Ever since I read his book The Great Giveaway, I’ve been a fan of David Fitch. It wasn’t too hard to decide which seminar to attend when Fitch is in the house, even though some of the other seminars look really good.
Fitch is asking how justice works itself out in a smaller church (churches that aren’t mega churches). How do we prevent justice from becoming big business? The danger is that we make justice a commodity and a technology. In other words, how do we prevent ourselves from turning justice into another program at our local church? Dave has already outlined some of his thoughts at his blog Reclaiming the Mission – parts one, two, three, and four. Justice cannot become just another thing that people have to do. It’s what we do because of who we are.
It is easier to do justice at a distance. Our real challenge is to recover a connection between the local church and the poor. This requires resisting a few urges, and changing the emphasis in our preaching, our practices, and our patterns of life.
1. Resisting the urge to separate personal from social salvation
I still believe in personal salvation, but we make a mistake when we separate personal and social salvation. It’s both. When we separate the two, we have salvation on one hand and justice on the other. They were never meant to be separated.
We need to move beyond being justified to being justice-ified. Two theological concepts that may help us: other images of the atonement as well as penal substitution, such as Christus Victor. Also, the New Perspective on Paul, which brings out the social dimensions of the gospel.
Salvation fundamentally changes our relationships.
2. Resisting the urge to make justice about individual rights
The move is from rights to right-eousness. Justice is not about individual rights. When it’s about rights, what’s mine is still mine, and what’s yours is yours. We often define justice in terms borrowed from capitalism and democracy.
We must move beyond rights to righteousness. Justice and righteousness in the Old Testament are the same thing. It is more than about personal rights; it is about right relationship with God, human beings, and all of creation.
Our income, for instance, is not our own. God gave us everything.
If you want to change your church, do more than write a check. Become personally involved with people and get involved with them, not as projects but as part of your community.
3. Resisting the urge to make justice about politics
We must move from politics to our politic. We must embody justice before we preach or lobby about it.
Fitch concludes, “We must move toward a more organic, local, embodied understanding of justice. The mega churches are not who we should be looking to for leadership here. The hurdles to embodied justice become greater the larger you get as a church.”