Pride of Place

First things first, there is still need to fight for racial justice. Look into your local sheriff/police chief/whoever election, donate to bail funds, read minority voices. This will not go away because white people say they’ll do better and then forget about it.

Our learning link for the week is here. Not the most comprehensive description of microaggressions in the world but a handy introduction if you’re not familiar.


This Pride Month has been substantially different than I expected–first because pandemic, second because protests for justice (which, to be clear, I absolutely think are the thing to do right now, and all our liberation is tied up together) but I did want to have a time set aside specifically for this, for me.

June is a good time to think about the stories I tell regarding my sexuality and things. Stories I tell others, stories I tell about myself, stories I tell to myself. This past year or so has been interesting on that last front and I hope you’ll pardon me if I muse here about it for a while.

I feel like I’ve come a long way since coming out four-ish years ago, in terms of coming to be a part of a community. I have resources and relationships now that have brought me into a deeper understanding of myself, others, sexuality, faith, justice, intersectionality… you name it. There is a kind of belonging in that community that can’t be matched anywhere else because there’s a common bond that is unlike others I, at least, have ever experienced. But at the same time, I feel a bit like an outsider at times.

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Camaro doesn’t feel like an outsider

I guess part of what I’ve been trying to understand is how to be a part of a community while having a different story. Sometimes, minority communities can become very rigid in their definitions of self. That is, they have an identity that creates the community and, to preserve that community, adherence to that identity is sometimes overemphasized.

For a majority culture, that’s called assimilation. In some respects, it’s the same principle in operation though it takes on very different mechanisms and meanings when working on a sub-culture or minority group. But the message is mostly the same, in one way or another: your belonging here is dependent on you exhibiting the behaviors and attributes that we have deemed acceptable.

Sometimes, these are pretty overt things. Cultural referents or shared norms of socialization that can cause outrage when transgressed. Take, for example, two gay men talking. When one hears that the other has never seen High School Musical or something (it’s true that I’ve only seen parts myself), he exclaims jokingly, “I have revoked your gay card!” Like, it’s a joke but also very telling the way in which that joke it told. Again, your membership in this community is contingent. Fragile. It’s insidious, if you ask me.

That kind of stuff annoys me but generally, in the circles I move in, it’s not super prevalent and I do feel confident in people really not meaning it when it does occur. I try my best not to do anything like that but I do slip up from time to time. Forgive me those times. There are other things, subtle and totally unintentional, that do strike me a little harder, however.

In many conversations with friends in the queer Christian community, I am made aware of how different my experience of both those things has been than how I see sexuality and faith interact in most others. A recent example: talking about the difficulty of father’s day as many gay Christian men have a strained relationship with theirs. Or talking about the struggle of reconciling faith, the anguish of being closeted, the pain and fear of homophobia and rejection.

There is so much for me to learn from those friends. And I do strive to learn, and to comfort and to care as I am able. And I rejoice that those things can be healed, in part, by sharing with friends who understand. But there are questions that I ask in the silence of my mind. How do I relate? How do I listen? How do I make room for others but maintain space for myself? I feel it’s important to keep quiet in those times when I can’t really empathize, but when things that are really different from my life dominate conversations time and again, should I really be there at all? How can I participate without bragging or minimizing pain or seeming either preachy or self-centered?

The thing is, after all is said and done, that I do belong. I belong to those people in ways that I can’t explain to others. Those spaces are my spaces–not all the time, not for everything, but my voice is welcome there. It is a kind of fitting in that I have lacked in most all other environments I’ve been in and that is the kind of pride I want to celebrate today.

In the midst of all our current difficulties around community (the impossibility of gathering, the stress of life and events, the uncertainty of it all), I have been lucky enough to be welcomed into a group where I have pride of place. Not that I am most important but that I can show all of myself, all of my story, and know that I will be welcomed unconditionally. That’s Pride and, while we’re at it, that’s love.

This is Still News

I don’t really have anything further to say on the subject right now but I know it’s important to remind ourselves incessantly: black lives matter. We cannot let the luxury of forgetting afforded by our privilege overcome the momentum of this cultural moment.

My little addition to the education effort this week is this compilation of charts that helpfully illustrate in about as clear a manner as possible the systemic nature of white supremacy in the US. Education, law enforcement, finance, housing… And that source barely scratches the surface. But it’s a good place to start if you feel like you don’t completely understand how things currently stand.

Black people are still here. White supremacy is still here. Prejudicial systems are still here. Let’s do something.


