God of Justice: a book review

International Justice Mission (IJM) is a global organization which protects the poor from violence in the developing world,  particularly in regions where the justice system is broken. While their work is in some sense secular–their primary mission is to challenge systems of injustice, rather than preach the gospel–they come to their work from Christian convictions.

God of Justicea twelve session Bible Study resource explores pertinent passages from scripture which explore God’s heart-beat for justice. Abraham George (IJM’s director of international church mobilization) and Nikki Toyama-Szeto (IJM’s senior director of biblical justice integration and mobilization) have compiled a resource for individual and group study. Each of the twelve sessions explores a passage from the Bible (or passages) of scripture, shares a contemporary story from the fight against injustice, and offers practical exercises designed to help individuals or groups do justly and love mercy.

George and Toyama-Szeto explore both Old & New Testament. They describe creation and the dignity of humanity as image-bearers of God (Genesis 1) and God’s desire for Shalom (Genesis 2). They also explore how sin corrupted God’s shalom and how this had both personal and systemic implications (Gen 3,4, 38). Through the example of Moses in the Exodus we see God’s desire to use humans to restore justice and to challenge evil systems (Exodus 3,14,15). Toyam-Setzo and George also explore New Testament passages: how Jesus came to inaugurate new creation, how the Kingdom of God embodies God’s shalom, how Christ’s cross dealt decisively with the problem of injustice, and how justice relates to the church’s mission.

Combining thoughtful reflections with probing questions, George and Toyama-Szeto push readers and study participants to engage seriously with the Bible and explore steps that God may be calling them to. While this is an IJM resource, the principles in this book are about justice more than IJM and George and Toyama-Szeto allow for broad exploration of what the fight against injustice will look like for those who engage the Bible and hear the Spirit’s call.

It is still said sometimes that conservative evangelicals talk about personal salvation through Jesus Christ, whereas liberals champion social justice. The former are armed with their list of favorite Bible verses. So are the latter. Both sides accuse one another of ignoring the heart of Christianity. Years ago I worked for a Christian community development organization where part of my responsibility was to train suburban church groups who came to work in the city about God’s heart for the poor (and how to do ministry non-paternalistically)  This would have been a helpful resource for me to draw on. I recommend this study for churches, community development organizations and Christian non-profits. This would be a good volunteer or staff training resource. I give it five stars.

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