Yearning for Justice and Peace
Matt Frizzell, director of Human Resources Ministries
By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. -Luke 1:78-79
Today, I learned that a young man I met in Monrovia, Liberia, passed away. His name was James. He was probably nine or ten years old.
James came to church with his grandmother that morning. He had a large visible tumor on his neck. He had an expressionless face. He stood silently with his grandmother after church and asked to speak with the minister for help. I had given the sermon that Sunday and did what was appropriate. I met James and his grandmother. We touched hands. Hearing their petition, I referred them to the local pastor. The pastor and leaders could provide the ministry that was needed.
I learned from Kaywea, the pastor and mission center president, that they knew James and his grandmother. James’ tumor was treatable. Removing the tumor cost approximately $500 at the local hospital. The church was prepared to help. James had seen doctors. They prescribed waiting a bit longer before surgery. James was supposed to have surgery in April. He passed away in March.
I had emailed Kaywea for an update on James, and he shared the news. My heart broke. As a student and instructor of theology and ethics, I know inequities and injustices make up our world. Our world has tragic inequalities, preventable systemic problems, yet wild hope. Hearing the news about James drove all this home. My eyes welled up. I asked myself a hundred questions. Should I have done something different when I met James last January? Should I have, like the Good Samaritan, taken him to the hospital and paid the $500? Was there something more I could have done? I felt grief and survivor’s guilt at the same time. Was James’ short life somehow-in a direct or indirect way-my fault? My mind knows the answer, but my heart isn’t sure. Wisdom found in Lamentations and the Psalms shows me that fault finding is one way our hearts grieve tragedy, pain, and injustice. I should expect those experiences on the path of discipleship and road to Shalom. “Let your heart be broken,” the wise hymn reads. But there was also something more inside me. James’ passing felt wrong.
This Advent season, we must struggle to trust what is about to be born. Why share such a difficult story for the season of Advent? Because James, like Jesus, bore the image of God. He was not at fault for his life’s circumstance. My brief encounter with him is a reminder that Christ’s mission for God’s justice and peace are sorely needed in the world. Workers are needed in service of God’s Shalom.
“Trust what is being born.”
Jesus, the Peaceful One
We have spent this year with a guiding question: Are we moving closer to Jesus, the Peaceful One? As we near the end of this calendar year, we review how this question has been shaping and forming us. In our thoughts, words, and actions, have we been embodying Jesus, the Peaceful One? What might it look like to move closer to Jesus, the Peaceful One as we make space in our lives for Christ incarnate this Advent season?
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.