I’ve been thinking about old growth forests. Because I love them, obviously, and because there’s really nothing we can do about all of the trees we’ve cut down. Centuries of growth, beauty, shade, pine cones, snuffed out so quickly. Individual trees and entire forests. Totally destroyed.

There are only two things to do: refrain from cutting down trees and plant new ones. Then just hope and pray that the centuries will be kind to the good you’ve tried to do.


Here is a small cat interlude.


I do want to spend a sec this week in celebration of a victory, something this year has largely been so stingy in bestowing. I have actual rights in this country!

There are so many things I could say about that but for today, I will settle for just this: never take privilege for granted. As the court has bestowed workplace protections upon LGBTQ people, so it could one day take them away. Jurisprudence is guidance, not law. And, further, no legislation is permanent. Rights are a delicate, fragile thing in any political system, regardless of what you think should be inalienable.

This is especially important to remember in our current times of protest. Given all the attention that has been paid recently to structures that circumvent the meaning of laws, the discrimination that belies legal equality, the attitudes that reflect deeply ingrained and typically subconscious white supremacy–with all that in mind, let’s recall that legal protections for women and people of color haven’t been around for ages and ages. They’re still pretty young.

And now this new category gets to count those rights as our own. And it will still take decades and decades for them to really be achieved. Centuries?

I just want you (straight, white, male) people to bear that in mind whenever you interface with minorities of any kind. Even if they are a ‘protected class,’ that was a fight that had to be fought legally and is still in progress socially. We have come so far but let’s be very real in admitting that we’ve got so far to go.

I know I said this was going to be a celebration and it’s ended up being a bit sad. I am truly very happy about this ruling which I didn’t not expect but I certainly didn’t expect, either. But let’s remember, to paraphrase a tweet I’ve seen a few times: if you’ve never had a court ruling (or a special law) tell you that you have the same rights as everyone else, you have privilege.

‘Til Each One of Us is Free

What are you doing to confront racial injustice?

How are you committing yourself for the long haul?

What questions are you asking?

What are you doing to examine your privilege?

How are you caring for those who are struggling right now?

How are you educating yourself to be a better ally and a better person?

How are you incorporating critical self-reflection into your life?

How are you listening to voices that are very different from your own?

What are you doing to prioritize justice over order?

What opportunities have you passed up? Why? What will you do differently next time?

How is your worldview changing?

How are you changing yourself?

What are your core values?

What is justice?

What is peace?

What is freedom?

How can you expand your definition of love?

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Turtles, Rivers, Mitochondria, Figs

There are certain moments in life where it feels like a light has come on. Not sudden understanding, exactly, but sudden vision. Where before there was darkness, now there is light. You look up and realize, hey, my life can look different. I can improve my life. I can change things and those changes could totally transform me and my life for the better.

I think everyone can, and maybe does, experience this to some extent. But a really startlingly clear example would be queer people as they begin to come out. Finally opening up your heart–even just to yourself–enough to see that there could be happiness for you. That there is more than everything you thought your life had to be.

I can’t explain how powerful it is to come to a place where you can dream about falling in love when you have literally never been able to really imagine it before. It’s like being practically frozen and taking a sip of rich hot chocolate: you can feel it travel through you, track its progress across your body, feel a change instantly in a way that was hard to conceive of when all you could think about was how cold you were.

The thing queer people won’t hesitate to tell you is that coming out is not one moment, one choice. It’s a choice that, once made, must be made over and over again as you encounter new people, new situations, new realities. And therein, I think, is one of the most powerful lessons about these light-on moments.

I’ve written (to varying lengths) about our current situation several times the past several weeks. And I haven’t really known what to say but I keep repeating it over and over again, that I hope this changes things. That I hope we come out the other side of this better, different, more compassionate, more whole. But here’s finally something I can say that is, at least in some small, kind of psychological way actually actionable.

Think about your life changes like coming out. It’s something that, once you realize, you can’t imagine going back. Once you feel the freedom, you’ll do whatever you can to keep it. And as you move forward, you’ll always be on the lookout for moments when you might need to make the decision all over again.

Just as opportunities to come out come up all the time, so will opportunities that test your resolve on any change you’re trying to make. It’s not a sign of failure if you choose against your first decision. But if you’ve really seen the light, you’ll at least know what you’re striving toward, even if you don’t walk that direction every time. Once you have seen what life can be like, once you’ve granted your imagination permission to dream greater dreams, you can’t help but come out over and over again, even if imperfectly.

