A “just life” is one that refuses to neglect even the smallest act of compassion (to suffer with) while being willing to be incarnate in the development of others (loving your neighbor as yourself) while relentlessly pursuing the most revolutionary structural change (the redemption of fallen systems):
It has been said that he who waits to do a great deal of good at once, will never do anything at all. Lives of love and justice begin with true compassion – which strictly means “to suffer with” the hurting, the poor, and the oppressed. Often a seemingly insignificant moment of incarnate compassion can become an act of justice when that moment begins to break through and tear down oppressive structures. Compassion can be the gateway to or lay the foundation for justice.
Transformation begins when we are willing to engage in individual development – which is simply the willingness to personally build into and disciple another person. To love another human being as we love ourselves in ways that are specific, concrete, individualized, and unique.
A transformational church is one that seeks to redeem both lives and societies through community development – the holistic development of people, the relationships within communities, the restoration of places and institutions, and to love in such a way that images forth Christ’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
Justice is seen when a transformational community realizes structural change – which is addressing issues of power, law, and systems (potentially creating alternative systems). True justice is about engaging the root causes of why people are poor or oppressed, and is traditionally addressed through legal and political advocacy.
Together, compassion, individual development, community development, and structural change make up a “justice continuum” that allows us to see what a relationship centered, holistic vision for justice can look like.
Focus on the Biblical text:
Isaiah 58:6-12: Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.