Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

Archive for the tag “social justice”

13 Million Reasons To Do Social Justice

Did Live Under The Line challenge or change the way you live in anyway? Eulogi Rheeder shares how living on R10 a day opened her eyes to the individuals behind the statistics.

A snapshot of Eulogi's groceries for the three day challenge

A snapshot of Eulogi’s groceries for the three day challenge

I’ve done Live Under The Line (LUTL) every year, but my hunger pangs always got the better of me and I usually gave up before the end of day one. This year, however, I was determined to complete the challenge or, at the very least, make it to the end of day two.

As I set out on the first day of the LUTL challenge, 9 September 2013, I asked God to freshly stir my heart for social justice in our City. Instead, He opened my eyes and gave me 13 million reasons to take Live Under The Line beyond the three days. Here’s my story…

Last year, my small group visited The Haven Night Shelter in Woodstock; our aim was to spend time and bless those who are vulnerable, in need and away from their loved ones. On the first night I met Diane*. She had come to South Africa from Malawi in the hope of creating a better life here. Instead, she found herself homeless, unemployed and at the mercy of others. I was touched by her story of bravery and her love for Christ, and how she didn’t allow her circumstances to dictate her zest for life.

My small group continued to visit the shelter every couple months and my friendship with Diane grew; she also started coming with us to Common Ground Innercity.

But soon enough ‘normal’ life – work, family, friends, church and other responsibilities – took over. And my friendship with Diane became secondary to the ‘more important’ stuff in my life. I would see her at church on Sundays and SMS her every other week, but my contact with her had become a social justice act without Jesus at the heart. In short, it was nothing more than just another task.

Fast forward to Wednesday, 11 September 2013, the final day of Live Under The Line. I had made it and was just a few hours away from finishing the challenge. Many of us were talking about what we would eat once we are allowed to break the R10 a day bank: Big Macs, a Vida cappuccino, a bacon croissant, Speckled Eggs… the list went on and on. As I was excitedly thinking about what I was most looking forward to eating again, Diane’s face popped up in my mind.

Although my heart had made the connection that Live Under the Line was recognising and identifying with how 13 million South African’s live every day, my eyes were starting to see the faces, stories, hopes and hurt behind the statistic – it was people like Diane.

Suddenly LUTL was no longer about the food, the money and the hard-hitting stat, but about the people; the 13 million individuals. This thought challenged me to think, how was I going to take LUTL with me into the rest of the year? How was I going to live social justice with the heart of Jesus for the other 362 days?

In John 13:34, Jesus instructs us to love one another just as He loved us. When I read this scripture on the afternoon of 11 September, I knew that this is how I (and you) can take Live Under The Line with me (us) every day: if I truly loved Diane, like Jesus loved me, she would be my friend; we’d have a real relationship; and Diane wouldn’t be just another tick on my social justice to-do list.

So, in the month since LUTL, I’ve freshly approached my friendship with Diane, based on John 13:34. We visit each other at our homes, we’ve gone for picnics and braais, and we encourage each other with scriptures. She’s told me about growing up in Malawi and I’ve shared stories from my teen years. I’m now purposefully spending time with her; not because I feel this is what I need to do, but because I’ve gotten to know Diane, and truly love her and call her my friend.

Diane and I come from very different backgrounds and very different circumstances, yet we meet each other in the middle because we love each other like Jesus loves us.

LUTL has not only allowed me to look at social justice with fresh eyes, but also challenged me that it’s not about what I do for social justice, but about how I do it.

So, how are you doing social justice?

*Name has been changed

– Eulogi is the communications manager at Common Good and a member of the Common Ground Church InnerCity congregation.

P.S. Some more LUTL feedback and reflections: “Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow” and “Have You Heard Of LUTLing?

Could we be the hope of the world?

What if we are God’s solution to the world’s brokenness? Common Ground Church pastor Ryan TerMorshuizen shares why he believes the local church is the hope of the world.

I heard a statistic a while ago that stated that the person you are is pretty much determined by the age of 13. Thirteen? Really?

The research, conducted by the Barna Group, went on to state that there are only three major factors that will cause you to change after this age. The first is if you have a true desire to change, the second is if you’re in a community, which provides an environment for change, and the third is what they called “acts of God”.

It hit me like a wave. Who better to provide those three things than the local church?

Suddenly, I realised that the local church is the ultimate environment for change because it’s where the gospel brings a real understanding of our identity, our purpose, and our destiny – calling us to change.

And not only is it the perfect community to come alongside those with a desire for change, it is also in the local church where we can have the greatest expectation for the miraculous ‘acts of God’ in ours and other peoples’ lives.

This was such a huge moment for me where everything fell into place. I committed myself freshly to the mission of the church, not because of the pay check but because I wanted to be part of bringing this message and building this community of change.

The lights had gone on for me. The church really is the hope of the world.

That’s quite a statement.

Yes, it is. And I hope a few of you are now asking yourselves, “But isn’t Jesus the hope of the world?”

