By Aaron Gaglia (@GagliaAC)
“I know we have to go deeper on this movement of justice,”said Stephan Bauman, CEO of World Relief, “else I suggest it will fizzle and fade.”
On March 16th, Stephan Bauman gave the keynote address for the Justice, Spirituality, and Education (JSE) Conference put on by BIOLA University’s School of Education. During his talk, Bauman gave a threefold address on how to do justice well—on how to ground the justice movement into something that will last for years to come.
Bauman based his talk on three stages of the life of Jesus: incarnation, life, and crucifixion.
The speech began by speaking of the beauty of Christ’s incarnation, of him taking on human flesh. Jesus was the fullness of God’s grace in bodily form. And as we are the body of Christ, Bauman said “We are the ongoing incarnation.” Though he did not explicitly define what he meant by this, his examples made it clear that he meant being and giving a visible expression of grace to others, by caring for their basic needs. He gave a story from when he worked on a floating hospital serving the poor in West Africa of a Muslim woman named Fatima. She had a large tumor protruding from her ear. Due to the stigma attached to her sickness in her culture, she had not been touched for twelve years. As Bauman’s colleague, Sonya, was listening to her story she touched her and showed her love. Later, Fatima became a Christian, and cited the nurse touching her despite her tumor as the main reason for her coming to Jesus.
Bauman is a member of the Evangelical Immigration Table, a nonpartisan evangelical group lobbying for political action on the immigration front. His zeal for the issue was clear as he mentioned it multiple times in his talk. He mentioned work that a friend, Bethany was doing in working with the Latino population and mobilizing churches in Orange County, CA for immigration reform. After a few churches decided to get involved with the immigration issue, some of her Hispanic clients, who were also Christians, said to her, “Bethany, we didn’t think they cared about us.” Bethany knew she could now share “the full gospel” with them “because those churches enfleshed themselves, they stepped in into a controversial issue.”
Distinguishing between doing justice and becoming justice, Bauman said: “But Jesus didn’t just do justice, he became justice. He incarnated himself. He calls us to become justice and out of that becoming we do.”
Next, he focused on the “table fellowship” aspect of Jesus’ ministry. He focused on how Jesus oftentimes ate meals with tax collectors and sinners and the contextual significance to this. By eating a meal with these people Jesus was telling them, “You’re accepted by God. God wants to be friends with you.”
Bauman called the audience to think of charity in terms of friendship rather than in terms of beneficiary and benefactor. “We must become friends with those who suffer because we never give up on our friends.” Furthermore, turning charity into friendship empowers those in need because friends not only give but they also receive. When we allow others to give something to us it lifts up their dignity.
Lastly Bauman talked about the crucifixion of Christ. He talked about the need to for Christians to invest themselves to the point of no return—to move past consumerism to the place where doing justice actually costs us something. That is a distinct, lacking thing in our movement.” And the motivation for this great sacrifice is “love, the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ.”
“If we are all about worship services, if we’re all about serving one another but we do not reach out in great sacrificial love then we have failed. Faith without deeds is dead…Justice is our measure, love is our motive.”
Bauman called the audience to stand up sacrificially for justice. He specifically mentioned two issues: immigration and the inequality of women. In bringing up the woman issue, he cited heartbreaking statistics of the great global labor-wealth disparity between men and women (Women do 66 % of the world’s work yet they only own 10% of property and 1% of the world’s income).
Though, I greatly applaud Bauman’s concern to ground the justice movement, he did not sufficiently highlight the main motivator and sustainer of justice, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As we embrace the reality that Christ took the initiative to save us and forgive us of our sins, we are filled with gratitude and can’t help but show grace and love to others. Furthermore, as we realize that Christ gave his life to make us spiritually rich when we were spiritually destitute, we are led to do the same for others in need. Jesus’ resurrection is the guarantee that are work is fruitful and not in vain. As the death and resurrection of Christ supernaturally changed us, it will also sustain us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Though Bauman gives very good points in how we should do ministry and generally mentions Christ’s sacrifice, we must remember that Christ’ life-giving death is the fount and foundation for all justice ministry. Apart from Jesus’ death and resurrection, justice is unsustainable.