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Pursuing Justice

Ken Wytsma Pursuing Justice Book Review

I can’t more highly recommend a book which explores the topic that Jesus himself instructs us to seek first above all other things: God’s Kingdom and Justice.

In the book, Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things, Ken Wytsma sets out to explore the proper place and broad reaching effects that pursuing a life of justice ought to have among the followers of Jesus.

Ken Wytsma Pursuing Justice Book Review

For me a book about justice seemed a bit daunting at first, and so you too might be hesitant or suspicious that this is another book meant to guilt you and twist your arm into caring about many issues that may be beyond your natural sphere of concern. Who wants more of that? You might already have enough on your plate within your own purview. This fear is not necessary..

Ken carries you through his program with conviction and passion for sure, but not with any emotional and manipulative tricks up his sleeve. Instead, he points you towards seeing the intrinsic joy and beauty that accompanies those who begin to join God in his Kingdom and Justice dreams for this world.

Ken Wytsma Pursuing Justice Book Author
Ken Wytsma

He lays the ground work very well, philosophically and theologically, towards a big picture view of justice; including it’s individual/personal as well as its societal implications.

Some have recently gotten stuck in the false dichotomy of pitting the “social gospel” folks against the “heavenly/spiritually minded” folks and acting like you must choose between these bounded polar ends. Ken steps into this discussion with some helpful context and offers us a 3rd option or rather builds a bridge and life line between the two isolated extremes and shows us how they are better together, serving to compliment the bigger whole.

While Wytsma does name many of the pressing justice related issues of today, rather than presume to offer up an exhaustive schematic that all should now follow, he cleverly goes only so far in his prescriptions, and thus leaving work for his readers both to imagine and appropriate how they might go about pursuing a life of justice in their unique situation.

I found the chapter most personally intriguing in which Ken tells an anecdote from his relationship with a friend of his from Rwanda. His friend Célestin, a Hutu who had lived through the Rwandan Genocide between April and July 1994 has now become one of the world’s more respected voices on reconciliation and forgiveness.

While visiting Ken’s church recently Célestin said that “Americans tend to think that punishment is the only way to satisfy justice, when in fact punishment is only one of several ways to satisfy it. The evil must be punished, but the goal is not just to punish the perpetrator; the goal is to restore the community.”

And further, “There is no justice without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without justice. Before I forgive something, I have to judge it as evil.”

This whole discussion about the many possibilities or means of achieving a restored shalom/justice really got my head churning and I begun connecting the dots from this idea to the life and mission of Jesus.

This has catalyzed my thought process, and I am now desiring to further investigate my forming theology around the significance and meaning of the central work of Jesus. If achieving justice need not be limited to a punitive means simply, then how might that reality shape my understanding of what Jesus’ sacrifice means. How do I read it? I already see some possibilities but won’t continue in that vein here.

There was so much more that the book stimulated my thoughts and hopefully soon my actions towards. I simply am mentioning this one bit -to encourage you that the words can have fruit. I found the book not static in nature, but leaving me with a sense of action.

I pray that “Pursuing Justice” will do just that for you, imagining a world of justice, God’s dream, and beginning to see and act on that vision in your life.

-Nick Watts

If the last few words aren’t enough, this creative spoken word by Micah Bournes just below hits at the heart of the message..

Pursuing Justice | Book Trailer from The Justice Conference on Vimeo.

Read Ken Wytsma’s recent article on Huffington Post

Connect with Ken Wytsma’s Facebook

Walter Brueggemann -What is Justice?

I was just watching this short vimeo video from The Justice Conference where Walter Brueggemann is discussing what biblical Justice is and the challenge for those who follow Yahweh to work towards the alleviation of injustices.

I am encouraged how Brueggemann is bringing much needed attention to the often separated notions of our “declared love for God” and our “social activities”. I also appreciated how he highlights the truth that there can be systemic conditions within communities that lend to the oppression of people.

Watch this video below and lets discuss what he is saying here. Is it helpful to you?

One of the misfortunes in the long history of the church is that we have mistakenly separated love of God from love of neighbor and always they are held together in prophetic poetry.

Covenant members who practice justice and righteousness are to be active advocates for the vulnerable and the marginal and the people without resources and that then becomes the way to act out and exhibit one’s love of God.

So love of God gets translated into love of vulnerable neighbors. And the doing of Justice is the prophetic invitation to do what needs to be done to enable the poor and the disadvantaged and the neglected to participate in the resources and the wealth of the community.

And injustice is the outcome of having skewed neighborly processes so some are put at an unbearable disadvantage.

And the gospel invitation is that people intervene in that to correct those mistaken arrangements.”     -Walter Brueggemann

I have read his book about the both the vocation and influence of the Prophets within the scriptures titled, “The Prophetic Imagination”. It was very interesting and quite stimulating to say the least.

I do recommend it if you are interested to study about the prophetic literature within the Bible. It is only 150 pages but full of prophetic challenge for the faith.