Excerpt from The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance
Bethany Hanke Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson
Each time my (Kristen’s) family sits to eat dinner together at the table, we light a candle, and the kids join us in saying: “Christ is the light of the world. In him there is no darkness at all. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it at all!” We hope that our children will never forget that the light of Christ can never, ever be overcome. We pray that our children will not hover in the safe, comfortable, seemingly light places of the world but rather will choose to offer their lives and gifts, allowing God to send them into the dark places of the world with the inextinguishable light of Christ.
But we also pray that they know they will not enter those dark places alone. God sends his church to respond to injustice together as the body of Christ united in our own communities and across the globe. As we respond together, we do so out of the grace given to us in Jesus through the Holy Spirit, not from our own abilities. We rely on the powerful light of Christ that shines in each dark place. As one of my (Kristen’s) students has said, there are no God-forsaken places, only church-forsaken places. God asks his people to take up their crosses and follow him into these places, as it may be through them that God works to set things right.
In our own pursuit of the justice calling, both of us have been encouraged by the sanctification we see happening in churches all over the world. We relish the many different forms that the work of justice takes as more churches understand that their mission inextricably weaves together proclamation of the gospel and social engagement.
The deep biblical connection between evangelism and justice has been a key component of the witness and teachings of John Perkins. After experiencing a conversion to the gospel in his late twenties in California, he became deeply committed to sharing the gospel through evangelism. He then sensed a call from God to return with his family to his home state of Mississippi to bring the good news to the black community he had left. As he entered further into ministry there, he became increasingly convinced of the significance of holistic mission that attends to spiritual and material needs.
As we are sent by Jesus to love God and love others, our mission must involve both evangelism and justice. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, whatever responsibilities have been entrusted to us, we are called to live as God’s holy people, seeking God’s justice, righteousness, and shalom. God’s vision for justice and righteousness is meant to shape each of our callings and commitments and all of our practices within those callings and commitments. In this way, we can better understand every one of our callings as a kingdom calling, as Amy Sherman so helpfully puts it.
Come meet the authors in a book launch with a panel of community leaders on Thursday, March 17th at 7pm at University Baptist Church! Part of the Virginia Festival of the Book, in partnership with the Project on Lived Theology and New City Commons.