This week I finished reading a very propelling book called Good News About Injustice: A Witness of Courage in A Hurting World by Gary Haugen. The author, who founded International Justice Mission, is a man who has been there. He has struggled through the issues of Social Justice and Christianity, and in this book he shares with us what he finds. I thought I'd share a number of quotes that affected me. I hope they whet your appetite for more and spur you on toward growth as they have me.
On His Personal Life:
"To be honest, few people could have grown up farther from the realities of injustice and oppression in our world than I did. I was raised in a wonderfully happy home. My loving family grew up in an affluent suburb in a civil society... The realities of terror, oppression, abuse and injustice were kept far from my door. Not surprisingly, I came to understand God in ways that fit my experience. God seemed intensely interested in my life of personal piety and seemed most needed as a Savior from the only negative eventuality which I could not control - death. This is an oversimplification, of course, because I had the entire biblical revelation to draw on, but it serves to illustrate how relatively little I knew about a holy God who spent his days weeping beside children in brothels, prisoners in pain or perhaps in trauma - a God whose core hatred of injustice was rivaled only by his hatred of idolatry."
On the Mass Graves in Rwanda (he was in charge of the UN investigation after the genocide):
"Now that those same anonymous corpses were at my feet, it still felt more comfortable to think of them as a tragic mass rather than as anything like the individual people that I knew and cared about back home."
On Pondering God's Compassion, Commandment and Commission:
"These were tough moments for me, but there was no longer any question about what this horrible injustice in Rwanda had to do with me, a suburban American lawyer who rode a busy to work during the week and taught sixth-grade Sunday school on the weekend. It had everything to do with me because of what my God loves and what my God hates."
"The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates... For the Lord is righteous, He loves justice." Psalm 11:5, 7
"You hear o Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order than man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more." Psalm 10:17-18
On Our Duties as Christians:
"With the Holy Spirit we have been commissioned to demonstrate Christ's love for all the world: to disciple the nations, the feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to heal the broken and even to rescue the oppressed."
"He will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight" Psalm 72:12-14
On Cultivating a Compassionate Awareness:
"To be honest, as an American suburban professional I pass most of my days with my family in the gentle shad of a very fair garden. We have our problems and stresses, but on most days, if we are not indulging our own self-pity or covetousness, the world we see seems cheerful indeed.... Often I am ill-prepared for action in a dark world of injustice because I have gotten used to a little lie within my mind. I have gotten used to the idea that the fair garden that I have worked so hard to carve out for myself and my family is normal."
"Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering" Hebrews 13:3
"The very information that should move us is so overwhelming that it actually paralyzes."
"If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things" Ecclesiastes 5:8
"Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist... and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace" Ephesians 6:14-15
On Knowing the God Who Passionately Hates Injustice:
"I remember coming home from the killing fields of Rwanda and feeling a bit wounded by friends who seemed to have no interest in trying to understand where I have been and what I had seen.... I felt something of the shallowness of some of my friendships... But those closest relatives and friends who really wanted to know me wouldn't let me get away with keeping the experience to myself. They wanted to understand where I had been, what I had seen and how I had been touched. They knew that they could never understand the deepest part of me if they didn't have some understanding of the hard things I had seen.
Likewise if we really want to know God, we should know something about where he has been - and what it has been life for him to suffer with tall those who are hurting and abused. ... We can know him better if we try to understand something about his character and experience as the God of compassion -- the God who suffers with the victims of injustice. If nothing else, it will help us understand why the God of justice hates injustice an wants it to stop.... To understand where they God of compassion has been is to begin to understand God's passion for justice. ... He is the 'man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering' who weeps with those who weep (Isaiah 53:3, John 11:33-35).
On How God Seeks Justice:
"Through supernatural intervention God could meet all of these needs, yet he has given these tasks to his people. He gives us the great honor and privilege of being his instruments."
"No thoughtful Christian would say, 'Sure Jesus wants his gospel preached, the hungry fed, the sick healed and the naked clothed, but that doesn't have anything to do with me.' And yet many of us have been content to praise God as the God of justice, to extol his compassion for the weak and voiceless and to declare this promises to "rescue the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked" - all the while harboring a suspicion that God generally accomplishes these miracles with mysterious winds or vague, magical forces of history. Worse, viewing a world of injustice from a seat in the grandstand, we may be tempted to shake our fist at God, demanding to know why he's not harder at work blowing those mysterious winds or moving those magical vague forces of history. Like the Isrealites we often weary Go with our words, saying, 'Where is the God of justice?' (Malachi 2:17).
Meanwhile the Spirit of God stands on the playing field of history saying, 'I looked for a person among them, but I found none.' To paraphrase Isaiah, 'The Lord looked and was displeased that Rosa received no justice. He was appaled that there was no one to intervene' (Isaiah 59:15-16)".
On Working Miracles with God:
"A preacher once asked me to consider a scene that has stayed with me ever since. He asked us to recall the story about the feeding of the five thousand... The speaker then asked us to imagine a scenario in which the disciples just kept thanking Jesus for all the bread and fish - without passing them along to the people. And then beneath the mounting piles of food, the disciples even could be heard complaining to Jesus that he wasn't doing anything about the hungry multitude.
The simple illustration struck my heart deeply. How kind of Jesus to include the boy and the disciples in his miracle. Surely he could have done it differently. Surely he could have commanded the heavens to unload manna and quail right on top of everybody. But how beautifully he included the boy's tiny offering. ... How fun for the disciples to go among the grateful, joyful multitudes - to be the hands dispensing Christ's supernatural power and love. How ridiculous, on the other hand, that they should imagine that the vast piles of bread and fish should be given to them for any other reason than to feed those who were in need.
So too with the ministry of God's rescue for the oppressed in the world. How does God rescue the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked? Overwhelmingly, he does it through those who choose to follow him in faith and obedience.... Looking at the millions of bonded child laborers in India or the thousands of child prostitutes in Asia or thousands of torture victims twisting and bleeding in the world's forgotten jail cells, we can say to God. 'Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you for all the power, protection, freedom and justice you have granted us in sparing us from such fates...' Or we can ask, 'what have you given me Father than I may help those who don't have power, who don't have protection, who don't have freedom, who don't have justice?'
To learn about some real-life tools for rescuing the oppressed, you may read Good News About Injustice or visit www.ijm.org