The Justice Calling
Bethany Hanke Hoang & Kristen Deede Johnson
Human trafficking. Rampant poverty. Economic exploitation. AIDS. Genocide. Displaced people. When we look at the world, we see an overwhelming amount of injustice. The resulting temptation is to insulate ourselves from this injustice: when we see a starving child, we can turn the TV channel. When we hear about the horrors of human trafficking, we can numb ourselves to the pain by distracting ourselves with entertainment. In The Justice Calling, Bethany Hanke Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson call us to a better way: a way that participates in God’s vision of justice for the world.
The authors define justice as setting things right, which is closely connected to God’s mission of shalom for the world. Hoang and Johnson trace the theme of God’s justice and righteousness throughout the entire biblical narrative: creation; the fall; God’s covenant with Israel; Jesus’s life, death and resurrection; the church; and new creation.
This is the discipline of biblical theology at its finest: demonstrating God’s justice as integral to his character and to his mission in the world from Genesis to Revelation.
Hoang and Johnson emphasize that justice is God’s work first and foremost. As his people, we participate in his work, but it is never ours alone. This addresses some of the compassion fatigue we feel when overwhelmed with the world’s injustice: we are not called to be heroes (see Chapter 5) but rather to ask how God would use each of us to participate in what he is already doing. Addressing injustice is not about what we do, but who we are: the people of God, wrapped up in Jesus Messiah, bearing his image.
I appreciated how Hoang and Johnson framed their book in prayer. At times, prayer can seem so futile in combating the unimaginable injustice that we see and experience. However, throughout the book, our authors call to back to prayer, for on our own, we can do nothing (John 15:5). This is a helpful reminder for those who are tempted to adopt the hero mentality. God will certainly use what we offer to him, but our dependence on his power through prayer is what we must offer him first.
Call to repentance
As I was reading this book, I sensed the Holy Spirit moving me to repentance. I have valued my comfort and safety more than I have valued God’s vision of shalom and love for the poor. Since I read this book, I have been asking God to show me where he would have me invest in his vision of justice.
I recommend The Justice Calling to our Mennonite Brethren community, as Hoang and Johnson’s scholarship aligns well with ICOMB Confession of Faith: “as Christians we are called to turn from lifestyle choices that harm us, to choices that nurture wholeness, healing, joy and peace from hating enemies and ignoring neighbors to showing love and justice to all.”
While there isn’t any “new” scholarship in the book, my instinct is that we don’t always need “new” information: sometimes we need to be reminded and convicted of what we already know. The Justice Calling will do this, as a well-researched exploration of the biblical theme of justice that would serve well in a college classroom, small group or personal setting.
More than that, this book calls us back to who we are: God’s people committed to his vision of shalom, and willing to do whatever he asks of us as we anticipate the day when he will make all things right and new.
[Stephanie Chase is studying theology at Briercrest Seminary. She calls Regina and Parliament Community Church home.