Sunday, January 14, 2007

A book that lives up to its name

As I was reading Practical Justice: Living Off-center in a Self-centered World by Kevin Blue, I had the thought, "Man, these chapters are so practical." Then I remembered that the book was living up to its title, and really appreciated the skill and intent of the author. In yet another super book from IV press, Blue (who is a colleague of mine in InterVarsity Urban Project circles) clearly, prophetically, and theologically exhorts Christians to see the Bible with eyes of justice, and to live out the teachings and call of Jesus. The thing that makes this book such a great resource is that Blue doesn't just talk theory, but rather gives simple and practical next steps, some of which are very challenging and some of which are accessible to anyone. For example, in his chapter "Giving a Man a Fish" which teaches on meeting immediate needs of the poor and homeless, Blue gives four pratcitcal steps. 1) Buy a homeless person food and sit and eat with them and offer to pray with them about their circumstances. 2) Volunteer at food pantry or serve at a homeless shelter. 3) Visit a convalescent home that houses residents who are economically struggling. 4) If you live in a less-urban area, identify the pockets of poverty that certainly exist and ask God how you might be used there.

Blue also made me squirm with conviction a couple of times. In particular his chapter "Should I Help?" adddressed some of the excuses that I often make in not helping people. Here are the paragraphs that messed with me.
"Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime. Therefore don't give him a fish." This is the cultural mantra of much of the middle and upper class. While Jesus says directly to give to those who ask (Matthew 5:42), we are encouraged to interview, be suspicious of, and ultimately not give to beggars. Why? It seems that we think people are poor because they ought to be. Or is it a disease that can be caught if you associate too closely? We are taught that those who are poor don't want to work, are manipulative, don't care about themselves or others, are criminally dangerous, or are unmotivated to do better. Yet Jesus doesn't mention any of these conditions as a reason not to give to someone in need.

Now, Blue has more to say in this chapter, and he is balanced and grace-filled as he speaks truth. But he calls Christians to embrace God's heart of justice and show us ways that we can participate in that, and he writes to exhort, encourage, and challenge. I highly recommend this book.

1 comment:

Macon said...

Looks like a great book! I might go pick it up.

This line, though, gives me pause, Or is it a disease that can be caught if you associate too closely?

Rhetorical flourish? Preacher's roll?

If he honestly thinks this is what the "middle class" thinks, then imho, his understanding of the "middle class" is suspect.

But I doubt he really thinks that. If he's IV staff, he's too sharp for that. My guess is that this is rhetoric.

Which is too bad, because if, on this very important subject, he wants me to take the rest of his writing at face value, then he needs to write without the zingers.

I imagine that this one line of hyperbole doesn't permeate the book. I have more faith in IV staff (tons!) and in the editors of IVP (metric tons!) than that. :-)

All told, your recommendation is enough for me, Marsh!