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Thursday, March 20, 2014

"Gospel Justice" (Bruce D. Strom)

TITLE: Gospel Justice: Joining Together to Provide Help and Hope for those Oppressed by Legal Injustice
AUTHOR: Bruce D. Strom
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2013, (208 pages).

Ten biblical lessons. One single passion to care for the poor, the marginalized, the innocent victims who are unable to fend for themselves in a world in which justice systems tend to favour the rich and the powerful, leaving the rest pretty much on their own. Is this what justice is all about? This question is explored with the central belief that our current world systems of law and order are not as just as they claim to be. In fact, how do we offer hope and help to people caught by "legal injustice?" Growing up with a strong work ethic, educated in a very good law school, and benefitting from the nation's system of progress and prosperity, Judson University graduate Bruce Strom turned from profiting from law practice to fighting legal injustice from a gospel anchored perspective. From injustices such as poverty, unfair contracts, unfair loans, wages, fraud, abuse, and many other deceptive practices, Strom catches a vision that God's promises is not targeted at those who are famous but for those who are faithful. He learns to look outside himself. He begins to pray for others more than self. He fights for the underprivileged more and more. He does not believe that the injustice quagmire can be solved by any one ministry or organization. Only God can bring about gospel justice. With a network of ministries and supporting organizations, we can participate in this great working of God.

The anchor lesson is based on the Parable of the Good Samaritan in which Strom argues with energy that we cannot stand idle and pass by the many needs in society. Lessons are gleaned from the "Good Samaritan," the "Injured," the robbers, priest, Levite, Samaritan, "Jericho Road," Inn," and the Lawyer. Too many people who see themselves as good are not doing enough to deal with the bad things around us. We learn from the injured that injustice is universal, and victims are often left helpless and hopeless. We learn from the robbers that injustice is violent, rescue is necessary, systems can rob, injustice is evil and leaves behind many scars. We learn from the priest that justice needs action, and injustice cannot be resolved through passive "if-only" questions and scenarios. We learn from the Levite that justice without mercy is "harsh and legalistic." Moreover, justice must be matched by mercy. One cannot be so concerned about doing the right thing but fails to adopt the right heart in the doing of it all. We learn from the Samaritan that good deeds are best done with a good heart. We can all serve. We can all do something. We can all learn to love our neighbours. We learn from the "Jericho Road" that legal systems of the world are often run by "flawed individuals." We learn from the "Inn" that shelter and hospitality are places for restoration. mercy and justice. We learn from the lawyer that rules and regulations are no guarantee for the implementation of justice and mercy. Strom, writing as a qualified lawyer describes the lies of the head (divided life), lies of the heart (divided heart, limited resources), and the hand (busyness). Above all criticisms of lawyers, Strom urges us to pray for them instead. Finally, the lesson from Jesus is to go get engaged with the poor and the oppressed; go get enraged with the lies happening around society; go get educated and generous with our offering of justice and mercy.

So What?
If you have appreciated Rich Stearns' The Hole in Our Gospel, or Tim Keller's Generous Justice, you will find this book on familiar ground with one difference: The author is a practicing lawyer with a transformed heart. Instead of working for profits, he is putting all his learning to helping bring about greater justice. Indeed, there is a difference between law and justice. Just because there is a law does not necessarily mean justice will be fully meted out. In fact, under the hands of the rich and powerful, the legal systems generally favour them over the poor and the underprivileged. Who is able to hire the best lawyers? Who can afford huge teams of senior counsels? Who understands the world's systems of justice more? Surely, it is the rich, the famous, and the well connected. It takes one who understands the system in the first place in order to work within the system. Ignorance is not bliss but can be fatal to the working out of any fair deal.

What Strom is most poignant is basically three things. First, recognize the problem otherwise we will be ignorant and unable to begin doing anything about it. Just because we do not see, hear, or smell evil and injustice does not mean evil and injustice do not exist. This requires us to be actively informed and educated about the world at large, starting from the neighbourhoods we are in. Second, resolve to be equipped and educated about the resources available out there. Know the law as much as possible. Understand the ethical implications of the law as much as possible. If not, make friends with lawyers who share the same gospel and faith. They can give us some tips and guidance. Third, remember to pray for lawyers, for workers in the ministering of fairness and justice. If we cannot do anything tangible due to lack of training or knowledge, we can still lift the people in the system to God.

Great reminder about our responsibility to practise Micah 6:8.

"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God."

[Free resource book download here]

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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