In the final chapter of Gary Haugen’s Just Courage, we come to the moment of challenge, the “altar call” to convert to seeking justice as vital to a faithful witness to Christ and the Gospel.
Chapter 10 is titled, “Would You Rather Be Safe or Brave?” Haugen begins by relating his experience of peewee football. As a boy, he was thrilled with the issuing of pads and jersey. He imagines football to be about “running fast, dodging cones and catching passes” (p. 112). But with the first day of contact practice, a “magic epiphany” happens—football is about contact! Haugen remembers a conversation with his mom after this realization. He recalls having had enough of football and was ready to throw in the towel. His mother proceeded to tell him that that was alright, so “I suppose you can turn in your uniform and equipment to the coach tomorrow.” In linking those two things–wearing the uniform and making contact, she succeeded in disallowing Haugen the option of wearing the clothes but not living the part. From this experience he concludes, “Good parents, I think, help their kids clarify the reality of life’s choices” (p. 113).
God the Father clarifies our choices too. We, the Church, also face a choice: whether to be safe or brave. Haugen represents in his own self-reflection the conflict within us: “I’d like to be brave, but I’d also like to be safe. My heavenly Father, however, loves me deeply enough to tell be the truth. He says I can’t be both brave and safe. He wants me to be clear that I have to decide—and he wants me to choose to be brave, which means choosing to not be safe.” (p. 114)
Isn’t this choosing a path of suffering? Yes. Haugen says: “Clearly, some suffering is part of God’s will. It isn’t necessarily the suffering itself that is God’s will, but rather following the will of God in a fallen world will generate suffering in our lives.” (p. 115) And he follows that with the two things that are consistently both God’s will and dangerous in this fallen world: “telling the truth and loving needy people.”
Haugen continues with illustrations of persons with IJM who have embodied the proclamation of Jesus, “If you lose your life for my sake, you’ll find it.” This includes his own story of leaving a career at the Department of Justice to start International Justice Mission. I’ll let the reader of this blog read these stories for him/herself.
The calling is for us to step out of our suburban cul-de-sac of false protection across the boundary of fear that keeps us there and into the adventure that is the gospel expedition with Jesus.
I recommend this book. It is short and simple to read, but very powerful both in its insight into modern American Christian spirituality and in its witness on behalf of God’s ministry of justice. And I’ll close with the verse of Scripture that continues to arise as the theme of the book and IJM as well:
“Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17 NRSV)