By Katelyn Davis*
In mid-May, Laura Wise (mission intern serving the Philippines), Beth McRill (mission intern serving Hong Kong, SAR, P.R. of China) and I went to The Justice Conference Asia organized by one of the evangelical churches here in Hong Kong. The conference brought together Christian activists, organizations, and individuals to discuss justice and various efforts fighting injustice in Southeast Asia.
I thoroughly enjoyed this conference. It provided me with an opportunity to reflect and renew my commitment to fighting injustice. I would like to share my thoughts on one of the sessions I attended called “theology of justice.”
Theology of Justice
Ken Wytsma, founder of the Justice Conference and Kilns College, gave one of the keynote speeches during the morning session. He discussed how justice is a theological necessity because by understanding God’s heart for justice, we develop our own heart for justice, and as a result, we come to know God better. He read Isaiah Chapter 58 and asked us to read it every day for one month. For him, this scripture embodies everything that we need to know about justice and God. The verse that I want to highlight is Isaiah 58:6 which reads, “Is not this the kind of fasting that I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice, and untie the cords of yoke, to set the oppressed free, and break every yoke?”
At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus proclaimed that he was sent to give sight to the blind, set the oppressed free, proclaim release to the captives and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (epic paraphrase; see Luke 4:18-19). Jesus’ entire purpose revolved around justice work, and it sits at the heart of the Gospel, not simply creating followers of Jesus. Jesus was sent here with this purpose, and as followers of Jesus, we must have the same purpose.
So, in today’s society, who are the captives? Who are the blind? Who are the oppressed? This is of course where everything gets sticky, but to me, the oppressed are the urban poor, the rural poor, the homeless, widows, women and children. The “blind” is everyone who ignores the oppressed. It’s the bankers, the politicians, the corporations, but it’s also the churches who think that worship without service is enough. Who questions whether this project is “worth it?”
Finally, we are all captive to something: greed, materialism, racism, sexism and every other “ism” out there. Fighting to change all of this is justice work. Jesus came to set all of us free.
We are all called to different aspects of justice work, which changes over various points in our lives. Right now, I’m a missionary fighting injustice in the domestic /migrant worker community in Hong Kong and in destination countries in East Asia. That will change, but the mission really won’t.
So, I ask everyone, can we worship God without justice? And, where is God calling you to do justice in your own life?
* Katelyn (Katie) Davis is a mission intern with the General Board of Global Ministries, initially serving with the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants in Hong Kong, SAR, P.R. of China. View her original blog post here.