Service as Justice

by Charlotte Long, Youth Ministries

In a rare turn of events, somehow the Rite13 Jr. High and J2A Sr. High classes are studying similar things in Sunday School. This never happens. We, "the coordinators," are continually juggling the minutia of the disparate lesson plans while also trying to hold different theologies and spiritual matters in our heart. It is challenging to switch it up, especially as I am the girl with no theological degree over here.

Rite13 builds picnic tables for Good News Partners

The Rite13 class is focused for the whole year on Service. For those of you who don't know, the gap year between Confirmation classes is the Rite13's "Service Year." It is a plethora of small projects, but will prepare them deliciously to either be Confirmed the next year or to move on to High School and the ASP Project. At the same time, the J2A class is moving out of a unit about the Self and into a unit concerning Self and Society. SERVICE STRIKES AGAIN! Ta-da!

Because the Holy Spirit has allowed this subject matter to occur doubly in our church life (and consequently in my own life), I get to dig a little deeper into it. When the Rite13 class went to Good News Partners last month to build picnic tables, I got to prepare a little lesson with Rite13 about the point of a non-profit that focuses on housing problems for the homeless. Good News Partners always says that they believe they are restoring "justice" to people, through and with God. And I thought, Justice - how funny! What a strange word to use! And so I dug deeper.

I also happen to be reading Simone Weil right now - a French religious philosopher, dramatist and poet from the 1930's and 40's. She was so beyond her time it is mind boggling. This is what she just happens to say on the subject, which, to me, is all the work of the Holy Spirit,High School Youth Group roasts marshmallows over a fire in the courtyard

"Christ does not call his benefactors loving or charitable. He calls them just. The Gospel makes no distinction between the love of our neighbor and justice... we have invented the distinction between justice and charity. It is easy to understand why. Our notion of justice dispenses him who possesses from the obligation of giving. If he gives all the same, he thinks he has a right to be pleased with himself. He thinks he has done a good work."

Ah. Now I see.
Justice is the original core of love. We do not love our neighbor because we feel we must or because it would be "good," but because it is intrinsic in us, because we are embodied love. To give without thought of goodness or pity or superiority, but simply because it is the JUST way to live in a connected creation - that is justice. And that is how Jesus calls us to love. There is no mention of a reward for our good deeds, besides the reward of getting to love others the way God loves us. In this, are we made Whole. And when we do not, we reject the perfect gift of it that is waiting for us.
Now I understand why it is easy to equate "Service" with "Love, but difficult to equate "Love" with "Justice." I cannot say there is a simple way to skip this hurdle, or get good at it. Except the way we are teaching our children to experience it; and that is, basically, to do it over and over again. To swiftly say YES to the Service of others and to never, never stop.