneath so much suffering of the poor. The hands of bullies must be restrained. (49)
Violence is intentional. It is scary. It fights back. It leaves deep scars. Experts say 25 million people live and die as actual slaves. (52) It's not enough to treat the symptoms, violence must be stopped. (53) The poor need a strong, consistent advocate who won't go away: then the oppressors will leave them alone. (54) Those in slavery first need freedom. Then other helps can follow. (57)
Hands-on ministry addressing these needs is only about 1% of all missions efforts. (59) It is the most neglected category of global ministry. And it requires courage. (60)
Jesus makes it clear that we can't love God without loving our neighbors. But how do we actually do it? "Doing justice is being obedient to Jesus' command to love our neighbor in a world of injustice." (74) "Justice is doing for others what we would want done for us." "In a world of injustice, loving intervention on behalf of the oppressed is simple obedience to Jesus' most fundamental command to love our neighbor." "The weight of the biblical material is overwhelming." (75)
The author provides brief stories of several who have pioneered, William Sheppard on behalf of Congo, Donaldina Cameron in San Francisco, and Irena Sendlerona in the Jewish ghettos of Poland under Nazi Germany. He also provides a few current stories of injustice and rescue.
Reflect on your life now and the life you sense God may be calling you to live. (105) "Search the promises of Scripture and take a risk." In my Christian life, am I playing offense or defense? (106) Embark on a journey of renovation. (108)
Would You Rather Be Safe or Brave? This may be the choice of our age. You can't be both. Discover that life, like football, is about contact. "Doing God's will in a fallen world is inherently dangerous." "Clearly, some suffering is a part of God's will. It isn't necessarily the suffering itself that is God's will, but rather following the will of God in a fallen world will generate suffering in our lives. There are two things that are always the will of God and almost always dangerous: telling the truth and loving needy people." (115) "Following Jesus is about loving people in need." (116)
"Sometimes the will of God is scary because he is asking us to choose between a life that looks successful and a life that is actually significant…." (119)
Things that hold us back: comfort, security, control, success. Rewards of moving forward: adventure, faith, miracles, deep knowledge of Jesus. (122)
"He is inviting all of us on his great, costly expedition of transformation in the world --but we must respond." (125) "Some of the saddest pictures in the Gospels are of those who liked Jesus but couldn't trust him enough to follow him." (126)
Appendix 1. (Practical Steps for) Partnering with International Justice Mission. See www.ijm.org.
There is a section of questions for discussion and reflection at the end.
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