I guess I just want to encourage you in walking in response to whatever light-on moments you may have had in response to this pandemic. Whether related to your own life or social structures beyond your direct control. If your imaginations have been opened about what your life can look like, relish that. Exult in the joy of finally realizing whatever it is that you’ve realized. Give yourself grace in the months and years to come, knowing that change is hard and choosing over and over again is hard. But take heart.


I’m thinking about what I said last week. I know it wasn’t much but the thrust of it I think is about the most powerful change we can make. To love anyway. To forgive when we have no good reason. To be kind when we know it won’t be reciprocated. To be glad for a friend’s happiness instead of envious or melancholy that we don’t have the whatever.

These are all choices that we can make. Moment to moment, over and over again, until we die. And the best part is, they’re exactly the kind of choices that will treat us kindly when we fall short, and spur us to choose good more. The world is having a hard time right now, even more than usual, but we can choose to grow through it, choose to look different on the other side.

There’s such a beautiful natural analog to this in twisted trees and things like that. When the light changes or the wind shifts or the ground moves, they adapt. They don’t abandon where they’ve been but neither do they feel the need to continue in a course that no longer results in good growth. Their trunks and branches contort themselves so that they can flourish where they are, and every ounce of energy must again and again make the decision to support that new, different growth.

I encountered this poem from Jane Hirshfield entitled Optimism. I am thinking about what resilience means. Those parts of us which do not merely spring back but take a new shape, grow into something strange and twisted and beautiful. The sweetness of figs.


More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs — all this resinous, unretractable earth.

Love Anyway

I heard a song this week and, besides being something that I aspire to in my best moments regardless, felt like a direct response to the world right now. The lyrics are simple but clear and the message is about as concise as one could wish: love anyway.

What dreams may come, what trials we may face, love anyway. I have nothing more for you this week.

 

Catalog

Times have been such times lately. They continue to be such and I’ve found it pretty stressful even in the midst of my life mostly looking the same. But I encourage you to reflect very deliberately on what’s going on for you.

And perhaps you can take some time to catalog the things that you have been doing lately that you haven’t typically done much, but which have brought you joy. Art projects, baking, teaching your children. Mediation, journaling, calling friends and relatives regularly. Going on walks, watching comedy specials, supporting local restaurants. Gardening, reading, exercising. Whatever else it might be.

In the intermediate future, some of those things might be difficult to keep up, as life returns to a non-pandemic rhythm. But I encourage you to cast your mind forward to that time and think of how you can commit to keeping those joyful activities thriving.

On a more macro level, I also encourage you to think about the things that, as a society, we should not want to return to ‘normal.’ Doing the bare minimum with healthcare, housing, and the minimum wage. Unnecessary commutes, unnecessary prison sentences, unnecessary restrictions. Teacher pay, care for the elderly, racism. Lying and/or incompetent politicians, ridicule of expertise, disbelief of science. Pollution, individualism of the most selfish sort, failure to understand the interconnectedness of our communities and our world. Lots of things I hope that we change forever.

Now is the time. Think carefully about the life and world you want on the other side of this thing. Get it down while it’s fresh in your mind and find a way to hold onto the things you’re thinking and feeling. We can change things but it’s not going to happen on its own. We’ve got to do things with purpose. Take now to think about what that purpose is, or maybe what you hoped it had been and now realize it wasn’t.


I’ll be real with you, I don’t think much of anything will change. I’ve seen headlines and think-pieces on how the very nature of work will be altered moving forward. I don’t buy it. I hope. But while all our systems have been challenged, none of them have been overthrown. Those in power have rushed to their aid even as they have, to a greater or lesser extent, aided the common people.

But those powers that be will do everything they can to return to the status quo that they created and that benefits them. It sounds a little conspiracy-y to say it like that but it is what it is. Talking about changing offices forever? Doubt it. The people who built the massive office buildings won’t take kindly to employees who want to abandon them–even just for a couple days a week.

And for those who don’t work in offices? For the ‘essential’ workers who are outside of prestige jobs in medicine, for example? Lots of verbal support but it’s unlikely that the Republicans who supported our lovely stimulus checks would also support a minimum wage increase.

Hopefully, time and the world will prove me wrong.


I am not a policy wonk and I hesitate to make such pronouncements with any authority. And by ‘hesitate’, I mean ‘refrain entirely’ since none of my pronouncements actually carry any authority. But here we are.

I’ve just been sitting here. Working some. Enjoying the sun. Listening to a D&D podcast. Petting cats. Trying, as ever, to make and maintain friendships.

