Enjoy happiness via the pursuit of justice

Enjoy happiness via the pursuit of justice

by Cornelia Seigneur – The Huffington Post

When Ken Wytsma was an undergraduate engineering major, he had a health scare that caused him to re-evaluate the fast-paced fraternity partying way of life he enjoyed.

He began reading the Bible, then attended a Christian conference where, his friends said upon his return, he "got religion."

Indeed, Wytsma counts this the time in his life when he came to faith in Christ.

And with this newfound faith, he was trying to figure out what it all meant. As he read the Bible, a passage in the book of James stood out to him: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress" (James 1:27).

The 22-year-old engineering major decided to take this mandate to heart in true engineer-mind fashion: conduct an experiment in reaching out to widows, and what better place to find widows but at a nursing home. Wytsma visited a nursing home weekly in the middle of a South Carolina countryside for an entire semester of school, talking to elderly folks, wanting to make a difference in their lives. And maybe get a pat on the back in the end.

After several months, he learned his first lesson in justice and mercy. There are often no rewards in the end. Pure religion, Wytsma discovered early on, was about giving and not expecting anything in return, which is the very picture of God's love. Indeed, the cliché is true: Giving is better than receiving.

Wytsma recounts this story and others related to the heart of God, justice and mercy in his just-released book, "Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live & Die for Bigger Things," published by Thomas Nelson. In this fascinating book, endorsed by dozens of justice advocates like Walter Brueggemann, professor at Columbia Theological Seminary, Eugene Cho, the visionary for One Day's Wages, and Bethany Hoang, the director of the International Justice Mission, Wytsma weaves personal stories, stories from others, and Scripture and quotes with interludes of poems and other artistic expression. The title of his book comes from Deuteronomy 16:20: "Justice and only justice shall your pursue."

In his book, Wytsma analyzes the word justice, beginning with its importance to God. Chapter Two might summarize the book best: when we "do justice" (such as helping the poor and needy) in essence that is proof of truly knowing God (as found in Jeremiah 22).

Wytsma has learned a thing or two about justice and pure religion since those early days at the nursing home. One of his gifts is to connect others in their love, passion, and calling for justice, which led him to found the Justice Conference in 2011. Last year's Justice Conference drew 4,000 folks to Portland Oregon, and this year's event, which begins Friday, Feb. 22 in Philadelphia, will bring together many more from around the country and world.

Wytsma, who is the founder of Kilns College-School of Theology as well as the founding pastor of Antioch Church, sensed a need to write Pursuing Justice after years of teaching, living and learning about justice.

"I've felt called to try and get something out that would redeem the word justice and also show its relevance to the rest of the big questions — God, life and happiness," he said. "Much of what is out there either leaves people feeling guilty, over idealistic that we can 'fix' the world, or thinking that justice is about certain causes like human trafficking."

"In the end, justice is bigger, deeper and more central than all of that. It leads to joy — it truly is better to give than receive — and surfaces the need for grace both to cover us and sustain us," Wytsma said…

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