Justice, Reason, and Love
Not having entered this doctoral program though the more traditional route of seminary, I was not familiar with Augustine or his works until the readings this week. Philosophy also not being a subject that I would consider comes naturally to me, I found myself overwhelmed by the complexities of his thought at times. For me, On Augustine provided a higher altitude visual of the landscape of Augustine’s work and a more concise understanding of his views of justice, reason, and love.
Over the last decade in particular, it seems that the growing number of marches, demonstrations, and protests, each with their own focus of injustice, have dug a deeper line (or possibly trench) in the sand between different groups of people. The allowance of opposition on subjects clearly expressed over social media and news outlets to fracture or end relationships has been heartbreaking to witness. The growth in the US of Christian Nationalism has made me question all the more which kingdom I ultimately belong to. When looking at the whole of what is taking place around the globe, it is easy to question where to find reason and what justice on earth tangibly looks like. However, I don’t have to question if I’m being asked to love those around me. As overwhelming as the need can feel at times, it really is the core of the one who I’ve been called by, and thus, intended to be at my core as well.
As Ryan stated, “love in Augustine’s sense is an active force in the world” (66). Although it can be used in selfish and harmful ways, like most everything else, it still, he believed, was the only response when true justice is ultimately only known by God. I feel compelled to be more intentional with how I am genuinely loving people and ensuring that the busyness and endless tasks in all aspects of my world do not crowd out the space to be able to love well. In a day and age where everyone is managing so many different responsibilities and often grieving or processing heavy situations and decisions, my hope is that I can be a steady force that is able to hold space for others to be and a gentle reminder of the perfect kingdom we will one day be fully enveloped in.
Bill Dogterom is a pastor, theology faculty member, and personal mentor of mine here in Southern California. Recently from the pulpit, he expressed the following:
“In church, I was taught that the ‘narrow gate’ was believing things about Jesus.
I have since come to believe that that is not what he’s saying.
The ‘narrow gate’ is the way of Jesus. Namely, love.
And he said sadly, heartbroken, ‘Few there will be that find it.’
Why? Because love always feels like losing.”
After my first dive into the greatest mind of Christian thought in the first millennium I find myself sitting with more questions than anything else. What does a Kingdom justice look like in the here and now? How do I not tend towards apathy and disengagement when polarizing politics feel unbearable? What does sound reason look like when discussing hard topics of today? What do I need to confess that I haven’t already? When I don’t agree with a stance someone else has posted, how do I love them well and genuinely? How do I keep loving when I feel like I’m losing?
6 responses to “Justice, Reason, and Love”
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Wow, what a great reflection! There is so much to chat about, but I will highlight two topics. One, in regard to this statement: “The growth in the US of Christian Nationalism has made me question all the more which kingdom I ultimately belong to.” I couldn’t agree more. Allan Hirsch might be an interesting read for you as he addresses this topic often in his writings. More or less, he argues that we have been in a season of Christendom (going back to Constantine), but as we leave Christendom, there will be more of a cost to following Jesus. As such, it will be all the more apparent for us to decide: which kingdom do we align ourselves with? Two, the questions about Kingdom justice. I would love to converse more about this if you would like as this topic has been the center of my work (Christian community development, church planing, and missions) the past 20 years. Here is a quote I will leave with you from The Justice Calling by Deed and Hoang:
“Shalom, the Hebrew word used to refer to the flourishing of all of God’s creation, involves God, humans, and the rest of creation living together in harmony, wholeness, justice, and delight… In keeping with God’s intentions, a world that truly embodies shalom is a world of justice and righteousness, with everyone and everything flourishing as a result of living ‘rightly’ – that is, living in accordance with the ways God created them to live and to flourish” (p. 13).
I’d love to connect more about this, Eric. I’ve also been deeply involved in community development and domestic and international missions.
For sure! Perhaps we will have time in our meeting. If not, email@example.com is my email!
Kayli: That was a thoughtful post about Augustine and Ryan’s book summarizing Augustine’s thought. You questions, “What does kingdom justice look like?” is the right question I believe that must be asked. Because the Christian faith can fit into any form of government set up by humans, the route to justice might not be same, but truth and justice will always have the same ‘feel’ to it and people recognize it when their officials are demonstrating it.
Kayli, I also referenced Christian Nationalism in my post and my dissonance over the hope put into the earthly city rather than the city of God. Yet, I must remember that it’s always easier to see the problems with someone else rather than my own issues. That’s why I appreciated your penetrating questions in your last paragraph. Your questions challenge us beyond having a stance and call us to action and to evaluate. Yes, love is the Jesus’ way but often we avoid that clear command for responses that sound a lot like the anger of our day. I’m still thinking about the insight that “love feels like losing.” May we travel the narrow road in these disruptive days.
Thanks Roy. I also found myself wondering what the role of ‘righteous anger’ is in our faith and how that at times is the catalyst towards justice-oriented action. Perhaps there are times when love actually looks like table-flipping anger?