But I do hope that you take the time to make that catalog. Be deliberate about the changes you make. We aren’t all the ‘powers that be’ who can make the kind of decisions that transform societies. But in some ways, at least, we can transform our own lives. Let’s try to take this opportunity while we can. Be kinder to yourself and be kinder to those who have only had things worse since this whole thing started.


To finish us off this week, cats and poetry. The poem some distant relative of a translation from Hafez (but probs nowhere near something he actually wrote) and the setting of it by Dan Forrest has been haunting me for weeks. Enjoy.

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Even
After
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,

“You owe me.”

Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.

The Sky

I hope that you’re ready for some more poetry because I have been reading [as freedom is a breakfastfood] by E. E. Cummings and here’s the part that I want you to know:

—time is a tree(this life one leaf)
but love is the sky and i am for you

Life is but a little leaf on the great tree of time. But even time itself becomes limited and small in the face of love which is huge and boundless and essential and everywhere. That’s my happy thought for the week. Love is the sky, immense and present, and that is what is getting me through.


I’m going to be real with you though. I have had more video calls this week than ever before–and all of them social, voluntary, and friendly (none of them for work or interviews). I’ve been trying to lap it all up like a parched camel because it’s kind of exactly what I’ve been wishing for these past several months while at home, not particularly close with many friends.

So it’s been awesome in most ways but it’s also presented some mental challenges for me. I’ve written before that I’m trying to stick to the facts, as best as I may know them, when it comes to friends. Being clear with sending and receiving signals, communicating openly so that I can put the lie to the thoughts that tell me that I’m the least valuable player in any social setting. And I think that I’ve made progress on that, truly. One would think that all this social attention has helped too but, surprise, believing lies doesn’t have to be logical.

While I know that the reasonable response to such an increase in contact would be to think something along the lines of ‘wow people do like me, it really is just time and effort constraints that have prevented greater contact in the past’ and now that there’s time, there can be socializing with me. But the thing that I think initially, despite my best efforts, is that either a) this is happening because no one has anything better to do ie I’m a last resort or b) it’s been happening all along but only now am I being made aware of it because people are trying to reach out to others in these difficult times.

I recognize these problems and I’m working on combating them. Just wish it were a little easier. With everything going on, my life hasn’t actually changed much because most of my time has been stewing aimlessly at home anyway. The inescapable frustration of underemployment. The diminished capacity of listlessness. Stewing really is the right word for it most of the time. I hope I come out of this as a really delicious soup because otherwise what am I even doing.


Anyway. Trying not to turn too inward, a tendency for me which the current situation exacerbates.

There’s a whole lot going on in the world right now and it’s important to pay attention to it. I try to take it seriously when I can offer support to other people. It’s hard sometimes to know what to do especially when notes of caution are added to my natural laziness (and selfishness) but I do still want to try to do things. I tell myself it will be better when I have a normal, full-time job and can establish a reasonable routine but we’ll see about that I guess.

In the meantime, if there’s something that I can do for you, please let me know. Just like a little check-in, or virtually playing some games with you, or bringing you groceries if you’re in the area. I’d love to write you letters, too, which you can let sit in mail quarantine for a few days before opening. Whatever I can do.


To conclude, some cute pictures of cat tongue because why not.

The line quoted at the start of this post is near the end of the final stanza. E. E. Cummings is hard to understand in the best of times but that stanza begins with the line, “worms are the words but joy’s the voice.” Whatever the words may be (worms? like, death? or nature? or just small, insignificant things? or???), the voice is joy. Joy is the voice and love is the sky.

I can’t get over that single phrase. Love is the sky. Love is the sky. Love is the sky. Love, love, love; sky, sky, sky.

Job, Growth, Lips, Kitties

So I guess I should start off this week with the biggest personal yikes that has happened to me since I last posted. Which is that, unfortunately, I was not flown anywhere. Nor did I fly anywhere. Because my prospective employer decided that, what with a big virus threatening and extraneous travel not advised, a video interview (like my first one with them) would suffice. Understandable but not ideal. At least it still happened.

And I’m very grateful that it did. I think it went really well, I feel like I came across as very personable and very suited for the position. They all seemed really nice as well. Hoping that their willingness to fly me out (even though it didn’t happen) and having a two hour second interview are good signs. Now, once more, it’s a waiting game. But I should hear from them relatively soon. Here’s hoping. Hoping real hard.


Things otherwise have not been particularly thrilling. I also have not had any big thoughts about anything.

Mostly, this week, I have been daydreaming about moving and having my own place and purchasing household goods and putting up framed artwork on the walls. (Re)Building a routine around even the most mundane things.

