Justice is never immediate.
It is ironic, that in a methodical, priority-based society of efficiency and order and deadlines and production that the most meaningful work requires decades of commitment and carefully knitted relationships.
Did you know that many refugees are required to get their first job in the United States immediately upon arrival, and encouraged to get one within the first 30 days? They’ve hardly had time to find their way around and start English classes and learn how to use money and the bus system before they need to be laboring and interacting and paying rent and providing for their families.
Did you know that it takes twenty years of community ministry to effect real change? John Perkins, the founder of the Christian Community Development Association, cautions that relocating to a new place to help change the systems and poverty there requires a heart that becomes part of that place, that wants to stay, that wants to work and play and interact and make that place your forever home.
Some people are rushed and some people would prefer to rush.
Neither case is helped by our high-pressure, speed-loving America.
Productivity is good for a lot of things, but the level at which we value it in society borders dangerously on idolatry.
Because justice takes community and community takes relationships and relationships take trust and trust takes interactions and interaction take investment and investment takes time.
Only being here six weeks, in a program that in a lot of ways provides for us and our comfort, is exasperating when looking at all the very serious needs around us. People need supportive relationships. They need trust. They need peace. They need justice. They need resources. They need restoration. They need acknowledgement. They need safety. They need home.
Six weeks gives us just enough time to see an iota of that need.
But hopefully, that iota will serve as a tinder that lights a coal that sparks a flame that seeds a blaze that burns as sweet incense to heaven, hearts afire for the city and her beautiful, beloved people.
Reconciliation implies a previous healthy relationship.
It is ironic, that justice workers often speak of reconciling races, when race from its origin is a divisive construct.
In every corner of the system in Baltimore, some stronghold has been erected to keep people apart. All it takes is one road like MLK Boulevard to separate the prosperous from the poor, one railroad line like the B&O to separate Mount Clare from Carroll Mansion. The divisions seem so arbitrary, and yet, they remain, like the unwritten rules of a classist system of oppression, boundaries which, try as they might, no one can puncture.
The same fire that lives in the heart of committed people is the furnace into which planks of discord and distrust can be thrown.
And even in a fractured reality like my beautiful Baltimore, cracks can be sealed, lives can be transformed, relationships can be restored, pain can be healed, love can be spread, and life can be born.
All that stands between us as ambassadors of justice and reconciliation and our ministry is fear.
Fear swallows patience as we hurry to avoid the phantom that frightens us and keeps us rushing to and fro across careers, locations, and relationships.
Fear consumes empathy as we allow ourselves to sink into the apathetic quagmire that is the American philosophy.
Fear ties down resolve as we stay put in our lives of comfort and refuse to relocate our minds, hearts, and bodies into the neighborhoods to which God has called us.
Fear solidifies barriers as we set our minds against anything but the familiar and the similar.
Fear divides communities as we clump into homogenous churches and neighborhoods, bereaving us of opportunity to slip on one another’s shoes.
But there is no fear in Love.
If we really love each other, we will not stand idly by as suffering and injustice roll. We will not fear other’s lifestyles. We will not fear other’s countries of origin. We will not fear other’s homes and neighborhoods. We will not fear entering into each other’s pain and hearing their stories, no matter how messy. We will not fear patient justice or loving reconciliation. We will not fear what we do not understand. We will not fear moving onto the block. We will not fear going to different churches or visiting other’s homes. We will not fear new foods, new experiences, new friendships, new chapters in our stories. We will not fear the consequences of generosity. We will not fear any evil. And we will not give others reason to fear us.
Perfect Love, come and cast out our fear.