In today’s world, the causes and cases of injustice can be overwhelming.
Our news feeds inundate us with stories of orphaned children, images of displaced refugees and emotional calls to stop the chaos of war or famine. In response, we flock to social media to like, follow, hashtag and tweet in order to feel like justice activists. In our moments of empathy, we donate to GoFundMe campaigns and sign online petitions. This online activism is convenient and appeals to our fast-paced lives but does it make a difference?
Recent giving trends reveal that 86% of Canadians make charitable donations and of those, 62% give online. While this is encouraging, only 47% of these same people commit their time to a cause by volunteering. Thanks to social media and online news, we have more awareness of issues but less of the commitment necessary to make lasting change.
How do we move beyond our keyboards & newsfeeds to #pursuejustice #lovemercy and #walkhumbly?
Author Kent Annan suggests an alternative to this kind of convenient justice in his book Slow Kingdom Coming. Annan presents five counter-cultural practices for cultivating the gradual, intentional and lasting work of the Kingdom - attention, confession, respect, partnering, and truthing.
Annan describes attention as the need to awaken to the struggles in our world and focus our efforts so that we are able to invest over the long term. Paying attention to what breaks our heart is key to discerning where God is drawing our attention and how he calls us to serve His Kingdom. We cannot attend to every injustice, so we must choose who and where we serve with care.
Confession leads us to a clearer vision of God’s kingdom as we acknowledge the broken way we interact with the world. Annan suggests we must confess our mixed motives for serving. Sometimes our genuine longing for change is mixed with a hero complex. At other times, we fail to recognize our position of privilege. Confession aligns us with Christ’s heart for his children. It allows us to enter into the work of justice for God’s Kingdom with a posture of humility before God and others.
Respect is one of the most important practices to implement when seeking justice. We must engage in the slow process of building mutually respectful relationships with our beneficiaries or we will do more harm than good. We must acknowledge the dignity and right to agency of every person with whom we serve. One of the most practical ways to build respect is by simply listening.
Annan argues that the way we partner with others is also critical. “Rescue” and “fix-it” partnerships are common in the field of development, especially when resources and power are used to save rather than serve. This approach fails to acknowledge the agency and potential of all people. Equal agency partnerships, on the other hand, respect the abilities people have to solve their own problems. When we partner well with others we collectively manifest the presence of God.
Truthing is the final principle Annan describes as critical to lasting meaningful change. It is the hard task of due diligence. Truthing requires asking difficult questions in order to gain an in-depth understanding of the context and the impact of our service. It means putting feet on the ground to evaluate the immediate impact of our work and the ripple effects on those beyond our direct line of contact. Truthing enables us to better see if our acts of love and service are actually bearing fruit.
Annan’s long-term Kingdom justice breaks the idea of the quick fix, task driven missions machine. While measurable outcomes are important, the work of the Kingdom is not a rapid process. It is intended to be thoughtful and time consuming. Qualitative fruits are as important as quantitative results. Annan calls us to attend to needs with confessional humility and to develop respectful partnerships while continuing to ask hard questions. Valuing the intentional practices of Slow Kingdom Coming will help us move beyond our keyboards to pursue justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.