“I would like to believe that a heart for the poor ‘sleeps’ down in a Christian’s soul until it is awakened” says Tim Keller in Generous Justice.
He then adds, “when justice for the poor is connected not to guilt but to grace and to the gospel, this ‘pushes the button’ down deep in believers’ souls, and then begin to wake up.”
For me, Generous Justice, pushed the button, one that God has been pushing the past year or so, to see the world, to see the challenges of the poor and other 3rd world issues, with a desire to make a difference.
What I like about Keller’s theology and writing is an understanding of grace. Guilt can motivate, but it’s not God’s way to motivate. Guilt can push for a moment, grace can drive for a lifetime. And the issues of the poor will take a lifetime of grace to deal with in this world.
Keller does a great job of digging into a Biblical sense of justice. For most people justice works us to just what they think it should be. Justice in the Biblical sense is more then punishment for what’s wrong, it’s upholding the needs of the poor and powerless. Justice protects their rights and their value before God.
In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan man shows justice and kindness to the Jewish man in need. He provides Generous Justice. But Keller picks it up a notch, by pointing out, what if the Good Samaritan travels that road often and keeps finding Jewish men mugged, beaten, left for dead? What does he do then? Generous Justice would be that he works to change the systemic issues.
Generous Justice is not simply how I respond, but how we respond to those in needs as individuals, congregations, and yes, in the political process as well. You may not always agree with Keller, but he will make you think and lay out the possible options to work through.
One of my favourite stories Keller includes is about the Roman Emperor Julian, who was not a big fan of Christians. Yet Julian says about these Christians he despises that they take care of their poor and ours as well. That love, that Generous Justice in action, transformed the world for Christ. We need such a transformation of Generous Justice in our day.
I highly recommend Generous Justice. It is more then a theological / theoretical book of what could be. Generous Justice is a theological / practical book of what by God’s grace we can do as we empowered by God to serve the powerless with the power of God’s love at work.