Alan Jackson sings a song imploring listeners to ponder the question: Where were you when the world stopped turning? Up until that point, I had only heard my mom talk about how she’d never forget where she was, or what she was doing, when JFK was assassinated. In my naiveté, I felt certain that there would never be such an event in my lifetime, an event so atrocious that it would mark a significant change in what my generation believed about the world.
I was wrong, though. I remember exactly where I was on September 11, 2001. I was an eighth grader, in Mr. Graher’s American History class.Turns out, I, too, was a part of a generation who would feel the impact of a globally known, and felt, tragedy.
Events like that often raise a lot of fear. Everywhere I looked after the attacks, I saw fear – in the eyes of my father, in the whisperings of my friends on the school bus, even in my own reflection when I tried to maintain normalcy. Suddenly, I felt fearful of flying – something I’d never thought twice about before. I also found myself, as sad as it leaves me to admit this, instantly suspicious of anyone even remotely resembling the men who performed the attack on my country.
When events like 9/11 rock a nation, people often swing in one of two directions. They either process their fear and recognize a small group of people and their acts of hatred do not define a population, or they will categorize an entire population by that small group’s act, and never look back.
this was likely the birth of a heart earnestly seeking to find, and offer, justice to others.
I recall feeling deeply saddened by the events and the wreckage that followed, but I was also constantly questioning whether or not I had the right to mourn those I did not know. In the years to follow, I found myself with an intense desire to know people different than myself, to understand their stories, their cultures, and their belief systems. What I didn’t know then, but am continually in pursuit of now, is that this was likely the birth of a heart earnestly seeking to find, and offer, justice to others. I realized that I had a right to mourn for the lives that were lost, and also for the subsequent racial profiling that happened to people from Middle Eastern cultures, because I was responding to a lack of concern where justice should have been abounding.
Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.
- Jeremiah 22:3
Justice can be defined as ‘a concern for justice, peace, and a genuine respect for people.’ And here’s the thing, I don’t think in 2018, justice should be a radical concept. I do not think, possessing a genuine concern and respect for people should mark someone as unique.. Unfortunately, we live in a very broken world, and this is still the reality.
People often fear what they do not know, but in God’s directive in Jeremiah 22, I hear an urgency in the Lord’s words: Take care of these populations, kiddos. Do not bring harm to the immigrant, the orphaned child, the widow, but be kind in an environment that often does not see kindness. Do these things because it is what I have done for you.
I think one of my favorite things about Jesus is just how much He does not care about labels. In a world often overlooking the very important roles women fulfill in day-to-day life, the risen Jesus makes His debut, in each of the four gospels, to women. He dined with lepers, not concerned with their physical appearance or communal uncleanness. He spent time with prostitutes, focusing on the heart of the human, not the acts that led to their labeling. He places the lonely in families. This is where justice begins.
As citizens of the Kingdom, sisters, justice begins with a smile
You see, I think Jesus is revved up when His kids step out of “normal” and seek connection with the “other,” even when it might be uncomfortable. As citizens of the Kingdom, sisters, justice begins with a smile, with a yes, with learning to eat food with your hands – because it’s not always going to be about our comfort. I need reminded of this often – if I lived my life simply for comfort’s sake, I’d still be in a little farming town, living with my parents, not writing any words. Change is scary. Taking a chance at getting to know someone different is frightening. Being proactive about making change – however that looks in your narrative – is crazy intimidating. But I believe, as we can see through Jesus’ example, it’s where justice is birthed. Justice sounds like a big word sometimes – maybe because we don’t fully understand the simplicity of it – show up for someone, to smile, to ask good & caring questions, then repeat.
Therefore, may you and I wake every morning having justice at the forefront of our minds. May we have a steadfast devotion to make sure we will never leave somebody feeling like they’re anything less than somebody.
Steph Duff wants to live in a world where every human, whether small or regular-sized, learns to use their voice and is seen and known. When she's not traveling and story telling with Back2Back Ministries, you'll likely find her drinking excessive cups of coffee, with her nose in a book, or daydreaming about India. Her favorite scripture is Habakkuk 1:5, and she prays for a world in which Jesus is the name on every lip. Learn a little more about her love for semi-colons, what stirs her blood, and the yearnings of her heart over at www.stephaniduff.wordpress.com.