The work of AJS is rooted in our belief that Christians are called to bravely pursue justice. We find this biblical calling throughout the Bible – from Mosaic Law in the Bible’s earliest books, to the courageous prophets that challenged Israel’s failure to respond to the needs of the poor, and into Jesus’ New Testament teachings and the apostolic letters. We therefore take seriously Micah’s call “to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God,” (6:8) and Isaiah’s command to “seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, [and] plead the widow’s cause” (1:17).
At the same time, we seek justice in a world where its pursuit is often dangerous and requires courageous and prophetic action. Eminent philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff argues that as Christians, we are called to love our neighbor time and time again; this love demands justice. Thus, as brave Christians, we assert that “there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” (1 John 4:18). Just as Christ laid down his life for others in love, we are called to do the same out of love for our neighbor and in pursuit of justice (1 John 3:16). This conviction guides and informs our work in Honduras, a land desperately in need of justice.
Justice is intricately connected to those who wield power. Powerful people command society’s political and economic resources, and utilize them to maintain power. In this way, they violate the basic rights of others that are essential to justice and cultivate a disordered, violent society, as is the case in Honduras. The justice AJS pursues is different from the traditional work of relief agencies or community development organizations. Relief efforts respond to great need in the aftermath of a crisis. Community development efforts promote the well-being of a specific community by connecting and cultivating the talents of its people. Justice differs from charity and development as it seeks challenges powerful people and structures that perpetuate cycles of corruption and violence and disenfranchise the poor. This work is essential to lasting development and true human flourishing.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” (1 John 4:18).
Justice work stems from the recognition, increasingly acknowledged by Christians, that justice is not a reality in many parts of our world. Trillions of dollars in foreign aid, relentless support from churches, and the lives of thousands have been dedicated to eradicating the plight the poor face, but little difference seems to have been made. As recent popular works such as When Helping Hurts and Toxic Charity have made clear, the church must reassess its approach to charity. Doing this requires attention to the effectiveness of the work organizations do, but also to the power structures that often impede a people’s rise from poverty. In Honduras, AJS is addressing these structural problems and promoting the structural justice necessary for the poor.
For North American Christians, supporting justice is a natural extension of our calling as a church. Honduras is quite literally a “neighbor” of the United States, giving special meaning to the great commandment of Jesus to love God and neighbor. Further, many Hondurans come from a long Christian tradition—both Catholic and Protestant—that provides fertile ground to spread God’s message of justice. Honduras’ violence, corruption, and persistent poverty impels collective Christian action by Hondurans and North Americans that responds to the needs of our neighbor.
Supporting the work of justice responds to the biblical calling we find in God’s word. Just as the prophets demanded justice from the kings of Israel despite the danger they faced, AJS calls upon the leaders of Honduras to respect the rights of its people, to reform its broken systems, and to end the corruption and violence in which it participates. In spite of the danger this brings, AJS boldly seeks to serve as brave Christians in this world, knowing that such work will bring meaningful change in Honduras.
Written by AJS co-founder Kurt Ver Beek and Christian philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff, Call for Justice talks about the intersection of faith and justice. Through a series of exchanges, the authors explore what the Bible has to say about justice and a practical application of that in Honduras. It is a great resource for Christians looking to learn more about both the theory and practice of justice.
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