Marcus Rashford. Greta Thunberg. The teenage survivors of the Parkland massacre. What do these heroic icons of modern justice have in common – aside from their youth, and the fact that they're held up as role models by young people around the world? Answer: they have no particular links to the Christian faith.
Perhaps you don't think that's particularly significant; after all, you don't have to be a Christian to do good. But how come – in a world where more people than not follow God, and almost a third claim to believe in ours – we don’t see more examples of trail-blazing justice seekers who are driven by their faith? Why don't teenagers frequently bump into the stories of faith-based activism? Why isn't it the very thing that Christians are known for? It really should be.
Let me break the fourth wall for a moment. This – you have already discerned through your highly-honed abilities to scan and distinguish between chunks of information on the Internet – is an article about the vital importance of pursuing justice. And unless this is a particular passion of yours, you can already sense the compelling tug to click away. The Internet is full of causes and bandwagons, right? If you didn't scroll past most of them, you'd never get anything done. Well today, I urge you to confront the privilege of compassion fatigue, and defeat the temptation to look away. Justice matters.
Justice matters to God, in fact. It's become a bit of a throw-away thing to say in youth discipleship over the last couple of decades, so it's worth remembering that the buzz-phrase is rooted in truth. The concept – of the wrong things of the world being made right – is almost literally on every page of the Bible. The American advocacy group Sojourners estimates there's over 2,000 references to it – and you can't casually read scripture for more than a few moments without bumping into it for yourself. The concept of the Kingdom – that absolutely central idea of the renewed world that God brings and inhabits – is absolutely defined by justice. God himself frequently demands it. It's not one of a list of interests that he has; justice is at the heart of God's morality.
"Young people are attracted by places that offer them both belonging and purpose. Modern justice movements offer both – the chance to be part of something bigger than the individual, which is genuinely making a difference. But just imagine if that's how they saw and understood their local church?"
However, justice is also often inconvenient. Particularly when we live in relative comfort and privilege, it's costly to pursue the idea of the wrongs of the world being made right. It might mean us losing something we've become attached to, or having to pay more for something that we've enjoyed getting cheaply. It might even mean having to join a queue, instead of always being at the front of it. And perhaps with all that in mind, we've quietly allowed ourselves to become numb to or overwhelmed by the wrong things around us, to scroll past, to wonder – even if only subconsciously – did God really say he cared about that?
A movement to believe in and belong to
Yet he did, he does, and more than that, it's part of the mission and adventure he calls us to join in with. The Christian life isn't just about receiving the benefits of God's love, and dwelling in the splendour of his presence; it's also about practically enacting his love to the people around us, and being propelled by his power into making the world a better place. Justice is a huge element of the adventure that God invites us to join: the adventure of building the Kingdom.
More than ever, young people are attracted by places that offer them both belonging and purpose. Modern justice movements offer both – the chance to be part of something bigger than the individual, which is genuinely making a difference. But just imagine if that's how they saw and understood their local church – as a family on an adventure to save the world? When you add the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, the teachings and model of Jesus, and the love of the Father into that mix, it feels positively unstoppable.
This is exactly what the Christian faith can offer to young people. A chance to know the God who made the world, and to join him in saving it. In a world that's never felt more obviously broken, that's quite a compelling invitation... if we could only stop scrolling long enough to make it.
Over seven weeks, we're diving deep into the core values behind Satellites – from a youth leader perspective. If you want to explore them with young people, check out our offer on the book written for them; get seven copies and a 'book group' study guide for the price of six.