And of course he is! The only reason I can say that the church is the hope of the world is because Jesus is the true and ultimate ‘hope of the world’ and the church is called to represent him.

One day he will return and reveal himself in fullness but until then he has chosen to link himself to human instrumentality and use us – his church – to spread this good news and point people towards him.

And so we, the church, become the hope of the world in our time.

Why the church?

The word ‘church’ is a loaded one that means many different things to different people. So it’s important to clarify that when I talk about the ‘church’ I’m not referring to a building or an organisation.

As Christ-followers, we are all ‘scattered’ as the church into our many different communities, families and work places, while still being grafted into the greater body of Christ. And there is also the ‘local’ or ‘gathered’ church, which is a gathering of believers in a certain area under a specific leadership team of biblically mandated elders and deacons.

William Temple wrote that, “The church is the only cooperative society that exists for the benefit of its non-members.”

Almost everywhere in the Bible, evangelism and social concern go hand in hand. When we look at the life of Christ we see that Jesus held in tension a relationship between evangelism and social concern. It is said that he went about both “teaching and preaching” and also “doing good and healing”.

That’s why the local church becomes the hope of the world, not just in the redemptive potential of people being healed and transformed by the love of Christ, but also in the redemptive potential of Christ-followers being ignited with a passion to restore justice and love one another in a way that brings human flourishing to all.

We are the hope of the world.

When we see the brokenness and despair in the world, it’s tempting to ask “What is the church doing to fix this?” or “Why isn’t the church involved here?”

We should be cautious not to shift the responsibility off our shoulders and onto the shoulders of local church leaders and the church as an establishment.

The role of the leadership team of the local church is to “equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4: 12).

But ultimately we, as individual Christ-followers, are the church wherever we are and we are called to live out our faith in very practical ways.

What does this mean for us as individuals?

By saying that we are Christ-followers, we are saying that we are the incarnational, “sent” ones. We are the ones who, like Christ, go out.

We are the ones who leave behind privilege and comfort, just as Christ left behind the splendour of Heaven, to go into our earth, to make ourselves lowly amongst others in order that we may serve, teach and give our lives for them.

Once we start to see that each individual has an intrinsic value as created by God then we will count it a privilege to serve and do everything in our power to bring hope to human life.

Christ is ultimately the hope of the world, but until his return he has commissioned us to bring his hope into the world by living our lives in a way that continually points to him.

If we will fully take on this responsibility and get involved wherever we can to bring Christ’s wisdom and love into everything we’re a part of, then we’ll begin to see true transformation happening in our city.

– Ryan oversees the Common Ground Church base staff team, as well as the leadership team of Common Ground Bosch AM. He is married to Kate and they have three children. 

What are some practical ways you can bring hope to the lives of those around you – particularly those who are in need?

What does it really mean to live social justice?

Rigby Wallace shares five key pieces of wisdom he’s learnt after years of grappling. (We reckon this is worth printing and sticking on your fridge!)

1. It all begins with encountering the authentic Jesus:

For Jesus it was about being and bringing good news to the poor (Luke 4:18). Paul calls the Christ-follower to put off his/her old ‘self’ and put on the ‘new self’, which is our call to become more like the most compassionate and just person in the universe. Col 3:12 makes it clear that putting on compassionate hearts is a way to evidence our relationship with Christ.

The more we follow Christ and become like Him, the more we will have hearts that care for the least, the lost and the lowest in our city.

2. Make your home the first frontier:

The way we pay our domestic workers and gardeners needs to be evaluated. If you can’t pay any more, then reduce the work hours so they can work a bit more somewhere else. This is an area that God is clearly watching over.

James makes the point when he says, “The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you” (James 5:4).

Whenever you get a bonus, give your staff at least the same percentage. Help with school fees and extras wherever you can. Speak to your staff and all those who are economically disadvantaged in any way with great respect. The gospel calls us to guarantee all those we meet the dignity God created them with.

3. Learn the power of team:

Wherever we can operate from community, we will bring more to that moment than we could ever bring as an individual.

That’s why I am so excited about Common Good. This team of dedicated ‘social justice’ champions, stand ready to equip and mobilise us towards the poor and marginalised in our city. I love it that they can cater for the guys wanting to take baby steps to the seasoned campaigners who are ready to slay the giants.

For Sue and I we have seen the wisdom of giving some of our mercy giving towards their efforts, rather that indiscriminate acts of kindness at robots or when our doorbell rings. Whilst we still respond to these requests from time to time, we find it easier to look people in the eye and say ‘Sorry sir/madam, not today, we are helping through our local church in projects where we are helping people we know!’

If we all did this together, we could empower Common Good with some of their big initiatives. Doing it together in team keeps us wise, focused and encouraged.

4. Keep informed:

Practice noticing the challenges facing our city and church as we seek to follow Christ as an opportunity for gospel faithfulness. Their is no virtue in hiding our heads in the sand.

Read the Common Good blog. Sign up for their newsletter and read it! Read Tim Keller’s ‘Ministries of Mercy‘. Listen to the media as they report on the socio-economic challenges facing us in Cape Town specifically.

