Justice: On Worshiping on Earth like Heaven

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This post is the fourth in our series this month on the spiritual practices of activism
that are rooted in and enhance our faith lives.

Don’t Be a Goat

My hate towards injustice started brewing in my 10-year-old heart that rainy day riding inside my dad’s Toyota Land cruiser 4-wheel drive as he went in & around bumpy potholes on a dirt road up in the mountains of Nicaragua. I loved riding next to my dad on his adventures. My heart has clear pictures of his strong, brown hand maneuvering the gears of his jeep and with him I had no fear, even if looking out my passenger window meant a dangerous precipice awaited us. He drove fiercely and with purpose: to find a woman he was told was living under a tree with a baby. The monsoon rain had let up a little and we could see her through the bright green tropical bush: Teófila. Dark skin, tired-looking, wrinkled and worn out by the sun, tattered by striving, holding a baby, and getting bit by ants that climbed the tree she was leaning against. In that moment, my dad taught me a lesson that wasn’t spoken; it was more caught than taught: God is Love. Love is getting this woman and baby out of the rain, clothed, fed, sheltered. Once you walk muddy up to see her with light rain falling on your skin, you can’t be the same.  My dad always told me that God would never forget even a glass of water given in His name and he took Matthew 25 literally, like… LITERALLY:

The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’

Read the whole passage yourself Matthew 25:31-46 and don’t be a Goat. This is justice to me.

On Earth as It Is in Heaven

I moved to Little Rock, Arkansas in 2001 to help plant Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas, a multi-ethnic and socio-economically diverse church that around 7 years had over 500 members and 30 nations represented. For those of you who live in northern United States, the west/east coasts or Texas, you may scratch your head and ask: What’s the big deal? But in the heart of the South and home to the Little Rock Nine, IT.IS.A.BIG.DEAL when the “11 o’clock hour is still the most segregated hour in the land”. In 2008, my husband and I moved to North Little Rock to his home church, Fellowship North, who from its inception had been predominantly homogeneous and was then in a transformational stage moving towards multi-ethnic in order to reflect the community and also the Kingdom of Heaven, both at the staff level as well as the congregation.

Spiritual activism to me in this sense is worshiping on earth as it is in heaven.

It is as John’s vision describes in Revelation 5:9. I believe that Jesus came to actively reconcile us to God as well as each other. Our family has chosen not to worship elsewhere on a regular basis because my skin is brown, my husband is Caucasian, and my son is bi-cultural. (I personally don’t like the word biracial, because I believe there’s only one race, that’s the human race, and within it we have diverse ethnicities, but I understand those who use it and why). It’s important for our family that we live out God’s heart for all people within the local church who intentionally reaches all people. All people means ALL people. God created cultures for His glory and He redeems cultures for His glory. We’re going to be together for eternity so we may as well start living together as family here on earth. My son therefore worships week in and week out with others that don’t look like him because without them, our family is incomplete. I truly believe this is the beginning of his own toddler theology that God loves all people because he sees it lived out in our community of faith and not just talked about on MLK Holiday.

The Saharawi are Not Forgotten

Another way that I engage spiritual activism as a response to my faith is in my love and support of the Saharawi people. Our Anglo pastor, Craig Loibner, likes to say that Jesus has a heart for “the last, the lost, the least, the losers, and the left out.” So in 2009, I had the privilege of embarking on several planes to an undisclosed location of the Sahara Desert in Algeria to serve at a refugee camp among the Saharawi, Africa’s last colony. I was drawn to the Saharawi because I learned they are a Muslim community that spoke Spanish because they were a colony of Spain up until their independence in 1975. Through a series of horrible, illegal, and unjust conflict with neighboring invaders, they had to take refuge in camps in Algeria, hoping it was temporary and to one day return to their homeland in Western Sahara…only they have been waiting for 40 years now in deplorable living conditions in desert temperatures that can reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit in the peak of summer.

I traveled then to the camps with an organization called Not Forgotten International, with other followers of Jesus, who believe that God is a god of justice and had been walking alongside the Saharawi for about 10 years as a light in their darkness. The camp conditions were stark even for me having grown up in a developing country. No running water, no plumbing, no soil to grow anything, living in tents or adobe homes, at the mercy of NGO’s that brought water in trucks because you can’t even dig a well in the desert. NFI has brought light in the darkness by developing programs such as: Family Gardens (where soil and water are literally brought in to grow small sustainable gardens for families to feed themselves with dignity), Essalam English School, the Soccer Academy, and Dialogues for Peace (a government sanctioned annual dialogue where Christian and Muslim scholars come to study the common ground between the 2 faiths and walls of hostility are coming down in a peaceful process).

All justice. All making the wrongs a little bit right on earth while we wait for justice in heaven.

NFI and their work with the Saharawi has climbed up all the way to lobbying in Washington DC and in the United Nations, along with notorious activists like Javier Bardem (see his Sons of the Cloud Documentary), on behalf of an oppressed people group. God has bound up the brokenhearted through our efforts and hands. We can’t downplay this in social works.

There’s a quote that I’ve seen floating around the internet for years now and I wish I could properly credit its original author. It summarizes my thoughts on why we ought to be engaged in spiritual activism if we desire to be people of faith:

Sometimes I’d like to ask God why He allows poverty, famine, and injustice in the world when He could do something about it…but I’m afraid God might ask me the same question.

Ines McBryde conf picI was born in Spain, was raised my formative years in Nicaragua, moved to Texas for college, and now live in Arkansas with my salsa-dancing husband and hilarious toddler son. I work with Spanish-speaking immigrants at the local children’s hospital and am a lay minister to women at Fellowship North. My Spanish mother was a diplomat stationed at the Spanish Embassy in Nicaragua during the bloody civil war in the 80’s. My Nicaraguan father was involved with numerous global development organizations, like World Vision, Habitat for Humanity, medical & dental brigades, disaster relief during earthquakes and hurricanes, etc. I was fashioned by adversity. My parents taught me that God is a god of Justice, therefore we must serve others, and this is God’s righteousness. I want to change the world and I’m starting with me.