PHILADELPHIA – Christians should not just seek to change the world, but to let the search for justice change them so that justice does not become just a fad, Ken Wytsma urged during his Friday keynote address at The Justice Conference in Philadelphia, Penn.
"A lot of people are wondering if justice is just a fad," said Wytsma, who founded the conference, now in its third year. "There might be some faddish elements to justice," but he is encouraged that today's generation of Christians want a deeper understanding of justice.
Wytsma is also the founder of Kilns College in Bend, Ore., lead pastor at Antioch Church, and has worked with World Relief and Food for the Hungry.
Recently, Wytsma explained, he has wrestled with the difference between "standing up" and "sitting down" for the cause of justice. Standing up is doing the work of justice. Sitting down is the listening and learning part of seeking justice.
"We get the standing up part, the doing part, the action part," Wytsma said, but Christians do not do as well with the sitting down part.
Wytsma worries that Christians can become "intoxicated" with the "hero part" of justice. Quoting Brennan Manning, Wytsma said there is a temptation to "look good without being good." Being a true "hero," though, is not about the single acts that bring glory to oneself, but persistence, determination and hard work.
"It's great to have an urge to be heroic, but it's more important to be faithful," he said.
True worship of God is defined by the "struggle, patience, and humility that's wrapped up in justice," and, if that is true, then "when we hire a worship pastor, why is it always skinny jeans and faux-hawks?" Wytsma said to laughter from the 6,000 in attendance. "One of the most illogical things" he observes among evangelicals is their tendency to judge people by their appearance, "which God cares nothing about."
Good is often the enemy of great, Wytsma continued, because of the tendency to believe that the work is done when good is accomplished. So with justice, doing just actions is not enough, becoming a just person should be the end goal.
"If we do just actions and stop there, we miss the whole part of becoming just. Everybody wants to change humanity, but nobody wants to change themselves."
Wytsma urged Christians to become aware of the injustices in their own lives.
"If I'm not willing to give the energy to die to self," Wytsma said, and to labor in resolving his own injustices with repentance and lament, "then I have no business jumping into a cause of saving the world."