By Alan Carillo
Young Christians talk a lot about justice. But do we actually seek it?
I recently completed a yearlong stint with International Justice Mission in Nairobi, Kenya. My internship was formative for my faith, as I constantly wrestled with questions on the role of the Church and its commitment to social justice. Seeking the answers to such questions was less daunting when my life was devoted to international human rights work. But when I returned to my tranquil and familiar home in Dallas, I was faced with the challenge of seeking justice in my local community. It became clear that such a quest would require new understanding, intentionality, and commitment. I would also need a supporting and inspiring community of like-minded believers.
God placed a similar burden for local justice work upon several other young Christians in and around Dallas. Initiative was born. Much like William Wilberforce’s Clapham Circle, which eventually abolished the British Empire’s trade and practice of slavery, Initiative believes the Church ought to seek justice on behalf of the poor and oppressed, particularly in our home of Dallas.
But it is too easy to seek justice in the way our popular culture has narrowly defined and marketed it. Our generation rallies around catchy causes. We are quick to “like” and “share” an abstract cause, but are less compelled to love actual people in need. But the work of justice is not easy. It may appear attractive and trendy, but it is difficult, sometimes demanding a life of unrecognized sacrifice. The work of justice is dirty, requiring us to repeatedly face the dark depths of the depraved human soul. The work of justice is overwhelming, as we confronted by the faces of victims deprived of their innocence, freedom, and lives. Despite this, the work of justice is undoubtedly good and certainly fulfilling, for we have the unique opportunity to be Christ’s healing hands to those suffering all around the world, but especially for those on our streets and in our neighborhoods.
The work of justice is required. It is not an addendum to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Rather, the work of justice is inextricably part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Although the Good News is certainly a message to be proclaimed in propositional words, it is also a reality to be revealed in relational actions. The Gospel—proclaimed and believed—saves us from sin; the Gospel—lived and received—saves us from the effects of sin, including the heinous crimes of human trafficking and domestic violence, and the injustices of false incarceration and education inequality. Initiative is committed to eradicating these injustices, and many others, from our city.
The work of justice begins in us. In accordance to its call, we must ascribe holiness to every area of our lives. The work of justice calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves, in public and in private. Yes, we must work to rescue the victims of sexual exploitation, and thus reduce their supply, but do we ever look in the mirror to see who creates the demand? The problem is not only that there are people willing to sell others for sexual exploitation. The problem is that there are people willing to exploit, and some of these are within the walls of the church. To truly oppose sex trafficking, we must say no to lust, pornography, and every form of the commercial sex industry. We will end the supply of sex slaves when we end the demand for them. We will end violent oppression when we, through our renewed thoughts and habits, cease to empower the oppressors and begin to protect the victims.
The work of justice is all about others. For too long, we have been priests seeking our personal sanctification; we must also be prophets seeking public transformation. We must renounce our convenient comforts and sacrificially minister to the needy around us. We may not merely wish for justice to be done; we must act. But what do we college students and young professionals lacking time, money, and experience really have to offer? What may Initiative actually do to seek justice?
We may offer the God of Justice a commitment to prayer, a heart to love, and hands to serve. Much like Jesus did for a young boy offering a few loaves and fish, God will multiply our faithful and sacrificial efforts on behalf of justice, so he may fulfill his promise to establish it. Wherever God has placed you in this season of your life, you possess unique advantages, skills, and passions He will use to defend those who cannot defend themselves. The only thing He needs is you to act now.