In late February, some 4,000 people from across the Unites States descended upon the “City of Roses” for two days. They didn’t travel hundreds or thousands of miles for a major sporting event or to see some famous music band.
Instead, these groups and individuals gathered in Portland, Oregon, for the second annual Justice Conference, which has been described as “one of the largest international gatherings on social and biblical justice.” According to founder Ken Wytsma, the conference is fueled by a “theology of justice,” which professes that “an understanding of God should compel love for others and engagement in justice.”
Over the course of two days, the Justice Conference featured an impressive array of internationally-acclaimed speakers like Walter Brueggemann, Francis Chan, John M. Perkins, and Shane Claiborne, to name a few, who each used his or her unique perspectives to challenge hearts and minds.
I was personally struck by the sessions with Walter Brueggemann, when he explained that “compassion” is akin to the Hebrew word for “womb,” describing a mother’s intense, self-sacrificing love for her baby.
“Compassion” is akin to the Hebrew word for “womb,” describing a mother’s intense, self-sacrificing love for her baby. (Photo: Sopheak Kong/World Vision)
As a new mom, I can certainly attest to daily experiencing this incredible connection to my son that would drive me to conquer anything for his sake. This comparison has also helped me to realize that God wants me to view what Brueggemann continually referred to as my “vulnerable neighbors” with this same intense compassion and solidarity that God feels toward all of His children.
Brueggemann then went on to describe that Jesus fed the 5,000 from an intense and compassionate response that the Greek text describes as being a “stirring of the gut” and the “disgusted upheaval” he felt at their hunger.
Brueggemann said this passage should wake all Christians up from our numbness, compel us to become more emotionally in touch with our neighbor’s pain, and to engage with a world that is “out of bread.” According to him, God gave us all enough gifts that we need to redistribute, like the five loaves and two fish, to heal this world.
Starting in 2010 with 1,000 attendees, the Justice Conference has certainly resonated with thousands of Christians and churches who have been waking up to the ongoing dialogue around justice and advocacy-related issues like human trafficking, poverty, and human rights.
The Justice Conference is indicative of a hunger and growing movement within the Church that World Vision definitely wants to be part of and has been cultivating.
Do you feel this compassionate “stirring in your gut” when you take the time to see the suffering of your vulnerable neighbor? Are you ready to steward your influence? Are you ready to join with World Vision and others who want to take up God’s mandate to give ourselves away?
According to Brueggemann, this is the wonder and truth of the gospel, because when “we give ourselves away, we get ourselves back enhanced and transformed!”
If you feel convicted by issues of poverty and injustice that hurt children and their families, we invite you to join a growing network of activists via World Vision's Advocate Network. Through this network, you can explore the depths of biblical advocacy and learn how you can use your unique abilities and dreams to influence decision-makers on behalf of children and families living in poverty and oppression.
Want to take action right now? Contact the White House today and urge President Obama to take bold action at the upcoming G8 Summit to reduce chronic malnutrition among children around the world.