May's Recommended Resource
This book sat on my shelf for a long time. I hadn't had occasion to read it until now. Such is the life of one who is constantly writing lessons, liturgies, and sermons —you only read what has bearing on your work. But this Sunday (April 30th), our liturgy theme and sermon topic is Mercy and Justice, and so I got to read it. (You will find an excerpt in your bulletin.) And I'm very glad I did.
Keller's strength is two-fold (to be modest). On whatever subject, his writing combines a biblically-based theology with real-world application. “Here's what the Bible teaches us; now what does that mean for how we are to live our lives?” But second, he writes with a clarity that makes him accessible and easy to understand. And that's why Generous Justice is this month's recommended resource.
Keller begins by laying the theological foundation for doing justice, asking what justice is and surveying the Old Testament and New Testament for passages that relate to justice. He previews his findings in the Introduction: “the Bible is a book devoted to justice in the world from first to last. And the Bible gives us not just a naked call to care about justice, but gives us everything we need—motivation, guidance, inner joy, and power—to live a just life.”
He then looks at more practical questions like, what motivates us to do justice? Where and how do we begin to practice justice? What parts of our lives are affected by justice? The answers to these questions are richly theological, but also draw on Keller’s own personal experiences navigating difficult “justice issues” like race, class, the use of money, and so on. He also devotes an entire chapter on doing justice “in the public square,” something many evangelicals struggle to know how to do well.
I recommend this book to the entire congregation, but especially to parents of teenagers. Our kids are growing up in a world profoundly shaped by an ethic that goes something like this: do what you want, so long as you don’t hurt anyone. This principle is like a cultural tidal wave, or better yet, a touchstone for all conversations about ethics — personal and private. Many teens unquestioningly accept it as a premise for conversations about ethics, but then can’t figure out why their struggling to represent well biblical positions. Keller will help you as a parent begin the conversation with your kids about what it means to be just and how to live out a just life in our age.