The Justice Conference – Part 2

Shalom. Among many definitions for the Hebrew word, “peace” and “wholeness” stand out to me. Throughout scripture we read God’s desire for shalom. Jesus came to teach how to obtain shalom. Everyone, Christian or not, claims to want shalom. Why, then, do we as a human race fall short of finding shalom? 4000 men and women went to The Justice Conference seeking the answer to that question.
Old Testament scholar, Dr. Walter Brueggemann challenged followers of Jesus last Saturday morning. Will we as Christians commit to the shalom of the community? Are we compliant and numb to the world around us, or are we a threat to the status quo? Brueggemann reminded us that Jesus didn’t hang with the elite. Jesus’ natural companionship leaned toward those that “people of power” ignored. 
I thought about my own circle of friends. I don’t consider any of them downtrodden. In fact, even through my commitment to serve the less fortunate this year, I never thought of becoming BFF’s with a prostitute or meth addict.  Jesus would have taken both into his circle. And he would have loved them.
“The vulnerable neighbor needs to be on the screen of our theological, political, and economic practice.” Dr. Brueggemann implored.
But who is our neighbor? Are we just supposed to love those next door, or do we need to love the whole cul-de-sac? Brueggemann believes more time is spent dissecting that question than time actually helping others. “The argument is a smoke screen,” he says, “Just GO. Help your neighbor. Give yourself away and get yourself back – enhanced.”
Dr. Walter Brueggemann
He inspired me to tears.
(Photo taken from The Justice Conference Facebook page)
Rick McKinley, pastor of Imago Dei Community Church, reiterated the point that mankind wastes too much energy determining the definition of “neighbor.”  He describes the attitude in America today, “I can’t love my neighbor because I can’t SEE my neighbor.”
He’s right. In the 1950’s, houses were built with front porches and neighbors talked to each other. Nowadays, we drive into our garages, shut the door, and if we do go outside, it’s into our fenced backyards. I thought back to 2005. My family lived in Orange County, CA for 2 years. I have no idea who my next door neighbors were. And we didn’t even have a backyard – just a back alley. Pathetic.
As a society we have a standpoint of individualism, along with a sense of property even for things that aren’t inherently ours. McKinley gave this analogy to the 4000 conference attendees:
“How many of you walked in to the convention hall today and staked claim on your seat?” There were 3999 other people there, but he was looking at me.
“That chair isn’t yours.” he admonished, “You didn’t make that chair. You didn’t deliver that chair. You didn’t even set up the chair in its assigned row. But if anyone tries to sit in that chair, you shout, ‘Hey! That’s my chair!’ 
Again, McKinley speaks the truth. How many times have I stated, “That’s mine!” for something that clearly is not? It isn’t my saved seat, it isn’t my parking spot. Even more drastic, the whole sex-slave industry is based on the idea of, “Hey, she’s mine.” Men staking claim on girls who undeniably don’t belong to them. Oh, and by the way, human trafficking isn’t just a problem “over there”. You’d be surprised what you’ll find in your own city.
We have injustice in our neighborhoods, McKinley points out, because we don’t see it. Only by opening our eyes, getting involved, and loving our neighbor as ourselves will we start to create “shalom” as God intended. 
“Re-imagine the neighborhood,” McKinley suggests, “and when you’re no longer asking ‘What’s mine?’ you start asking ‘What’s true, what’s right, what’s ours?'”
Pastor Rick McKinley
God gives this guy some powerful words.
(Photo taken from The Justice Conference Facebook page)


  1. says

    I am a little behind in reading your blog. This is powerful stuff. In fact, it makes me think of John 21–where Jesus asks Peter, Do you love me? I think of this because I am preaching on it tomorrow and this blog, your experiment, your words, your honesty and your insights are inspirational and a crucial move to how we all need to move and GO to open our eyes and take the first small step. Thank you friend! God is speaking to me through you! (Thank goodness because I really need to finish that sermon!)

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