Ours is a God who calls us into a pursuit, a particular way of life. This way of life is about putting things right, it is about living in the way of God’s robust justice. Ken Wytsma in Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live & Die for Bigger Things believes the pursuit of Justice is central to life with the Triune God. His new book is one part inspiration and one part road map to the way of justice. Wytsma, lead pastor of Antioch Church in Bend Oregon, weaves scripture, research, and stories together to deliver a compelling call to live and die for bigger things. Pursuing Justice is an impassioned invitation to a journey towards justice.
Wytsma does well to describe a wider view of justice in the opening chapter.
He says, “Justice is broad enough to speak about truth, love, forgiveness, and grace, and it is woven consistently throughout scripture. It conveys, through prophetic images of Scripture, a picture of what God’s kingdom will look like and what it can begin to look like now. . . A biblical understanding of how expansive justice is will carry us into a strong, broad, and deep appreciation of the fullness of God’s heart for His Creation.”
Justice is not simply a fine thing to do; it is not just one piece of the Christian life or an optional add-on. Wytsma argues justice is ethical (it is the right thing to do), religious (God has called and commanded us to join Him in doing justice), and personal (doing justice fulfills our deepest longings and leads to peace and joy). Justice is central to the heart of God and God calls us to partner with him in the activity of justice. Wytsma says, “tsedek (The Hebrew word for justice) means: a life in which all relationships— human to human, human to God, and human to creation—are well-ordered and harmonious.” You can tell from the passion of the first several chapters this is not a book of concepts or an ideology; it is a lived theology.
While Pursuing Justice is full of stories and passion, it is not short on research, theological reflection, and scriptural insight. Wytsma quotes Bonhoeffer, Gustavo Gutierrez, Augustine and William Wilberforce to name a few. These are not just cameo posts, all of the quotes and theological reflection form a coherent and compelling case. This is most on display in the fourth chapter as Wystma relates Justice to the vision of happiness. Wytsma draws the reader back to the Greek and eventually the biblical understanding of happiness to help us to regain the ground we have lost on the term.
As I mentioned early, this book is born from experience. You can see Wytsma in a chapter called “Playstations and Poverty,” he points out we live in an interconnected world in which our decisions affect those in worlds far away. The reality is there if we are going to pursue justice, it has to be an all of life pursuit. As Wytsma argues, taking notice of our consumerism and learning generosity are crucial pieces of the pursuit. On the other side, Wytsma reminds us compassion alone does not guarantee results. Although we often are led to act because we are learning about the great suffering throughout the world, we have to learn to listen. Justice is not just about stepping in and cleaning up problems or taking care of needs. The way to pursue justice is a path of sacrificial and relational love. If we truly follow Jesus we have to learn to “combine compassion with wisdom to achieve the best ends.” You can tell Wytsma has wrestled with the way of justice with others and learned the only way forward is to follow Jesus, the one who became flesh and lived with us.
Pursuing Justice closes with a call to movement. While he continues to argue his case with solid scholarship, he turns to a voice of inspiration. He calls for us to get moving, to get to living justly. For me, this was a helpful close because I nod my head at the arguments he makes, yet use one excuse or another to not pursue justice. He calls for us to begin now, even if we are still waiting for our individual calling to come. Instead of waiting for the right thing, join God in the passion of God’s heart. Wytsma says, “The world changes every day in both big and small ways. I want to watch where God is moving and join Him there. There will always be injustice and sin, but even though we can’t fix the world, we can certainly change it.” Pursuing Justice is not a mysterious project; it is a path of giving up self for the sake of God’s hope for the world.
Justice is a hot topic in the circles I run in. Books line the shelves and articles show up on my twitter feed, yet Ken Wytsma’s book is not just another voice. Pursuing Justice is a passionate and articulate invitation to a new way of life. This is an important book that is a joy to read. Ken Wytsma is a wise guide on any journey towards justice.