By Jay Campbell
Starting in college, I became a part of communities that had a strong emphasis on Wesley’s understanding of social holiness. I was introduced to the theological foundation for justice work and it drew me in. Throughout the following years I had several chances to attend conferences focused on the church and justice.
At each of these conferences there was a panel, made up of people who had very impressive job titles at the biggest non-profits in the country, aimed at helping ordinary people engage in the work of social justice. It was inspiring to hear the amazing work these groups carried out to care for those our world calls the least of these, but little was ever shared about what ordinary people, who do not have the top jobs in the top non-profits, could do to participate in God’s work in the world. I would leave those conferences feeling overwhelmed by the need in the world, with a faith that God was cultivating to have a response, but no discernable ways I could actually help as a young ordinary person with few resources.
[How could I help] as a young ordinary person with few resources?
These experiences have led me to wonder what would happen if we considered small, doable acts of justice as part of our devotional life. We may not be able to attend every rally, stay up to date with every organization, or give to every worthy cause, but there are things we can do every day that make an impact.
We can begin by connecting with select organizations whose work connects with our faith and speaks to our heart. Through them we can sign petitions, write to our government leaders, read articles, pray over what we are reading, give when we can to support the continual work of these groups, join their advocacy networks, attend their events and/or rallies when possible, watch videos and documentaries, and attend or lead denominational and faith related events around these issues.
Our daily efforts, when combined with the daily efforts of thousands and thousands of others can make a significant difference.
These small acts can be a meaningful part of our devotional life with God. They can connect us to God’s work in the world every day and help us combine justice and prayer. Our work of justice becomes sustained by our prayer and devotional life, and our prayer life expresses itself in sustainable action reflective of God’s heart.
As we do this, we are reminded that justice is a deeply communal work. Social holiness implies the work must be social, for the social and common good but also done in a social and communal context. Our daily efforts, when combined with the daily efforts of thousands and thousands of others can make a significant difference. If we do this work alone, we will be overwhelmed and discouraged. We need each other to reflect together and encourage each other in this important work that is the church’s mission.
Discussion Question: What actionable steps can you/we take to join in the theological task of working for social holiness?