July 10, 2020

Recommendations: Just Courage by Gary Haugen, Red Letters and Fields of the Fatherless by Tom Davis

One of the most optimistic developments in evangelicalism is the broadening commitment to issues of justice and compassion, especially among younger evangelicals. This has been reflected in many areas of evangelical life, especially in the proliferation of justice and compassion organizations and voices supporting an promoting them.

Evangelical justice concerns have broadened beyond world hunger to include issues like HIV/AIDS, orphans, genocide, clean water, slavery and sex trafficking. Advocacy for these issues is no longer the domain of large organizations or professional “social justice” advocates. Justice and compassion issues have now become front and center for ordinary churches, grass roots leaders, bloggers, emerging church communities and a growing network of organizations reflecting the advocacy of regular Christians.

At the heart of this growing interest in justice issues are several developments. Many younger evangelicals no longer want to be associated only with issues identified with the culture war and political debate. Other evangelicals are taking economic discipleship more seriously and are seeking obedience to Jesus in areas that have often left American evangelicals cold. But the most encouraging development is a deeper attention to scripture and especially to the words and words of Jesus as savior of all, Lord of the world and sender of a missional people into a broken world.

Three books that have passed across my desk reflect this new concern for Jesus and compassionate justice.

Gary Haugen’s Just Courage is a brief introduction to the Christian justice vision at the heart of International Justice Mission. IJM specializes in responding to slavery and sex trafficking in Asia. Their team consists of investigators, attorneys as well as staff involved in restoration and aftercare of victims. IJM is also deeply involved in training local law enforcement to fight both the criminal acts and the ingrained acceptance of heinous crimes against women, children and families caught in slavery and sex trafficking.

Tom Davis has written two books advocating a just and compassionate response to issues of AIDS in Red Letters and fatherlessness in Fields of the Fatherless. Davis’s organization, Children’s Hope Chest, is an example of the kind of response that has grown out of the experience of one evangelical whose eyes and heart were opened to the hurts around them.

Haugen and Davis are outstanding writers, mixing anecdotal material with gripping examples, scriptural exposition and plenty of facts. Davis’s book Red Letters has a complete bibliography of organizations doing the works of Christ followers in a hurting world.

All three books are short and are extremely readable by young people or those not used to reading this kind of material. High school and college audiences will especially like this material.

All three books deal with the kinds of objections and obstacles that often hinder an individual Christian from seeing their own response as significant and helpful. There is plenty of motivation here for the Christian who can’t go overseas, but can give up a Starbucks a week or look at their own community for different eyes.

I recommend all three books as excellent resources for anyone wanting to present a kind of discipleship that includes the compassion of Jesus for a hurting world now.

Comments

  1. I agree. Young evangelicals embracing justice issues is one of the most exciting things to happen to the movement in a long time.

  2. Gary’s first book, “Good News about Injustice” is also a good book–as is “Terrify No More” which is specifically on child sex trafficking in Cambodia. I’m a big fan of the work of IJM as well. Gary will be speaking at the Willow Creek Leadership Conf coming up in a couple of weeks.

  3. I remember “Justice Issues” split American Protestants into two separate camps with two separate Gospels (the two torn-apart halves of the original Gospel) back around 100 years ago.

    The Social Gospel emphasized “Social Justice” to the point it ended up with a “Gospel without personal Salvation”.

    The reaction (very popular among American Evangelicals) was a “Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation”.