Zealous Love

Zealous Love:
A Practical Guide to Social Justice

Edited by Mike and Danae Yankoski
Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009
Review by Carl McColman

Zealous LoveHuman trafficking. Refugees. Hunger. Unclean water. Education. Poverty. HIV/AIDS. The environment. The areas in life where injustice or social inequality threaten both individual lives and the common good are, alas, all too numerous. The Christian life mandates that we care for those in need (Matthew 25:31-45; Luke 10:25-37). But it is far too easy to simply feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the need in our world today. Where should I begin to respond to the call to love my neighbor, to feed the hungry, to shelter the homeless, to comfort the afflicted?

Enter Zealous Love. This “practical guide to social justice,” written for ordinary first-world Christians, focusses on eight specific areas of need in today’s world. Each section begins with a brief overview of the nature of the scope of the problem, and then provides a number of “Field notes” — first person narratives in which activists describe their experiences encountering the problem, and then working to fight it, in different ways and different places around the world. “Now What?” at the end of each section provides concrete suggestions on how to reflect and pray about the issue at hand, with practical suggestions on how to respond, spread the word, and connect with organizations engaged in work related to the issue.

What I think makes this book useful is how it combines honest assessment of how serious each issue is with a manageable list of suggested action steps that concerned persons can take to join the fight for justice. “A thousand mile journey begins with a single step,” as the old saying goes, and Zealous Love is all about resolving to take that first step. Just casually flipping through the book will open your eyes to social and political problems you may either not have known about (or preferred not to know about). The Field notes make the issues come alive, with real stories about real people involved. And then the recommended action steps offer a range of possible responses, from simply learning more to making a commitment to full-time service.

In our time it is easy to feel overwhelmed just with the challenges that face even those of us who are, by global standards, quite affluent. Considering the depth of suffering and the enormity of problems such as environmental threats or economic inequality, and it is easy to feel tempted to retreat into a shell of apathy or indifference. But such is not the Christian way. We who have been touched by the wild love of the Holy Spirit are called to share that love with others, and fighting injustice is an important way to do just that. Zealous Love provideas a full range of gentle — and challenging — ideas on how average folks like you and me can join in the fight.

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  • barbara

    Thank you for suggesting this book and posting something on social justice.I appreciate the lack of right-left wing bias in your review.Social justice issues (except for abortion) are often swept under the carpet in the more conservative churches as “uber left”,it seems.This book sounds really good.

  • Infinite Warrior

    This is not in any way intended to detract from your positive review of this particular book, but more an aside on a related topic.

    “Left” and “right” will both beat you to death for suggesting this, but the very language in which the never-ending quest for justice and equality is normally cast is the largest barrier to them ever erected.

    Fight? Zealous? Mandate? But, but…them’s fightin’ words!

    In our time, it is easy to feel overwhelmed….

    Little wonder. It doesn’t help that people who have been told their neighbors are “the enemy” actually believe it and that’s the first barrier that needs to be crossed. The “powers that be” are not our neighbors. Potential “Agents” in The Matrix? Maybe.

    Now, there are those who suggest we have these two options: fight or flight. Otherwise, we’re in the “mushy, ‘stand-for-nothing’ middle”. Whatever. I find myself drawn like a magnet to the people who’ve been quietly “waging” peace and nonviolence longer than I’ve been alive. It may not seem like it, but they’ve been far more successful than the fight and flight (or is it “left” and “right”) crowds ever have been.

    “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” ~ Mother Teresa

    That doesn’t seem so overwhelming.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

    There’s a bit of delicious irony in words these wise and irenic coming from someone who calls himself an infinite “warrior.” It’s wonderful that the Spirit is so playful!

  • Infinite Warrior

    :) I get that a lot. It’s patterned after the naming conventions of the East and so should be read in the inverse — inner-outer. As far as I can tell, first cleaning the inside of the cup and dish so the outside will also be clean (to paraphrase Matt. 23:26) is everyone’s spiritual “practice” in a nutshell. Good thing we have so much company.