We’ve all been there. A short-term missions trip. An event raising awareness about human trafficking. A sermon about feeding the hungry. You’re inspired for justice.
So, you take action. You help build a school for a remote community in Cambodia. You tell people all about the children who are forced to pick the cacao beans for chocolate in West Africa. You volunteer at a soup kitchen feeding the hungry in your community.
We often go back to our lives as though nothing has changed. Sure, you might give the homeless woman you see a dollar. You might help support someone else going on a mission trip to Kenya. You might choose the fair trade chocolate in the store instead of Hershey’s. But beyond that? Among Micah 6:8‘s many descriptions of “What the Lord requires,” we have the lovely phrase “act justly.” This isn’t just a call to the occasional moment of justice—it’s an ongoing, deliberate way of life.
We sometimes forget that our decisions every day have a much greater impact beyond the lives we’re living. The clothes we buy are made in Bangladesh. The cardboard we throw away is going to one of the hundreds of landfills where it will sit and sit and sit and sit.
You have two options:
1. You can live a life that proclaims vanity, selfishness and worldly desires.
2. You can live a life that proclaims justice.
Justice isn’t a once-a-year event. Justice is a lifestyle. Justice is a commitment.
If you want to choose justice today and every day, here are steps to help you on your journey:
Step 1: Be a Conscious Consumer
Every day/week/month we make decisions about where we’re spending our money. Between the grocery store, clothing stores and the Internet, our funds disappear like crazy. But what are they supporting?
Make the choice to be a conscious consumer. Investigate where your clothing comes from. Support companies like Everlane, who offers full transparency within their manufacturing. Or Bluer Denim, where everything from the cotton to the buttons to the washing is done right here in the United States. Or Raven+Lily who employs marginalized women in an effort to empower them and alleviate poverty. You might pay a bit more, but isn’t it worth the peace of mind that you’re not purchasing clothing made with exploited or slave labor?
Buy local produce (start with farmer’s markets). Purchase fair trade items. Seek out vendors that treat their employees ethically. Every dollar that you spend is vote for the kind of future you want. Be conscious of how you’re voting.
Step 2: Care for the Creation God has Given Us
In 2011, less than 35 percent of households recycled and less than 10 percent of businesses did. This is pathetic. Did you know that recycling 1 ton of cardboard can save 46 gallons of oil?
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
Take public transportation. Plant a tree. Cut your shower time in half. If your community doesn’t have a recycling program, start one! We have so many options ways that we can care for this earth that we don’t take advantage of or think about.
God commanded us to care for His creation. It’s time we took that command seriously.
Step 3: Build and Maintain Relationships
There are two sides to this coin.
First, we must make sure that we are maintaining our relationships with our families and friends. Justice should never come at the expense of ignoring your spouse, children, brothers/sisters or best friend(s).
In fact, in order to maintain our hearts for justice, we need these people to help sustain us. It should never be one or the other. To live justly, we must incorporate the just principles in all of the areas of our lives.
Second, if we are to assist the impoverished among us, we need to make sure that we know who the impoverished are. We need to take the time to get to know the refugee family that lives down the street or the homeless man you pass every day on your way to work. Open your eyes and heart to those in need around you. Prayer is so key here. Ask God and He will show you who is most in need in your community.
Step 4: Speak Out Against Injustice
Your voice is important. By reading this article alone, you prove that you live within a realm of privilege many around the world dream about. We need to use that privilege to speak out against injustices.
Call your representative and tell him/her that you want to see more money being spent on providing clean water or girls’ education or providing help for people with HIV/AIDS (this is all a part of poverty-focused development assistance and it’s always in danger when budget cuts are discussed). Speak out for the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Ask them to support Electrify Africa. It takes less than a minute to make that phone call.
Your representative wants to hear from you. Tell them what you think (nicely) and what is important to you. They represent your opinion in the government; they just need to know what your opinion is. We have so many opportunities every day to make decisions that reflect a life of justice.
Step 5: Pray
We don’t pray enough. Which is crazy. God gave us a direct connection to Him, the Creator of the entire universe, and we don’t use it. It would be like sitting across from Audrey Hepburn or Babe Ruth or [insert your hero here] and not talking to him/her at all. It would be awkward. If we aren’t praying, we’re living in a constant state of awkwardness with God.
Before we do anything, prayer should be our first step. We should be asking for guidance, wisdom and an open heart and mind. Pray about the injustices in the world. Pray for change!
Prayer is key in our desperate desire to follow Jesus’ example and live justly. We need to pray.
is an activist and writer living in Portland, Oregon.