The Justice Conference, Part 3: Sustaining Jesus’ Justice Movement

I’m heading to The Justice Conference in Philadelphia this week. I wrote a series of posts several months ago reflecting on themes related to the pre-conference session “Sustaining a Justice Movement: how did John M. Perkins, Mother Teresa, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer do it?” which I will be leading on Friday, February 22 at 9am. I’m going to reprint those pieces this week in hopes that we might all be thinking through these matters together. If you will be in Philly, I hope you’ll come to my session! If not, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter, or on Facebook. Hope to see you at The Justice Conference!

How to Sustain Jesus’ Justice Movement, Part 3

Listen to this piece.

Do you look at those you serve as the objects of your good will and charity or as subjects who shape you—even to the point of becoming your benefactors and friends? In discussing this subject with my colleague Beyth Hogue Greenetz, she said it is a lot more difficult to get burned out on serving people when they are your friends. It may very well have been the case that the same Mother Teresa who saw Jesus in those she served saw herself as the friend of those she served. Maybe this was one of the keys to the vitality of her work over the years.

One of Beyth’s and my ministry partners at New Wine, New Wineskins shared with a group of New Wine leaders of her encounter with a man asking for money at a traffic light. As she sat there in her car, she felt moved to give him some money. She told him “God bless you,” as she gave him the gift. The man smiled and thanked her. Seconds later, he came to the window a second time and said, “I have a box of pastries.  Someone gave it to me, but I cannot finish it all.  Would you like some?” My friend said that her eyes filled with tears, as she remembered the poor widow’s coin offering to God (Luke 21:1-4). All the man had to share was this box of pastries; he wanted to share it because he was thankful. My friend was blessed and thankful for this man whom she had blessed. It is such encounters as these at the traffic signals of life that lead to our own transformation and the sustaining of a justice movement. We meet Jesus in such encounters, as we are blessed by those we bless.

Such encounters at the intersections of life can be destabilizing if we want to stay in control, if we want to be the producers and charitable ambassadors who make everyone consume our good will. At some point, we will likely run out of good will and teeter and fall when we operate from this elevated position and posture. But what happens when we are open to making new friends along the way and are surprised by the blessings we receive from the seemingly least likely of benefactors? Our service becomes a grand adventure, as we experience the richness of the widow in the temple with her two coins and the man at the street corner with his remaining pastries. Our own coffers and cups and pastry boxes will run over as a result of the bounty of God’s relational grace.

About Paul Louis Metzger

Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including "Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths" and "Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church." These volumes and his others can be found wherever fine books are sold.

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  • christopher erik

    “In discussing this subject with my colleague Beyth Hogue Greenetz, she said it is a lot more difficult to get burned out on serving people when they are your friends.” YES!!! Way to go Beyth. And I would add that while the encounter at the “signal” is a great example of a moment of humble solidarity between two people, it only represents the very first step on the long and winding path to “friendship” for true friendship is not a “one off” meeting of the hearts but something that having begun as an initial encounter at the intersection has evolved into a long-term commitment to sharing your life with another. The problem isn’t just with our “categories” but with our busyness – we just don’t have time to develop friendships beyond our “drive-by” encounters. American Christians we are busy people, concerned with doing great things for God, . . . blah, blah, blah (what does it profit a man if he evangelizes the whole world but doesn’t have a single friend?). But genuine friendship takes time. In fact, let’s be honest, genuine friendship is inherently a “waste of time.” Thus, until we are willing to simply “waste time” with our friends and “waste time” with God in prayer, we will continue to be busy people, living busy lives trying find value and thereby justify an endless series of “drive-by” encounters.


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