trying to figure out Jesus, Social Justice, Suffering, Serving

I’m sure reams and reams have been written about this already, but I’m going through this process of exploration and discovery myself right now, and I’m not really ready to “read all the answers” in some book. I want God to give me answers through the process. I discover so many things in these processes, I almost dislike the end, when resolution comes. (Though that’s good, too.)

Word to the wise: I like questions. I like open, exploratory, many-answers questions, and leaving some things indefinite. Some people hate this, and if you are like that, I appreciate you, and you might just want to step away now. 😀

I’m trying to work into this topic, but as you can see, I keep circling and circling without really starting. Let me try to start.


Social Justice Jesus vs. Suffering Jesus

I’m not writing criticism; I’m trying simply to write my observations and experiences and then try to make sense of it to incorporate it into my life.

I grew up with what I kind of understand now to be a Social Justice Jesus. Jesus sees wrong, He rights the wrong. He may suffer doing it, but at the end, He’s the hero, and right wins.

I’m shocked now at how much this sounds like Superman, or any number of American films.

I was with a Georgian (the country) woman last night, talking about hard it is for Vitaliy and I to watch any movies together. Ukrainian (Soviet) movies are so depressing—war, the hero dies, the lovers are parted—it’s just … so pitiful. He says they are written this way because this is what really happened.

Whereas, I love American films—Harrison Ford, Denzel Washington, you know …. Action, good/bad, justice, ethics-loving heroics. Resolution for the heart and head.

And she said, yes, Georgians joke about that, too, how American films have “perfect” endings. And she talked about the Georgian expression—something like, when something good happens, something bad is not far behind. And how they live with an expectation of bad things happening and good things are only momentary and easily dissolved.

Which brings me to suffering Jesus. As an American I don’t think I would have listened to or accepted anyone teaching me about suffering Jesus. I mean, a Jesus who sees people suffering and doesn’t try to Save! them from that social/physical suffering. How can one see social injustice and NOT take (political? physical?) action to correct it? It didn’t fit into my picture of Christ.

The suffering Jesus who was killed at the hands of the Pharisees & co. and the Romans. All His life, He saw many social/religious injustices that they were doing, and He didn’t try to fight or change them really. He suffered them.

Living in a post-Soviet country for 15 years has messed with my brain, messed with my Social Justice Jesus image. I was the Social Justice Jesus follower when I came to Ukraine, and I eventually realized why Ukrainians weren’t fighters—because if you fight for justice, you get killed and justice doesn’t end up happening; things could just get worse. I was just in a conversation with a Russian pastor, and he was also talking about this—that revolutions don’t work; they just bring so much suffering, and then politically, things get even worse.

That’s their experience, and it becomes their expression of Jesus. Just like Americans’ experience becomes their experession.

Now, I’m going to switch tracts and try to outline some problems I’ve seen and personally experienced with the Fight-for-Justice Jesus paradigm:

First: I experienced anger. Ungodly anger, directed towards A. those directly doing harmful things B. those in the higher “systems” that created the system where this injustice was perpetrated C. towards the victims because they continue to walk into it when they really had other, however-non-socially-acceptable options. D. Those who weren’t as upset about it as I was.

This anger began to deform me. And I finally realized that my anger was simply harming me, limiting interaction with those on all sides that I hoped to help, and that my anger would change basically nothing about the situation. Plus, I realized my own anger was the same type of anger that was in the hearts of those perpetrating injustice! I was no better than they were!

Second: I realized that God had not put me in a position to influence the whole system of injustice. Well, not in a leadership position. I could pray. I could put a bandaid on things here or there. But I wasn’t the one God would use to enact systemic change.

I think many of us flounder with this. Because we want to do something. But our “arms,” so to speak, don’t really reach into the realm of actually changing the systems. Nor into the hearts of those perpetrating all this.

I also realized that “victim” is a relative terms. The victim might be a perpetrator when occupying a different place in the system.

Some answers to all this I’ve found so far:: We … maybe have to become content with the smallness of our lives. That we can “only” reach the individuals God puts in our paths. Or we can “only” send money. Or we can “only” write a letter or make a phone call here or there. We will not be Superman changing the entire fabric and direction of a place.

Second:: I had to forgive. And I had to start acting out towards all sides with love. And is this not the cornerstone of justice and reconciliation in Christianity? I had to forgive and open my heart for God’s love to come for all the people in these situations. And to humble myself, to not use my rightness to injure everyone, in all my big desire to “help.” For rightness without love stops being right. It’s not Jesus’ rightness. It’s rightness in the service of our flesh and satan; a rightness that destroys very people rather than destroying the dark spiritual forces around those people.

And sometimes I have to counsel victims, and … I can’t counsel them to fight for social justice for themselves. I have to counsel them with that God has counseled me– to be the suffering Jesus, to know Jesus experientially in injustice.

I guess I’m trying to find how to express in my own life Serving Jesus. Because Jesus set Himself against the systems of the scribes and Pharisees. But Jesus also suffered it; He suffered great injustice and disrespect without demanding that it be righted. He did both in service to us.

So I’m searching for the expression of the Serving Jesus, pondering, thinking about this.

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