And don’t be intimidated, because we have Jesus as our heavenly champion ready to give grace and wisdom wherever He is calling us to respond.

5. Embrace an empowering economic philosophy of life:

I learned the following economic wisdom 15 years ago:

a. Earn more: Live in your full income generating potential (Study, develop skills continually)

b. Consume less: This tempers and helps draw a circle around our life-stage monthly budget . Sue and I need to revisit this periodically as our circumstances change.

c. Hoard nothing: This calls us to regularly get rid of stuff that may benefit others. When we buy new clothes we can give away some of our good-quality clothes. We moved house a couple of years ago and were amazed at how much stuff we had been hoarding.

d. Be generous: This includes more than financial generosity. It’s time. It’s hospitality. It’s growing your relational range by opening up your home. We have been doing this over the years.

A highlight for Sue and I is opening our home over most Christmases to displaced people that have made Common Ground their home. Having four or five of these amazing people in our home, seated with our family for a Christmas feast has been special. And listening to their incredible stories has enriched our lives wonderfully.

e. Celebrate life: This is a call to avoid the ascetic trap of doing all the right things but being miserable in the process.

Living social justice will have difficulties and bring serious challenges to our lives, but when we do it from gospel ravished hearts and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are going to experience mountains of joy.

And, finally, remember, it all begins with encountering and following Jesus…

– Rigby oversees the leadership team of Common Ground Church in Cape Town, together with his wife, Sue.

What from the above really stuck out to you? Do you have any wisdom you’ve learned you’d like to share with us?

Video: What is biblical justice?

In under four minutes, Ken Wytsma, Founder of The Justice Conference, gives us his description of biblical justice. Four minutes? That’s about the same time it takes most of us to make a cup of tea.

Going a bit deeper…

In the Bible, God is called ‘a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows’ (Psalm 68:4-5) – always seeking to protect and provide for those who are vulnerable to exploitation.

He shows himself as a God who cares for the vulnerable and marginalised people in the world, and he frequently calls his people to be his agents in this care. ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: Administer justice, show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the immigrant or the poor.’ (Zechariah 7:10- 11)

These are just two of over 2000 verses in the Bible which refer to issues of poverty and injustice!

The Bible may be full of references to justice but the idea of biblical justice is one that has been greatly misunderstood and debated over the centuries. The number of varying opinions out there can overwhelm us to the point where we stop grappling with what our understanding of it is.

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone! A good place to begin is by reading what a few respected biblical commentators have to say about the topic.

Timothy Keller gives a great summary of his understanding of biblical justice here, in a short excerpt taken from his book, Generous Justice. A book we can highly recommend! For a list of some our other recommended reads, click here.

So what about biblical justice are you grappling with?

What does it mean to ‘Live Social Justice’?

We often talk about ‘living social justice,’ but what exactly does that mean for our daily lives?  Today, we unpack what it means to have a lifestyle of social justice.

Living Social Justice stamp

Jesus said: ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’ (John 10:10).

Unfortunately, as a result of human acts and omissions, many people in Cape Town experience life as anything but ‘full’. As Christ followers, we seek to LIVE SOCIAL JUSTICE by noticing, being moved and making daily choices that address injustices in our city.

God intends that every person should have the protection and provision they need to live productive and purpose-filled lives. In the Bible, God is called ‘a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows’ (Psalm 68:4-5) – always seeking to protect and provide for those who are vulnerable to exploitation. He shows himself as a God who cares for the vulnerable, marginalised people in the world, and he frequently calls his people to be his agents in this care. ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: Administer justice, show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the immigrant or the poor.’ (Zechariah 7:10- 11).

When we seek to LIVE SOCIAL JUSTICE we recognize the purpose, worth and dignity of every human being as an image bearer of God. So often, this image is damaged through violence, abuse and exploitation and through unequal access to resources. We need to ask God to show us his vision for the people of Cape Town – for a city where people are able to work, children grow up in loving homes and receive quality education, there is adequate food and nutrition, shelter, protection and medical care. A place where all have their basic needs met and where people come to know God as their loving father, their protector and provider. A city where all have the possibility to live ‘life to the full’.

When we seek to LIVE SOCIAL JUSTICE we acknowledge that we are stewards – not owners – of our time, skills and resources and we make them available to God for his purposes. We strive to not be like the people of Sodom of whom it was said: ‘She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy’ (Ezekiel 16:49-50).

When we seek to LIVE SOCIAL JUSTICE we commit ourselves to a daily, moment-by-moment awareness of injustice, and an openness and sensitivity to God’s Spirit guiding our choices and actions in support of those without provision and protection.

In the words of Micah: ‘He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ Micah 6:8.

What are some ways that you live social justice?  We’d love to hear!

If you would like a gain a deeper understanding of what it means to live social justice, click here for a more in-depth look at the Biblical mandate. Also, we’d recommend you read ‘Generous Justice’ by Timothy Keller for more insight.

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