Thursday, September 11, 2008

Read and Learn -- Review of Just Courage

When I reviewed the Willow Creek Leadership Summit last month I rather unabashedly admitted that one of the main reasons I went was to hear Gary Haugen speak. If you missed that post and don't know, Gary Haugen is the founder of the International Justice Mission. He has devoted his life to seeking justice -- in his case, he fights the big stuff -- slavery, sex trafficking, that kind of thing. Every Christian lawyer in the country should hear this man speak, but I think his message is aimed wider than just for lawyers. After I finished this review, I realized that it will post on 9-11. I didn't plan that, but I couldn't have picked better.

I just finished Haugen's book, Just Courage: God's Great Expedition for the Restless Christian. I don't write in books. Halfway through this one, I started over again -- this time with a combination hi-lighter/ballpoint pen in my hand.

Haugen defines the sin of injustice as:
. . . . abusing power by taking from others the good things that God intended for them, namely, their life, liberty, dignity or the fruits of their love or their labor.
He lays a strong Biblical foundation for the idea that caring for the weak, the poor and the oppressed is not charity, it is justice; and it is an action we are commanded to do in both the Old and New Testaments. It is also fundamental to evangelism:
Moreover, nothing presents a more compelling and authentic witness of Christian faith in this era than the struggle for justice. . . Few things are harder to do than to confront the violent forces of injustice the way Jesus taught -- with love and faith, perseverance and strength, hope and humility. This is the authentic transformation that earns a hearing from a tired, suspicious and wounded world: a band of believers who move out from behind "doors locked for fear" (John 20:19) and proceed by courageous love to become "these people who have been turning the world upside down" (Acts 17:6 NRSV).
Those words would be seem trite in any other context, but they were written by a man who takes on slave traders and slave owners, corrupt police and political systems where personal safety is not a given. His people have been mugged, beaten and arrested. He says that he can't do his job for more than 30 minutes without prayer, and:
In fact, if following Jesus does not feel dangerous, I should probably pause and check to see if it is Jesus I'm following. . . Doing what Jesus does -- telling the truth and loving needy people -- is inherently dangerous and unsafe in a fallen world of lies and selfishness.
Yes, I react differently to this book than most will. I am a lawyer, and I feel strongly that I am called to seek justice. Regardless, this is a stirring book, filled with captivating ideas, sparkling prose and ideas about worship and what it means to be a Christian that should have real meaning to all of us.

There are two ideas in this book that I find seriously compelling. First, that we really can trust God. His promises are true, and we are called to live our lives as if we believe that. The second is that as much as we secretly want to be brave -- we would really rather be safe, but nothing about the Christian faith should be safe.

I don't know about you, but I need to find some courage; because God didn't make me who I am and shower me with the gifts he has given me, so that I can be safe.



Stushie said...

Your last two paragraphs are very challenging and will stick with me all day. Thanks for the insight into this book.

Quotidian Grace said...

An inspiring post, Elaine. Thank you so much!