Public Square

How to Fight for Social Justice Right Where You Are

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You may not be able to start a nonprofit, but you can bring Nutella to someone.

– Dr. Anthony Bradley

You don’t have to fly to Africa to fight for social justice. You can do it right now in your office, on your campus, and at home.

Just by bringing someone Nutella?

Yep.

I’ll explain the Nutella part soon – but let me first say I recently attended a lecture I’ll never forget.

Dr. Anthony Bradley’s talk “On Love, Social Justice, Hospitality, and Nutella” at the 2015 Jubilee Conference is one that I found so simple yet so inspiring, and I want to share it with you.

Dr. Bradley’s message was that you don’t have to wait to retire to start that nonprofit you always wanted to start, or until you graduate to join the Peace Corps. Justice is local and you can start fighting for it right now.

Social justice is as simple as loving your neighbor as you love yourself (Mark 12:31). But the second greatest commandment might not be as simple to obey as it seems.

What’s Stopping Us from Pursuing Social Justice?

I’ve heard people say our world is becoming less hospitable. We no longer open our doors to the sojourner. We are less trusting of people today, and we are more concerned about protecting ourselves. Dr. Bradley suggests it’s the fear of being vulnerable that’s stopping us from truly loving our neighbor.

Stepping into the messiness of other people’s lives is a very vulnerable act, and being vulnerable can be extremely uncomfortable. We risk rejection of our efforts, which might hurt us. Dr. Bradley calls this kind of vulnerability with others hospitality.

Hospitality in the Bible

When I think of hospitality, I think of hosting a fancy dinner party for my friends, or letting my cousin stay with me when she’s in town. But in the Bible, hospitality is often in reference to strangers, and it’s about much more than hosting dinner parties.

Matthew 25:35-37 says,

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.

Biblical hospitality is giving someone what they need, not just physically, but also relationally.

Hospitality is not just offering a home-cooked meal to a friend; it’s offering our friendship to a stranger.

It’s not just inviting a stranger into our home, but into our lives.

Jesus is the ultimate example of hospitality. He made himself vulnerable to invite us in, freeing us to be vulnerable with others.

To truly be hospitable means to offer ourselves—our friendship, our time, our gifts, and our resources—and to risk getting hurt in the process.

Fight for Social Justice with Hospitality

One way Dr. Bradley says we can fight for social justice with hospitality is by being in relationship with people who are different from us.

Intentionally stepping into the life of someone you might not have become friends with naturally might feel uncomfortable, and it might not be that much fun. But hospitality is rarely comfortable or convenient.

At She Reads Truth, Rebecca Faires writes,

Hospitality is uncomfortable. […] Do you feel totally content with your two or three great friends, and just don’t need to reach out to every crazy lady you meet? The trouble is, I am that crazy lady. And so are you. We are all on the margins sometimes. This is the heart of hospitality: finding people on the margins and bringing them in.

I’m sure you can relate to being that person on the margins too. We all know what it’s like to be “the new kid” at some point or another.

When we bring those on the margins into community, they are known and their needs are known. Hospitality is making sure no one’s needs—spiritually, relationally, or physically—are left unmet.

Where Do I Start?

The next time someone pops in your head—whether it’s a friend, a coworker, an acquaintance, or even someone you hardly know—consider that maybe God is asking you to pray for that person, send them a text to see how their day is going, ask them to lunch, give them a hug, or offer them a ride to the grocery store.

Fight for social justice in your community by spending time with someone you wouldn’t normally spend time with; someone different than you, someone who is disconnected from community, or someone who is suffering. Learn about their life and who they are.

Dr. Bradley says you can even be hospitable by just bringing them a jar of Nutella, because who wouldn’t be happy to share a jar of hazelnut chocolate spread with you?

For more on this subject, we recommend Episode 4 of For the Life of the World (view trailer here) and the She Reads Truth study on Hospitality.

Leave your comments here.

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  • Sid in Missouri

    I like the way this article encourages us to “step outside our comfort zones” and be more welcoming, trusting, and actively work against a spirit of division that is present everywhere in our culture.
    That said, obviously there should be a degree of caution taken. Just last night on the local news we saw a man who kidnapped and killed a child who lived 5 doors down from him. To be clear, I don’t think the author intends to says that we should drop all precautions, but rather that we make the effort to get over unreasonable paranoia that prevents of from serving in circumstances within our capability, and furthermore growing our capabilities to where we become able to take on more challenging servant opportunities.
    God calls us to care for others, and the first set of “others” he calls us to care for is our own family: 1 Timothy 5:8. Part of caring for and providing for our family is providing a reasonably safe environment. No reason to bubble wrap them, but no reason to fling them off a cliff either.
    Finding the appropriate balance between moving away from our comfort zone vs. doing something completely nuts is a challenge and should be done a step at a time. I started out by volunteering to greet people at church: many were familiar faces, but some I didn’t know. It took a little practice to learn how to smile and offer a warm handshake or hug and talk to people I didn’t know. After that, I opened my home to group bible study. I’m hoping soon to move up to serving at a shelter or soup kitchen where there are procedures and safeguards in place, but the people may be a little rougher around the edges than the typical Sunday morning church-goer. Then perhaps move on to a mission trip where folks may never have heard the name of Jesus.
    As my experience grows, I plan to increase the challenges. Find the ways to serve that allow me to grow ever stronger by acting wisely and not foolishly.
    To sum up my reaction: Yes, we should be willing to risk getting our feelings hurt, our efforts thrown back in our faces, even loss of wealth to some degree on a worthy project that we’re uncertain will turn out as anticipated. Those are all experiences that help us grow and trust in God who prospers things in ways we cannot imagine. The flip side is No, we should not be willing to put our young children or spouse in the path of a child molester or rapist.

    • Elise Amyx

      Great to hear what you are doing in your community!

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