However, this week I got my second installment of books to review, and already have to share with you about the first book that I delved into.
The book is called Zealous Love, A Guide to Social Justice, by Mike & Danae Yankoski. There's no 'fluffy' way to review this book. It is gripping and gut-wrenching. It is challenging. And it is very practical. As I read the first chapter, on human trafficking, I was moved nearly to tears, yet at the same time, I fought the urge to "cover my ears" so to speak. Part of me just doesn't want to know. Part of me says, "No! This just can't be happening in our day-and-age!". Part of me wants to stay unaware, because, frankly, it's much more comfortable. How do you become aware of such atrocities and go on living unaffected by the realities that others are experiencing on a daily basis? That, my friends, is exactly the point of the book. It is a wake-up call for Christians to really hear and heed the many, many words of scripture that call for justice, mercy, and compassion for those in need. This reference in particular humbled me to the core:
"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy." (Ezek. 16:49)The book is formatted in such a way that it takes eight areas of social justice needs that affect billions worlwide (and yes, including the USA) and addresses it first as a 'briefing', giving the facts and realities of each. Following the 'briefing' section are 'field notes'...personal stories of those who are active in becoming part of the solution to these problem - people truly being the hands and feet of Jesus in the world today. Lastly, each issue section is concluded with questions for personal reflection, to 'bring it home', so to speak, as well as ideas for action and contact information for several organizations already established in fighting on behalf of the helpless.
While this book was stirring and compelling, I did not find it to be guilt-inducing. In fact, the authors specifically addresses the fact that we cannot operate out of guilt. They compare doing so to a college student surviving on too much caffeine and not enough sleep....eventually there will be a crash. However, they do challenge Christians to cultivate something much healthier and sustainable. A heart change, that can, in fact, only be brought about by understanding the deeply perfect love of Christ that has so freely been bestowed on us. It's is about, as the authors put it "an active, renewable love" that once we understand, we can't help but love others out of.
My personal tendency, when confronted with such issues is to become overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem, and my inability to make a deep impact. I also can get easily frustrated with the 'politics' that can come into play when social justice issues are brought up. However, neither of these is an excuse that would stand in light of Matthew 25:
For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'So, where does this leave me? Well, first of all, I will admit, I'm not even finished the book yet! (Yes, it's impacted me this much already, I'm not yet done!) So I am still mulling around ideas in my head. Thoughts of where to go, what to do with this all. I'm praying and asking God to give me new eyes to see the things he does. I'm asking him to make me more aware, and to help me to cultivate that awareness in my children, and in my church. Practically speaking, I've got ideas brewing for our kids celebration service that will tie in lessons about the reality of other childrens' lives and what we can do to help them. I'm thinking of challenging lessons for my own kids (yeah, some that involve lugging around jugs of water and eating lots of rice) that I know will not necessarily be received well, but will be impactful. I'm praying for God to fully wake me up to what it means when He said "whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me".
Final conclusion? Great book...you should read it!!!
EDIT: Prompted by Laura's question in the comments, (I wanted to include this in my post but forgot) the 8 social issues addressed in this book are: human trafficking, unclean water, refugees, hunger, lack of education, creation degradation, HIV and AIDS, economic inequality.