Pastor Eugene Cho* was a guest at the Justice Conference held in Melbourne on 17,18 April, convened by TEAR Australia and attended by 500 people.
The Freedom Partnership was one of the sponsors, with campaign manager Laura Vidal presenting on ‘modern slavery in Australia’ on the Saturday morning. One of The Salvation Army’s ‘freedom advocates’, Margaret, gave a moving testimony as a survivor of modern slavery on the Saturday evening.
This article reflects upon one of Pastor Cho’s messages, based on a reading from Amos (chapter five, verses 21-24). The pastor gave contextual and historical background to the prophet Amos and his ministry.
At the time God called Amos, Israel was politically secure, spiritually smug, and prosperous (sounds familiar – much like our modern society). Unfortunately, prosperity had increased Israel’s religious and moral corruption which was why Amos was sent by God to announce to the people of Israel that His patience was running out.
The dominant theme of the book of Amos is clearly highlighted in chapter 5 verse 24, which calls for social justice as the indispensable expression of true piety.
Pastor Cho made the following points:
God’s character is justice, and justice reflects the character of God. Justice is not something we wear on and off, or something we turn on and off. The power of God’s love for me is what drives my involvement in justice; we do what we do because of our love of God for us –the message of justice is the gospel.
When we look deep into the eyes of humanity we see that we are ALL created in the image of God. When you choose not to look at people’s eyes, then this increases their loneliness. We don’t know what God is teaching us through them – when we do the work of justice, there is much that we can learn.
God never intended for people to be your ‘project’; do not reduce people to ‘projects’. We have to ask ourselves, Is it just possible that we are enamoured of the idea of justice? Everyone loves justice until there’s a cost.
Justice is about Discipleship. Jesus said, ‘Take up your cross and follow me.’ He never said it was going to be easy. Therefore we need to act with commitment for the marathon of life. We need to be disrupted by the power of the Holy Spirit, because what we do here matters. The songs we sing matter. This isn’t some show, we’re not salespeople…. If we are not influencing our neighbours then it’s just a show, a presentation. When we exit the worship will continue.
This was the first time the Justice Conference was held here in Australia, and delegates came from a range of faith backgrounds to be exposed to numerous social justice issues through a variety of mediums including film, performance poetry and presentations.
We were challenged by the presenters to see justice as faith in action, as a demonstration of compassion and a direct challenge of the world view that inequity, poverty and exploitation is just something we have to put up with. The justice conversation can happen in our own backyard, where God has planted us.
– Ann Sathasivam is the Community Organising Coordinator of The Salvation Army’s Freedom Partnership.
* Founder and lead pastor of Quest church, Pastor Cho’s recent book is entitled Overrated: Are We More in Love With the Idea of Changing the World than Actually Changing the World? He was recently honoured as one of ‘50 Everyday American Heroes’, and is the founder and visionary of One Day’s Wages (ODW), a grassroots movement of people, stories and actions to alleviate extreme global poverty.