by Andrew Stephens-Rennie
I wonder what it would be like to hunger and thirst after righteousness.
To truly want justice to roll down like a river. Righterousness like an ever-flowing stream. To desire wholeness (or the best approximation thereof) not simply for myself, but for others as well. Not just for me, for my family, but for all my relations. For all I am related to, whether I recognize it or not. For all, whether I understand their language or circumstance.
I wonder what it would be like to give myself to trying to understand another’s circumstance – not that I could, fully, but that I could try. Try to enter into their story, and to offer some space that they could enter mine. To explore friendship and mutuality. Not because it’ll get me something. Not because it’ll help me to move on up. Not because it’ll get me what I want.
Because I don’t know that I truly want justice. I don’t know that I can truly embrace what it might mean to crave justice beyond its bumper sticker definition. I don’t know that I can truly embrace something that might require something so deep of me.
Because I’m not sure that I’m willing to die to myself.
Here it is, the confession. As much as I rail against so many things. As much as I write on this blog about the world to come, the world I dream about, the world I think God is calling us towards. As much as I say all of this is important, I’m not sure how much it is that I give up, how much I’m willing to give up to see it happen.
Because I’ve come to understand, to be inspired, and can intellectually assent to the fact that justice is social. That this social justice requires something of me, of all of us. That justice isn’t something simply solved by a little government cash over here, and the relinquishing of excessive profit by those rich white dudes over there.
It includes these things, to be sure. It includes these things, and demands that we as a society, that we as business leaders, as members of parliament, as decision makers, help to implement the systemic changes to allow a new world to be born, and a new way of living to emerge. Yet it neither stops nor starts there.
We can occupy as many streets as we want, yet remain ignorant of the connotations such language might have for the unceded Coast Salish territory from which we type these words.
We can demand that others change, that the system change, that society change. Yet if we ourselves are unwilling to change. If we ourselves are unwilling to see the very social demands of true justice.
If we ourselves are unwilling or unable to see that true justice is not about eliminating pain, but about sharing in the world’s suffering, we’ll get nowhere fast. As Christians, we know that it’s not simply about raging against the machine. There is a time and place for such activism. And yet our faith calls us to embody an alternative community. To live into Jesus’ kingdom in the here-and-now.
What might it mean for our communities if we truly shared in each others’ sufferings. What would it mean for you, and for me, if we found ways to enter into one others’ hurts and pains, to find a way through, together.
I don’t know that I know how to do that. Because that would mean dying to myself. It would require a stronger thirst for righteousness than the one I currently have. It would require a more immediate sense of what it is to truly bear another’s burdens – not just listen to prayer requests, say some fancy words, and call it a day.
Occupy Wall Street? Occupy my heart.
Help me to hear and enter into the stories of my neighbors. Help my heart to break. Help me to break out of my self-imposed isolation, not to fix somebody else’s problem, but to find true friendship and mutuality. To find the image of God in another. To uncover the image of God at work in my very core.
I know you’re in there, God. Sometimes I just don’t recognize you in myself, as much as I do in others. Help me to pay attention. Help us all.