As I’ve said before, I know that whatever comes next for me, it won’t automatically solve my problems and it will bring new problems of its own. But I am just really ready for those problems. Those opportunities. Those new things, whatever they may be. If this job turns out to be my job, then I will really look forward to all the changes that that new start will bring. Gasp! I’m looking forward to changes! Maybe this means I’m maturing.


The sermon series that the church I’m going to is presenting during Lent is about big questions people have about the faith. So far, we’ve covered Hell/End Times and politics. This coming Sunday, apparently they’re talking about homosexuality, what a joy.

I said that with that tone because I know neither pastor is personally affirming, nor is the denomination as a whole. Very not, in fact. But because I really just don’t care what they have to say about it (it’s not that I’m ignoring their perspective or anything, it’s more that I have heard it all before, thought about it, and rejected it) I don’t mind going and just kind of existing near them as a very gay, very affirming person. Visibly. So, you know, manicured and lipsticked.

A friend and I recently went lipstick shopping so I could try it for the first time. Trying on lipstick in the store is so weird. I get it but also yikes. Seems like too much work to wear regularly (sorry about the patriarchy) but it’s a fun little accent. I got a pretty nice berry type shade, very eye-catching if you ask me.

So I’ll wear my lipstick and my random shade of nail polish and just generally do my best to radiate the message that God loves everyone, no caveats.


And of course, I would be remiss if I neglected my cat picture duties so here’s a quick little fix for you.

Walk Humbly

We proceed today to the third part in my little series inspired by this talk at a conference I went to back in November and using Micah 6:8 as a way to talk about stuff that I think is important.

So. Walk humbly.Our daily lives should be characterized humility at all times. I don’t recall the post in which I talked about “characterized” but I still like that word, it makes me feel better about evaluating myself on-the-whole rather than in-this-instance.

The point of this, I think, it to model ourselves after Jesus who, being literally actually God, was also just some random Jewish peasant. But foremost in his actions is taking care of others, no matter what it looked like. Meeting people’s needs, going to where they are–physically, culturally, mentally, emotionally, relationally, spiritually. I want to strive to care for others. Gently, humbly, individually, joyfully. Careful to try my best to ensure that they do not feel like a burden.

And here’s a big part of what I think is tricky about that. The difference between service and humility. Anyone can serve, all you have to do is do something. But like last week, when we had to not just do mercy but actively love it, to be humble is to serve for the right reasons, not just go through the motions. Jesus was big into this, the whole idea that when you give, do not even let your right hand know what your left is doing. Or something like that.

Finally, to walk is a directional verb, unlike do or love. We are meant to be going someplace. Which to me means two things: do not expect perfection, and be open to correction. On the first, that means that we ought to go easy on ourselves and on others because none of us are there yet. On humility, or on justice or mercy. I guess that is itself a little humility though, look at us we’re getting somewhere!

And on the second. When we get hurt by people, it can make us extra sensitive to correction. When people have used cudgels in the guise of guidance, especially in church settings, it can make any words of wisdom sometimes feel painful. But it is our work to listen to valid correction and strive to move forward–to heal our wounds and to walk further every day. On the reverse, we have to be sensitive to the hurt in others, to serve and guide them appropriately. Do not underplay or ignore or cheapen the experience of others in the pursuit of betterment (but also don’t give up that pursuit).

I think this correction piece is really key for religious settings in particular. The church offers boundaries and guidelines that the secular world doesn’t, exactly, and I think that’s a strength (when it is not abused). But this element of humility also means that (and here’s my little queer moment on the subject) the church must be able to look humbly on itself and take correction where it can be brought closer to the justice and mercy of God.


Let me tell you, applying for jobs has been a rough time. Being rejected over and over again from scores of places, month after month, isn’t great for one’s self-esteem. But that’s not humility. Working at Michael’s, cleaning bathrooms on the odd occasion–and not minding too too much, and at least there’s a paycheck. But that’s not humility.

I don’t mean this to be the kind of thing where I’m like, I’ve been stripped of everything that’s important to me and that’s how I learned to rely on God because a) I have not been so stripped, nowhere near and b) those stories always kind of annoy me though I’m not sure why. And also c) I don’t think that I’ve learned any better to rely on God than in the past few years (which is maybe a personal failing but that’s neither here nor there).

What I think I have learned a bit is a better perspective. First, on the very tangible scale of Capitalism, learning that I am and always will be replaceable and that a job will never actually care about me because it’s just a job (people can, but people are not jobs). And instead of this being depressing (though not having a job is kind of depressing), it is liberating because I am free to derive my value elsewhere. Like God, theoretically.

