Tell and Show
By Mark A. Taylor
It’s one thing to talk about justice; it’s another to work for it. It’s one thing to study justice; it’s another to seek it.
But talking and studying are important, of course, especially at first. So in posts at this site this month we’re talking about the justice God seeks for those beaten down by society and circumstances. Three writers look at Scripture to see God’s compassion and the gospel’s concern for those ill served by the systems and situations trapping them in poverty, homelessness, or despair. Look again at the prophecy of Amos, the experience of Ruth, and the ministry of Jesus to see the justice described by the Bible.
But this month we wanted to do more than just talk about ideas. We wanted to show examples, and this issue offers several. Even in these, however, there are principles.
• To alleviate oppression, build relationships with the oppressed. This is the genius of the Lipscomb Initiative For Education. Week after week, as conventional college students attended class inside prison walls with inmates, lives in both groups were changed.
One teacher in the program, Preston Shipp, shares his experience this month. “There is no substitute for leaving our comfort zones and going to places of darkness,” he writes. “Proximity is crucial, and relationships are imperative.”
This is why Ed Taylor invites homeless men to use his shower and watch his dog. This is the genius behind programs at Johnson University, Hope International University, and Ozark Christian College where students learn about urban neighborhoods by working with those serving them.
• To build lasting change, start small. Real change comes when we do more than distribute holiday food baskets, donate to the local urban mission, or fill backpacks for children we never see. Real change comes when we take time to build trust. It may begin slowly—one class in a woman’s prison, eight children in an after-school program. We can’t enjoy the shade of a mighty maple overnight, and we won’t see God change lives through scattered, random acts of generosity alone.
• To teach, be willing to learn. Kip Lines spent “intense times of prayer and fasting with church leaders” in Kenya before a solution to their problems became clear. Tommy Nixon began his service in an urban neighborhood by asking its residents, “What do you need?” Shipp listened to the stories of the prisoners he was teaching and saw how he had more in common with them than he thought.
The ancient prophet listed God’s commands: “Do justice . . . love kindness . . . walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8, English Standard Version). This month we tell and show what that means.