Growing for Justice

by Joseph Stucker on January 19, 2022

Earlier this week, we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day. For many, it likely was a much sought-after day of rest. A day of comfort.

There’s a certain comfort that comes from the reliability of consistent, predictable patterns. We know each year on the third Monday of January that we’ll get the day off to celebrate MLK Day.  We’ll see the typical tributes in the news throughout the day, and read some of our favorite quotes scrawled on Facebook walls and Instagram feeds. We’ll pause for a moment of safe, predictable - even comfortable - inspiration.

The next day, we’ll go back to our normal, everyday lives.

We’ll lose what Martin Luther King truly stood for, what he preached over the course of the last decade and a half of his life as a minister and an activist. Some of the uncomfortable things he said.

Quoting MLK

"Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

We’ve all seen the quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It’s a classic MLK Day quote.

But how often do we see the rest of that line: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

It’s some radical thinking - then, and now. Reverend King calls us to acknowledge that we are all in this together. That we are all one family of man, all people created in God’s image.

Justice is not conditional, nor is it subjective. Justice is, and must always be, the same for all. 

Or how about this lesser known MLK quote:

“Many white Americans of good will have never connected bigotry with economic exploitation. They have deplored prejudice, but tolerated or ignored economic injustice…”

Martin Luther King Jr. spent a considerable portion of his life battling not just racism, but poverty and the systemic causes behind it.

It can be uncomfortable when we get called out for our flaws, our blind spots - even at times, our willful ignorance.

What about this one?

"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of bad people but for the appalling silence of good people.”

Inaction in the face of oppression perpetuates oppression.

We can’t get stronger without exercise. We can’t become educated without studying. We can’t reach our biggest goals without facing our limitations, and working to push through them. It is and always will be uncomfortable to expose our weaknesses and shortcomings, our ignorance and our flaws, and to grow beyond them.

We can wish it all we want, but we never grow stronger sitting on the couch.

The Second Exile of Israel

When Pastor Bryan introduced our current teaching series, he walked us through Isaiah 40, and the exile of the Israelites to Babylon. The Israelites found themselves in this in-between time, taken away from their homes and deprived of their routines – their sense of consistency and comfort.

They found themselves in a wilderness without any sense of when they would emerge on the other side. It must have been scary; it certainly would have been uncomfortable.

And yet in that time of discomfort, they see God’s provision and hear God’s words.

2,500 years later, we find ourselves in a culture that is seeking so desperately to avoid discomfort.

Going back to those quotes from Martin Luther King Jr., one of the things King warned heavily against was the simple truth that the complacency, inaction, and protection of comfortable “old ways” was just as insidious and damaging to the pursuit of justice as outward hostility.

In our discomfort we grow and learn to follow Him more closely. We see the Lord at work – if we just open our eyes to him. 

Justice in our Promiseland

This past weekend, we worked through Isaiah 42. We began in verse 1:

1Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
    and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
    or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
    he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
    In his teaching the islands will put their hope.

~Isaiah 42:1-4

Pastor Bryan left us with the thought that “God’s promise of justice someday compels us to work for justice today.”

That work may be tiring. It will likely be uncomfortable. But if we truly strive to see God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, we are compelled to join Christ in bringing forth justice for all of God’s children. 

How has God challenged you to pursue an extension of justice recently?
What uncomfortable things do you face in growing in the pursuit of justice?

If you missed this week’s sermon, you can find it here or on our YouTube channel. In addition to Pastor Bryan’s message on justice, Pastor Jeanette Yep led a panel discussion with Vivian Mabuni of Cru and Ed Ollie, Campus Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church. Their discussion contained great insight into first steps we can take towards pursuing justice for all those around us.

The Incredible, Extreme Love of Jesus

One final word for this post – often times it can be something as simple as one word that makes us uncomfortable.

Words can take on loaded meanings and emotional connections, and in doing so become removed from their true meaning. We close with one last quote from the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

"But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you...



So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?"
(Letter from a Birmingham Jail)

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