A week ago Friday twenty year-old Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook elementary school in Newton, Connecticut with three guns and started shooting. He killed twenty children and seven other adults, including his mother, before killing himself.
I found it very difficult to function that day after hearing the news shortly after lunch. Since then I have enjoyed the time I’ve had with my daughters, so thankful they’re alive. And I should enjoy them. I have no guarantee of another day with them. If I were to stop enjoying them, only allowing sorrow, evil would win a small but significant victory. Nevertheless, I also need to feel the weight of what happened. I need to cry, to grieve, to groan, and to sit in silence and stillness. I may need to scream.
Jealousy has crept up and grabbed hold of me. It wasn’t a surprise. It was waiting there, beneath the surface, for the right catalyst to push it out into the light.
You see, I’m a part of a community. I like them. They like me. But sometimes I feel I’m never going to measure up. I stumble along, bumping into obstacles others avoided easily. In fact, nowhere do I sense my own immaturity more than when gathered with this family. While I know that’s a good thing, it doesn’t make it any easier to stay on the journey.
International Justice Mission (IJM) is a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. Jim Martin is Vice President of Church Mobilization at IJM where he helps churches understand issues of injustice and engage in working to end violent oppression.
Q: Would you please share what prompted you to write The Just Church, and what your main objective was in writing the book at this time?
A: One day I had the realization that it was just a matter of time before I walked in to a bookstore and saw a book with the words “Justice” and “Church” in the title. Having been in ministry for eighteen years—ten of those as a pastor at a church passionate about justice, I realized I had a pretty specific perspective about what kind of book would be most helpful. I wanted to be sure that any book that encouraged churches to engage in justice in a hands-on way would make a strong connection between justice and discipleship rather than simply justice and mission. A few nanoseconds later I realized that, given IJM’s experience with churches over the last decade, we should write that book. I was just at the right place at the right time.
A review of Jim Martin’s new book, The Just Church.
“My faith, my theology, my life experience, simply could not accomodate Marta’s story. I wanted to unlearn what I’d just heard–to purge it from my mind. But that was impossible. I racked my brain for some comforting thought, some idea, some theological construct, some passage of Scripture that would quench the fire of emotion raging in my chest. I was uncomfortable with the level of anger I was feeling–rage, even–toward anyone who would destroy the lives of children like the ones in the pictures before me. But at the failure point, there is no such help, no easy answer. The faith I had brought with me to Peru simply failed” (The Just Church, p. 39).
So Jim Martin describes his first up-close encounter with violent injustice. What he describes is remarkably similar to the first time I heard the stories: Stories that begin with someone’s dignity being ripped away by someone more powerful and end with the hopeful response of God’s people resulting in rescue and rehabilitation.