Review: Pursuing Justice

March 6th, 2013

Son of a Dutch immigrant father, Ken Wystma left behind the faith of his childhood upbringing, going so far as what he labels a destructive lifestyle into his college years that caused him serious health problems. Confronted with those critical consequences of his choices, he writes that at age 22 he was given a second chance at life and invited by faith to give his life away. Now an active, engaged, social justice evangelical, he is a pastor, church planter, president of Kilns College, and founder of The Justice Conference, an annual event that brings people together to explore a variety of organizations and avenues for giving one’s life away in the pursuit of biblical justice.

Wystma writes with the urgency of a man who has come into his true calling. He is passionate in his conviction that to give one’s life away after the example of Jesus is to understand justice “as rooted in the character of God, mandated by the commands of God, present in the Kingdom of God, motivated by the love of God, affirmed in the teaching of Jesus, reflected in the example of Jesus and carried on by those who are moved and led by the Spirit.” (p. xvi) In other words, justice is, for Wystma, the picture of God’s love, and integral to how a faithful Christian thinks, prays, acts, hopes, believes, works, spends, and lives.

“God’s heart beats with justice,” Wystma argues (p. 9). Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things presents his case through Scripture citations, stories from the lives of historical and contemporary faithfuls, poetry and art, first-hand accounts, quotations from devotional writings, and snippets of passionate preaching designed to put justice on the front-burner of the life of faith.

His perspective is not new, though some of his insights are compelling. The chapter on ‘Playstations and Poverty’ is alone worth the price of the book. You’ll never look at a Playstation the same way again, once you have considered the devastating human cost of the mineral coltran that is essential to its operation. But the short paragraphs, rapid-fire sentence-long assertions, compelling quotes, and the single-minded intensity of Wystma’s style give Pursuing Justice an urgency and accessibility that make it a resource for youth and young adult groups and for those of any age who sense a yearning for an engaged faith that makes a difference in this world. Families will find useful pointers for engaging questions of consumerism and meaningful life choices with kids.

Having recently read Marcus Borg’s Speaking Christian, I was struck by the points of convergence in the theology of Borg and Wystma. My hunch is that readers of one would not readily seek out the other, given preconceived stereotypes of “progressive” and “evangelical.” That would be a mistake. The renewal of the church evident in the engaged Christianity of the emergent church would benefit and be strengthened by both voices, as would the worship and mission of the “traditional” church. Wystma’s voice, in concert with others, is a voice of renewal and hope.

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