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I struggle not for an immediate result, but because Jesus called me to struggle. Because we come face to face with Jesus and his beloved people the moment we enter the struggle.
Let’s be clear about Jesus: his #1 topic of conversation was money. His 1st choice for company were the poor and social outcasts. And his #1 sermon topic was the Kingdom of God. Don’t believe me? Read the New Testament and see what you find. Believe me? Read on.
There is a common thread that weaves these three things together: Jesus’ unshakable quest for justice. Defined by Webster, justice is fairness, equal treatment, and impartiality. Defined biblically, justice is love made public. It is the underpinning of Jesus’ vision of the kingdom of God, a place where everyone has a seat at God’s table. To achieve this just kingdom, Jesus knew the outcast must be welcomed into the very center of God’s beloved community and that a new economic order must be created. To achieve this, Jesus preached a new relationship with money. This new relationship was based on equity and generosity.
As a broken, imperfect christian, I have tried my best to live into a new relationship with money, but I cannot lie. I am part of a massive economic industrial complex in which I drive a minivan and buy my children cleats. Perhaps you might applaud my husband and my effort to be financially generous, to purchase less, to say no—at least occasionally—to our children’s and our own material desires. But let’s not sugarcoat things—I am nowhere near to living out Jesus’ vision for the kingdom of God. There are some radical christians out there doing it and I highly encourage you to check out their blogs, not mine. (Contact me and I’ll send you in the right direction).
How can I write about justice if I still participate in a system that leaves some hungry and others with too much? Jesus’ vision of the kingdom of God was something both earthly and heavenly. It was something present and available, but also beyond this broken world’s ability to create. That is why as christians we are called to struggle, if not achieve, the kingdom of God here on earth.
Progressive christians engage in the struggle for justice each and every day. I am proud that my religious heritage links me to the leaders of the anti-slavery, women’s suffrage, labor, civil rights, and anti-war movements. I am proud that today progressive christians struggle toward the kingdom of God by protecting the environment, promoting fair trade, helping immigrants, fighting sex trafficking, and providing clean water. Politically, progressive christians have supported reproductive rights, marriage equality, and nuclear disarmament, to name only a few of the crucial issues we engage in.
Just an awareness of these issues is exhausting. There is so much in this world that is broken, so much we must struggle against, so many systems that must be turned upside down if the kingdom of God is ever to be achieved. Is there any end to this struggle, any hope the kingdom will ever be achieved?
There is always hope. I know this from participating in the struggle. I know this from watching crowds gather to protest, witnessing christians spend their life committed to justice and who ultimately, through their life work, bring us closer to the kingdom. Look through history and you will see hope woven into the very fabric of time.
But when O God, when, will the kingdom be achieved? We ask. We lament. I have no answer, but I am invested in the struggle. And I struggle not for an immediate result, but because Jesus called me to struggle. Because we come face to face with Jesus and his beloved people the moment we enter the struggle.
PS My blog has made no mention of the specific work that God’s faithful people are doing day in and day out. Want to be inspired by some people engaged in the struggle? Want to learn more about a particular topic? Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll connect you.
Rev. Abigail A Henrich (ehm!) is an ordained minister who earned her stripes at Princeton Theological Seminary and Colgate University. That said, Abby is really a mother-pastor-spouse who lives in a kinetic state of chaos as she moves from her many vocations: folding laundry, preaching, returning phone calls, sorting lunch boxes, answering e-mails, and occasionally thinking deep thoughts in the shower. Unabashedly she is a progressive Christian who believes some shaking up has got to happen in the church.