We slept under make-shift cardboard houses on the lawn of the Washington Monument.
We wore T-shirts that said “Seek Justice” and raised thousands of dollars by twirling across a stage.
We sat in awe and listened to our generation’s justice pioneers- Gary Haugen, Shane Claibourne, Bobby Bailey- and thought “we want to be like them”.
Justice was the key word in my childhood. We cared about the oppressed. We cared about the persecuted. We were relevant and passionate and a little naive. My heroes were those who fought and stood in the gap and spoke up for those who could not speak up for themselves.
People who had pulled children out of brothels ate dinner with my family on Saturday nights. Those who practically lived in their government offices so that effective legislation could be passed worshipped next to me on Sunday. I remind my parents that they can’t really complain about the fact that I live continents away and make hardly any money- they raised me this way. It’s really their own fault, I say.
If you look at the generation raised by my church and community, you will see we are little tiny world changers. We work for non-profits, we moved into inner cities and practiced the art of good neighboring, we have traveled all over the world, we give our money away, we are still passionate and relevant- but we are a little less naive.
There are two things no one told me about joining this fight for justice.
One. You will lose a hundred battles before you win even one.
Two. You will make enemies. And no, not the enemies you think- not the bad guys or the oppressors. You will make enemies in the church, among your friends, in your own community you thought you could trust. Because this is the thing about evil- it’s not black and white- it’s not evil against good- it’s all mixed up together and confusing and tricks you into thinking the world is all grey. The king of evil is manipulation and deceit. Cover up and lies. You second guess yourself and wonder if you’re fighting the right battle, and you will always have others trying to convince you it’s not possible or worth it or right.
Some day walking away seems easiest and right and the only option. Other days fighting seems easiest and right and the only option. Evil fogs up your fight to try and win.
We lose. Again and again, we lose. We questions ourselves. Again and again, we question.
Some say, “don’t rock the boat”, some say, “but think about our reputation”, some say “but church unity!”, some say “it’s too dangerous” or “it’s uncomfortable” or “we are called to be peace-makers”.
But this is what I believe: we are called to be peace-makers, yes. But we can’t make peace without fighting injustice. It’s impossible. Peace and injustice cannot co-exist. Because what you mean when you say peace-makers? Is that you only want to keep the peace for yourself, and ignore those drowning under injustice. Because for them? There is no peace.
If we, the church, turn our eyes against injustice- then what is the point? Why are we here on this earth? Where is the strength behind this gospel we preach? What is the church if we let it get infected with those who do wrong in Jesus’ name? If we’re not fighting, if we SEE and we are turning away, then how dare we call ourselves Christians? TURNING AWAY is what ruins our reputation, destroys church unity, rocks the boat, created discomfort, destroys peace, and is the most dangerous.
So I will keep losing and I will keep questioning myself and I will keep moving through the fog that says maybe i’m doing this all wrong, but I will not stop fighting. I will not give up. I will not turn away.
Because for me, that is what being a follower of Christ means. I might not pray enough or read my bible enough or go to church enough, in fact i’m pretty sure I don’t. I don’t have all the answers and most days i’m full to the brim with questions and doubts. My faith is always changing, always questioning, always wondering, and always in need of growth. But this I know- Being a Christian is not meant to be safe, it’s dangerous business and If I dare to call myself a Christian- If I dare to do work in Jesus’ name- then I am not allowed to give up or turn away or pretend I don’t see.
I am called to act.