For me, these past few months have been a time of learning; Learning to social distance, copying YouTube tutorials for watercolour painting, revising for my remote university exams, taking an online TEFL course, remembering to unmute myself on Zoom when I want to speak, researching chickens and their eating habits… The list goes on. I’ve gathered a lot of new knowledge over the past few months, and I’ve enjoyed this extra time to take life at a slower pace, but I also received a wake-up call that was long overdue. Realising that I was able to almost completely sit back the chaos of a global pandemic in my home with my loving family, I was confronted with the harsh reality that I, as a middle-class white person in the Western world, have been able to ignore the countless amounts of injustices that go on in this world every single day. I thought I was doing well; I use a bamboo toothbrush and a reusable water bottle, I try to avoid buying fast fashion when I can help it, my heart is broken when I see a racially motivated murder in the media, I rarely use meat when I cook… Yet these in themselves are not enough to seek justice in my day to day.
I can’t look at these small steps in my life, although useful, and be satisfied with my pursuit of justice. I can’t just be angry or upset about things inwardly. I can’t continue living like I am, largely ignoring the suffering of so many in this world. I now must consider about how I can be actively anti-racist, anti-fast fashion, anti-climate change, anti-human trafficking, anti-gender inequality … And I believe that we as a world can engage actively in this together to envision and act upon a more just and equal world for everyone as the world reopens after Coronavirus.
My identity as a Christian is crucial to my worldview. The Bible passages that I read and the model of who I strive to be in Jesus can’t help but permeate my pursual of justice. However, I have been learning that I can’t just fit pursuing justice into the outskirts of my life. As a Christian I am called to seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and plead the widow’s cause (Isaiah 1:17) and look after the planet (Genesis 2:15). Therefore, I must shape the rest of my life around the Father’s calling for me. If you are also a Christian, please consider this: Our walk with Christ and approach to justice are not and cannot be mutually exclusive. We must be as active in our justice pursuit as we are in our gospel sharing. As Tim Keller once said, “If you are trying to live a life in accordance with the Bible, the concept and call to justice are inescapable.”
So, what can we do and how can we do this? Whilst life may be seemingly going back to normal in the United Kingdom, we’re currently living in this strange in-between kind of world where we somehow have more time than normal but we’re starting to feel the pressure of filling it again with ‘normal life activities’. But with this extra time on our hands, one way that we could use it is to educate ourselves. I’m sure we’ve all seen the Instagram infographics blazingly stating ‘EDUCATE YOURSELF’. We can’t just let this become a trendy catchphrase. Let’s acknowledge it and use it as motivation to fill in the gaps in our knowledge. Be that the most basic facts about the harm of fast-fashion or be that an academic text on systemic racism, let this time be one of learning, and relearning. I know that I have been bowled over with the amount I didn’t know before and daunted by the amount that is still ahead of me to learn, but let’s educate ourselves together in this time that we have been granted. If you are a Christian, equip yourself with justice language and texts in the Bible so you have full assurance of your calling.
In our personal lives we can make slight changes in order to help us envision a more just world after Coronavirus. I know that there are many times when I could walk or take public transport instead of driving to reduce pollution levels. I could be more conscious about recycling and turning electrical appliances off when not in use. My social media could be used more intentionally to talk about justice issues and reflect myself as a follower of Jesus on a journey of learning about justice. I know I need to take more time to read up on issues such as racism and human trafficking. I have the means to donate more money to charities that will use it to provide hope and help to those who need it. All of these are small, yet if each of us took on at least one as a challenge, we could reap the benefits in our environment, in our understanding of people’s suffering, and in the quality of life of people all over the world.
Justice pursual is not easy and each conversation requires maturity, bravery, and open-mindedness. We must stay humble and be ready to listen to those who are more experienced and know more than us. Don’t stop asking questions until you understand. Equip yourself with the vocabulary and facts to be able to have those uncomfortable conversations with your friends and family members. One of the most important aspects of envisioning a more just world is found in our relationships with people. Our relationships are microcosms of the world; Therefore, we must work hard to build trust with people so that we are able to speak honestly with them. Our most profound impact could be found in the lives of those in our closest circles by open conversation and encouragement. Find the likeminded among yourselves and pursue justice by learning and advocating together.
In a cancel-culture world we must be generous with each other in our relationships. Let each other make mistakes but don’t call them out publicly on it. Get alongside people and work through problems together. We can keep each other accountable without being aggressive or domineering by learning together and listening humbly when we have done wrong. Always have a teachable heart. Christian brothers and sisters: let us be gentle with one another and love our neighbour as Christ has loved us (Romans 13:8-10). Let us call each other up, not out.
As well as pursuing justice in a personal and relational sense, we must also pursue it globally. One way in which we can do that is by enabling the church, a gift that God has given to us that is both local and global. As the global church, while we may not agree perfectly on all things, if we are able to answer the call of justice together, there is potential for great change. Together, as a holy nation and people of the Lord’s possession, we can do what he has required of us: act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly (Micah 6:8). We can welcome those of all backgrounds into our churches with open arms and enter into relationships with them, run foodbanks to provide for those in our communities, raise money for communities those in poverty far from us and partner with the global church, never stop praying for those who are in slavery…
Another way in which we can pursue justice on a global sense is by petitioning to our governments and leaders for system change. Whilst as individuals we can contribute to change, many issues are deeply rooted in years-old laws and practices which have allowed for people to fall into poverty and desolation. Find out who your MP is, research their stance on certain topics, and write to them about issues that concern you, asking them to take a stand. Sign petitions about justice issues so that governments will take time to discuss and then potentially review them. Furthermore, we must pray for our leaders. Although this can be hard when we disagree with them or even dislike them, we must pray and peacefully influence people in power to make decisions that are just, full of love, and will contribute to creating a more equal world. Call on big businesses who don’t pay their workers adequate wages and contribute greatly to pollution. Keep them accountable by emailing them persistently until you get an answer and see good changes made. God’s people across the centuries have been activists against injustice by calling out what is wrong as well as showing people the vision of the better future that has been promised to us if we love Christ and being confident that He will fulfil it. We can do that too.
Overwhelmed? So am I. But let’s find what we’re most passionate about. Let’s find what issue of justice breaks our heart the most and then pursue justice passionately, envisioning this better future while bringing people along with you.
One of the T-shirts in my wardrobe has the phrase ‘Take care of my earth’ printed across the front. At the time of my purchase, I thought it was a wonderful slogan to have on my clothes, however now on reflection, I can see that this T-shirt from a big fast-fashion chain is covered in a strong dose of irony. Whilst I still wholeheartedly stand by the fact that we must take care of our planet, I now wonder who was taking care of the exploited children on the factory floor who made this for me? Who was looking after the people who were directly exposed to the chemicals that come from clothing dye? Who was looking after the area that was filled with the 3 out of 4 garments that end up in landfill? The sour truth is that none of these have been treated fairly. None of these have been protected. So, with that in mind, let us leap consciously together into this next stage of life. Let us be intentional about our purchases, conversations, and donations as we envision a more just and equal world for everyone as the world reopens after the Coronavirus. Let this be a time of learning as we pursue acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly together.