justice: what love looks like in public

kathyescobar advent & lent, incarnational, spiritual formation 11 Comments

justice is what love looks like in publici am leaving today for el salvador for spring break with my family.  no cell phones, no internet, no tv. just us. oh yeah, we need it.  for this week, i thought i’d just share a post i wrote for christine sine’s lent series (the theme was called–easter is coming, what do we hunger and thirst for? and there are a great mix of posts over there).  enjoy the capital letters, too, ha ha.

this post also reminded of the series i did last year on the beatitudes so i put those links at the end in case you missed them.  have a great week!


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“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.”
– Matthew 5:6, NLT

“Justice is what love looks like in public” – Cornel West

When I was in high school and college, I was an activist. I cared about causes, paid dues to organizations that advocated for equal rights and social change. I was passionate and idealistic. In my early married years, a few years out of college, I started to lose some of that passion. I was the first in the my family to ever switch political parties from Democrat to Republican (yeah, I’ve since switched to Independent). I became increasingly more secure in my Christian bubble and began to pay less attention to wider issues. I instead began to focus on issues that the people around me were spending energy on–the erosion of the morality of America, the horrors of public education, and making sure tax money wasn’t spent on things I disagreed with. Even though they looked like worthy causes at the moment, the truth is that my support for them had nothing to do with anyone else.

They were all about me. My protection. My kids’ protection. My Christian-world’s protection.

I laugh when I look back at that season in my life, not to mock it but just to acknowledge that as different-as-it-from-where-I-am-now, it was part of my spiritual journey, and I’m really glad I’m not there anymore.

Then, I was not hungering and thirsting for justice. I was hungering and thirsting for a false feeling of safety and protection that I felt entitled to as a Christ-follower.

And it didn’t satisfy.

It actually only made me feel more afraid.

Deeply embedded in my thinking was “I must protect us from them.” It was for more focused on being “right” than being kind, on distrust than love, on self than others, on division than unity.

That was many years ago, and as I’ve grown up, my passion for justice–a more others-centered kind–has increased exponentially.

I love what Cornel West says–”Justice is what love looks like in public.”

What does love look like in public?

I think it looks like all of Beatitudes, not just one. Humility & radical dependence on God. The ability to mourn and grieve for ourselves, others, the world.. Mercy. Gentleness. Meekness, power under control instead of passivity. Purity of heart. Justice and the pursuit of righteousness and goodness. A willingness to be persecuted for love.

Yeah, love in public looks like sacrifice.
It looks like restoring dignity where it’s been lost.
It looks like humility and gentleness.
It looks like unity instead of homogeneity.
It looks like caring when no one else cares.
It looks like advocating.
It looks like diffusing our power and resources on behalf of others.
It looks like practicing equality across gender, race, socioeconomics, and host of other things that keep people over or under others.

All of these things are the Beatitudes-in-spirit-and-in-action.
They look like Jesus.
Reflected in the here and now.

In all my efforts to protect myself, I was not reflecting Jesus. I was reflecting Christian culture.

This Lent, as I reflect what I’m hungering and thirsting for, I am reminded of how easy it is to seek safety, comfort, and protection instead of brave Jesus-centered love in public. How easy it is to get sucked into power games, division, and building walls between “us and them” instead of opening our tables and discovering what we have in common. How much more familiar self-centeredness is than others-centeredness.

Self-protection, culture-protection will never satisfy, will never quench our thirst.

The scriptures say, “Why spend money on what is not bread and labor on what does not satisfy. Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare” (Isaiah 55:2).

The Beatitudes are the food I want to eat not just for Lent, but for every season of the year.

They’re what love looks like in public.

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the series i did on the beatitudes in 2011:

also, just a reminder if you or someone you know is feeling stuck & alone when it comes to past church experiences–we are hosting another “walking wounded: hope for those hurt by the church” online class starting april 9th. the last one was so beautiful!  all of the details are here: