Churches are more than buildings taking up space in a city, town, or neighborhood. These are people who encounter the God of cities and nations. Congregations gather for worship where we hear the Word of God that penetrates every crack and crevice of our lives reminding us that “every square inch of geography belongs to God” (Kuyper). Why not take justice, which has been proclaimed by the prophets and Jesus, to cultivate shalom in the very streets, avenues, and crossways we walk in our cities?
Shalom is the shoe leather side of justice. Justice’s intent has always been the cultivation of God’s intention to bring human flourishing beyond the doors of our churches. My hope is that your congregations are not just buildings that just happen to be there, but churches that seek the flourishing of your neighborhoods and the neighbors that call it home. Lent could the perfect time to ask this question: how can I encourage members of my congregation to participate in bringing shalom/justice to our neighbors around the block and across the street? These activities might spur action in spreading shalom to those who are closer to us than they appear.
Five simple justice activities:
- Walk and pray for one block of your neighborhood - Justice can begin when the hearts of men and women are lifted up to the Lord and turning control over to the One who can ignite their hearts for the hurting and helpless.
- Spend one half in a downtown area observing life there - Write down your observations. When one pays attention to the heartbeat of the city, we open ourselves to see things we never saw before — pain, hurried lives, commerce, and God.
- Choose, read, and meditate on the opening chapter of one of the Old Testament prophets - Notice the conversation between God and the prophets. Which words caught your eye about justice under God’s conditions? Write it down and turn it into a prayer. Prayer is the first line of awareness that justice began with a simple conversation between God and his anointed messenger. You are God’s messenger and instrument to bring shalom to the places that are hostile against justice.
- Check out the Christian Community Development website - Justice is more than a cold of water, but addresses the systems such as business, education, government, and the church that impede justice from flowing like the mighty rushing river described by the prophet Micah. Educate yourself on bringing sustained shalom to many hard places in the world.
- Memorize Eugene Peterson’s words today - He said, “resurrection only comes from graves, tombs, and emptiness. It is where God is. He’s in the middle of it. This is God’s characteristic action in the world — through the waters, through the valleys and through the grave.” Christians take resurrection seriously.