And second, perspective in a more global, cosmic sense. To be humbled by the knowledge of God, as far as I have come on that question. To know that while I certainly oughtn’t derive my own worth from a job, God definitely doesn’t. Not from a job, or a relationship, or actions, or words, or thoughts. God doesn’t consider any of those things when estimating my value–not even for an instant. Not a single thing.

The only thing that God considers when charting my value as a human being is that I am. That is the humility that I have been trying to learn. It may sound kind of counter-intuitive, the humility of knowing my worth, and maybe I haven’t explained it well, but I know what I mean.

 

Do Justice

I said back in November that I might do a series of posts about the things I learned or thoughts I had at the Reformation Project’s Reconcile and Reform conference. The main issue is that I am not a note-taker–in general but especially listening to non-school speakers. Which I recognize as a weakness but not one that I usually feel too terrible about.

So, in lieu of going through some of the specific speakers and take-aways, I thought I would have a little series that was inspired by one of the keynote addresses and which connects to a verse that has pursued me for several years. That would be Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” This verse, in connection to a keynote address at the conference delivered by Justin Lee, whose ideas I may or may not be paraphrasing with greater or lesser accuracy at any given moment during the musings. Yay my memory.

Anyway. I thought I would, as Justin did, break this verse down into constituent parts and take them one at a time. Not in any kind of exhaustive sense, lest you think I have the time/energy/training for that, but in a sort of survey of meaning as well as some particular applications that are relevant to me, you, and the world today.


To start, I want to link this together with a couple previous posts that track a little bit of my history with Pride (the gay kind, not the cometh before the fall kind) here and here. Two reasons for this: first, this series was prompted by a queer Christian conference and second, I’ve been on a journey and as I continue, it’s good to look back. If pressed, I’m sure I could enumerate in relatively granular detail some areas of growth for me since those posts but the gist is: yes, I am learning and growing and I’m so happy for that.

On to the topic at hand. Not to be too punny, but I know I’ll never do this subject justice, simply because it’s a big deal and I am not equal to that task. But I shall try, and I shall be led for the time being by the speech previously mentioned. Which you should actually listen to for yourself. The Reformation Project has added several main speakers’ addresses to YouTube and I would highly recommend every one of them. But here’s the one we’re going to be talking about. So go ahead and give that a listen, if you have a sec, but if you have a little less than that, I’d maybe tune it around the 38 minute mark. Anyway, here goes for a quick moment on doing justice.


To begin with, I think it’s important to recognize that how we live matters. Not just as people of faith but as people who acknowledge that our lives have an impact on the people around us, and to see those people and impacts as important. But as someone who believes what Jesus said and did, I do find myself in the position of having freedom of action–no longer being under ancient, Jewish law–and also constrained in action by the love that I bear (in my best moments) toward all others.

So that’s my starting point. I believe that what I do with my life matters because I want to live in response to the love that God has shown and am therefore motivated to see my actions benefit others in recognition of their belovedness.

And now we come to Micah. To begin with, the instruction is to do justice. Starting at the beginning, then, we must see that doing is not simply refraining from acting unjustly, but an active pursuit of justice. It’s something that we should do (and be desirous of doing). In other words, leaning heavily on Justin Lee’s, we are called to put more justice out into the world than we found when we arrived.

We can’t each solve every problem but we can be equipped and prepared to face what we can, when and where we can. I was arrested by Justin’s assertion that we can all be an ally to someone. It is a weighty responsibility but it is as vital as it is life-giving. To give bread to one who has none–or to ask our neighbor to give bread to the stranger who is visiting.

As we’ll talk about more next week, justice without mercy is no justice at all. The aim, it is essential to remember, cannot be retribution or even just punishment. The model that we are shown is that the aim of justice is forgiveness. We cannot ignore the harms that are done–and we cannot simply allow them to continue–but we have to remain focused on seeing perpetrators as worthy of mercy, not caricaturish villains.

Healing is not light. You cannot move on without doing work–hard work. But we also can’t use that as an excuse to never forgive.

I’m not going to try to get any more direct about what ‘doing justice’ really looks like, because yikes. But I want to leave you with two thoughts, one inward and one outward. First, what burdens do you put on others that do not reflect the unconditional love of God for all people? Second, what burdens on others are you in a position to help alleviate–not just in the present moment but in a systematic way so that such an undue burden is not laid on anyone?