Over the course of the past decade, I’ve given a lot of thought to the relationship between word and deed in the Christian life and in the mission of the church. It’s a question I haven’t been able to shake, and I’ve pursued answers among the poor in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and among refugees here in the United States. Eventually I went to grad school with that question, among others, in mind.
Obviously, I’m not alone in this. The younger generation of Christians — those my age and younger, especially — have been dubbed the “justice generation.” From choosing fair trade products to running creative advocacy campaigns, from participating in spring break service projects to launching cause-based nonprofits, this generation cares and acts. Some would disparage this trend as nothing more than youthful idealism, and others have pointed out the tendency towards “slacktivism,” but all in all, I’m encouraged when I look around.
And yet, I admit to a degree of uneasiness. While it is good that younger Christians are increasingly taking a stand with the oppressed and walking with the poor, I think there’s a lot we have yet to learn. And at our worst, we can exhibit a sort of arrogance rooted in the subtle (or not so subtle) belief that we get it and they don’t. They, of course, being our parents and pastors and, well, everyone who’s not wearing TOMS shoes and Warby Parker glasses to church.
With all this in mind, I wrote a love letter, of sorts, to my fellow young Christians who are passionate about justice. It’s the cover story for the new issue of Reject Apathy, the social justice magazine from the good folks at RELEVANT, and my prayer is that it truly serves to help us better do justice, love kindness, and walk more humbly with our God. I’ll lay my cards on the table: I propose that the way to move past this word and deed tension that was never supposed to exist is to immerse ourselves in the Bible’s story of redemption, to learn from saints who have gone before us, and to see our diverse brothers and sisters in the church not as obstacles, but as essential allies in our pursuit of justice.
I hope you’ll take the time to read it, and if you find it helpful, please do pass it along.