Reviewed by Sheryl Root
Justice in the Burbs
& Lisa Samson
"With humor, empathy, and compassion, the Samon's challenge readers to develop a new mindset--one of living justly--and not just in the 'big' things of life, but on a daily, decision-by-decision basis."
Several years ago, I took a series of missions classes offered at my church that gave me a new vision of God’s heart for the world from Genesis through Revelation. They also challenged me to evaluate my beliefs to see which were truly biblical, and which were merely cultural. Will and Lisa Samson’s new book, Justice in the Burbs, reminds me of these classes. With humor, empathy, and compassion, the Samson’s challenge readers to develop a new mindset—one of living justly—and not just in the “big” things of life, but on a daily, decision-by-decision basis.
Justice, according to Brian McLaren in the meditation at the end of chapter one, comes from the Greek word dikaios and means “fairness, integrity, right treatment, and equity in human relationships.” What is interesting, as McLaren notes, is that dikaios is translated as justice in almost every language but English, where it is more often translated as righteousness. The problem is when we hear the word “righteousness,” we think of personal piety, not the social interaction dikaios, or justice, truly means. We become so accustomed to being “self” centered that we forget every decision we make, even those as seemingly insignificant as what type of food we buy or whether we let the water run while brushing our teeth, has an affect on the greater world around us.
Let me put any fears you have to rest … reading Justice in the Burbs will not leave you feeling condemned for how far short you fall of living justly. Will and Lisa are so transparently struggling with living a lifestyle of justice themselves, that you understand immediately they are comrades with you on this journey.
Each chapter of Justice in the Burbs begins with the story of Matt and Christine, a typical suburban couple with 3 children, their lives busy with work, activities and church. As Will takes you through topics such as what does justice look like in our ordinary world, how fear keeps us from living justly, and why should we care about justice, Matt and Christine’s story illustrates the theme of the chapter for us. Closing each chapter are meditations by various writers, such as Brian McLaren, Luci Shaw, and Claudia Mair Burney.
I underlined much of this book as I read, especially the chapter “Can I Answer ‘Too Busy?’” which addresses the topic of “culture” and how the choices we make create the culture that we live in. Will writes, “Culture … comes from the Latin and refers to the notion of cultivating land for the purpose of bringing forth plants. So it is not a stretch to think of culture as those things that spring up from the decisions we make. Culture is simply that which tends to grow in the soil of our choices.” Not making a purposeful choice toward cultivating good things is still making a choice. There is no neutrality. “All people, including those who are part of the American church, interact with and are shaped by culture all the time. We do not stand apart from culture. We cannot.”
The subtitle of Justice in the Burbs is “being the hands of Jesus wherever you live.” Will and Lisa challenge each of us to “bloom where you are planted.” Small choices we make, when taken together, can significantly advance us along the path of justice. Make that first small choice … pick up a copy of Justice in the Burbs and read it. Begin your own path toward living a life of Christ-like justice today.
Watch Will & Lisa talk about Justice In the Burbs:
Sheryl Root is Partner Database Manager at OneHope, a non-profit organization whose mission is to reach every child with God’s Word. She’s also a writer and a reader of everything she can get her hands on … books, blogs, magazines. In other words, she’s both a data geek and a book nerd. She loves to be able to support Christian authors and spread the word on great books and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, a wonderful community of published and yet to be published writers. You can follow her on Twitter at @Sheryl_Root.