When my sister recently decided to run for public office in the November 2014 election, she sent information about herself to local news outlets to “get her name out there.” A few days later, a reporter from one of the papers interviewed my sister. She asked, “I see you listed that you are a church deacon. What does that mean?” My sister proceeded to rattle off a list of duties that recalled Tim Keller’s comment that “deacons have evolved into janitors and treasurers.” “We make sure the church is clean and the lawn in mowed, line up maintenance and repairs, count the offering…” Then she said, “Occasionally, if the pastors are unable to do it, we visit the sick—” Continue reading
A few months ago I was talking to an acquaintance who owns several rental properties in town. He mentioned to me that one of his homes was open and that he was fielding phone calls from those interested in renting his property. I asked him how it was going and if he had received many calls. His response was something like this:
“Yes, I have had lots of calls. However many of them are from people who hardly speak English… so I really only have a few potential clients.”
Think for a moment about some of the most beautiful things you have seen.
Maybe a mountain range, field of flowers, a baby’s smile or a sunset spread across the sky
Now think for a moment about some of the ugliest things you have seen.
Maybe the effects of disease, physical poverty, human violence or oppression
What is it that makes some things beautiful and other things ugly? In chapter 8 Keller sums this question up with the word Shalom. Continue reading
Keller kicks off chapter seven with some questions, “Should Christians work together for justice in society with members of other religions or no religion? If so, how should they do it?”
Keller’s answer to these questions was more philosophical than illustrative. Lucky for me, Jordan had just shared an experience he had that painted an inspiring picture of what it actually looks like when Christians collaborate with people of other faiths in a transformative way:
As we have worked our way through Generous Justice I have been inspired. Keller shares several stories throughout the book of different individuals doing justice and about ways to bring justice to those who need it. His stories peeked my curiosity about others seeking justice around the world today. Here are just a few people that I have found who are doing great work.
I remember hearing a story in the spring of 2011 during the Arab Spring in Egypt about a group of Christians surrounding a group of praying Muslims in order to “protect” them from violence during their prayer time. A short time later I read a similar but unrelated article about a group of Muslims attending a Coptic Christian worship service in Egypt in order to provide a “human shield” to Christians during their time of worship. (More likely than not the radical militants would not bomb the Coptic Christian Church service if fellow Muslims were inside.)
As I think back on these accounts I realize that at the heart of this “protection” for the other religious group was a sense of justice. Deeper than their religious differences lay a sense of human dignity that when activated led to a pursuit of doing justice.
Have you ever started a project that seemed to never end? You start out with such excitement and satisfaction, ready to give it all you have. With a dream in mind you are motivated and driven to do it. But then reality sets in. This is going to be a long tedious process. Maybe you see little progress and soon you become disillusioned, fatigued or just plain unmotivated. Sometimes you just keep going because you have a no quit spirit and other times you just finally give up and move on. I know I have been there.
As a person that likes to dream about big things but sometimes gets twisted up and turned around in the details I am guilty of starting things that never get finished well.
What about in a relationship? Have you ever reached out to someone with the hope of helping to steer them towards Jesus but then after several months or visits ended tired and frustrated?
We all want to help people. We all want to make a positive impact in someone else’s life, especially if that person is hurting physically, emotionally, or spiritually. The danger is that sometimes this desire to help others can manifest itself in a way that has come to be known as ‘the savior mentality.’ It’s the idea that people who are vulnerable need another person to save them from their situation, because they cannot do it themselves.
This mentality is damaging to communities. It gives those in the community the impression that they have nothing to give, that they cannot help themselves because you have more education, knowledge, and expertise. But how can someone who doesn’t know and understand the community know what is best? Those who live in the communities are the ones who are best equipped to lift themselves, their family, friends, and neighbors out of poverty. In Chapter 6 Keller writes,
Help the needy or evangelize? Which is more important? Is one superior to the other? It’s a question that believers around the world wrestle with. In Asia most Christians tend to believe that evangelism is key, anything else is a distraction. And yet is that really true?
In the 6th chapter of Generous Justice, Keller addresses the question that every Christian who wants to impact the world around them often asks, “What is the relationship between the call to help the needy and the Biblical command to evangelize?”
These two concepts are everywhere in the Word of God whether in form of direct commands or implication of commands.
In chapter five of Generous Justice, Keller writes:
Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3), and most scholars over the centuries have understood that God’s blessing and salvation come to those who “acknowledge spiritual bankruptcy”…. What if, however, you aren’t poor in spirit? That would mean you don’t believe you are so sinful, morally bankrupt, and lost that only free grace can possibly save you. You may find the classic Christian doctrines about humanity’s deep sin and lostness to be too harsh…. My experience as a pastor has been that those who are middle-class in spirit tend to be indifferent to the poor, but people who come to grasp the gospel of grace and become spiritually poor find their hearts gravitating toward the materially poor. To the degree that the gospel shapes your self-image, you will identify with those in need.