I was blessed to get out of the Chicago cold on vacation recently. While traveling, I read “Crazy Enough to Care” by my friend, Alvin Bibbs. Alvin provides excellent insights into what it means to be crazy enough to care.
Begin with Compassion
Alvin’s book is not meant to be read as a book. The book is a guide through group discussions and shared experiences to journey toward a deeper understanding of justice. The book contains a leader guide along with resources for twelve group sessions.
Alvin begins by identifying God’s radical heart-change plan and ask a simple question: “Am I up for it?” If we claim to be a Christ follower, what are we following Jesus into? “What practical, tangible difference does following Jesus make in your life?” Alvin is not simply asking the question, he is inviting us to journey together toward a deeper understanding of Jesus’ outrageous compassion, justice and racial reconciliation.
Alvin begins by challenging us to think of the Bible as an autobiography demonstrating the character of God. One of His chief characteristics is compassion (Ex. 22:27, Ps. 103:8, Isa. 30:18, Ps. 116:5, Ps. 51:1, Mk. 6:34). Alvin shares real stories throughout the journey, provides probing questions, and helpful resources to encourage any small group to be crazy enough to care.
Move toward justice
We begin our journey with compassion but that moves us toward justice. We must see the needs of neighbors around us and move toward loving them through practical action. This is especially true of marginalized people. Alvin is agreeing with Mother Theresa who was once asked by a reporter how she received her call to serve the poor. Mother Theresa simply smiled and said, “I was not called to serve the poor, I was called to follow Jesus and I followed Him to the poor.”
Alvin invites us to follow Jesus to those on the margins. Chapter four is a guided experiential service opportunity. I agree with my friend. This past weekend we hosted one of our experiential opportunities. We had three individuals visit a legal ministry, talk with volunteers, and sit in on a client meeting so they could feel the impact of this ministry. Afterward we returned to our office to debrief. We also talk through how to have life changing impact through legal ministry. We emphasize how legal ministry is transformational NOT transactional. The power of praying with clients, entering into spiritual conversations, seeking to address social needs, and providing specific plans on legal issues is significant.
For my lawyer friends, I join Alvin’s question: What practical, tangible difference does following Jesus make in your life? You have been given a rare gift in a law degree. Could it be that God gave you the gift to serve those who are the subject of His special concern – the widow, the fatherless, the alien and the poor? The question is worth exploring further. Download our guide, How to have life-changing impact through legal ministry, or reach out to Carissa@gji.org to attend our next go and see.
Justice requires speaking up
Alvin continues our journey by showing what happens when good people do nothing. He takes us deeper in understanding Biblical justice as a radical righting of wrongs. We rescue and restore others because that is what God did for us.
Alvin encourages us to dive into another experiential experience in a multicultural setting. He has several excellent suggestions for better understanding the needs of our neighbors. When God first called me to serve the poor, I was a wealthy white lawyer with no understanding of the challenges our neighbors face. To learn, I dressed shabbily and got on a public bus to go to a government benefit office. I found the people on the bus were friendly but it takes a long time to get places.
When I arrived, I found the office to be stark with cheap chairs, government notices, and some of the most unfriendly employees. I felt like cattle as I waited and watched those around me. I desperately wanted to leave and come back in a high power suit. From that day, I made certain we established our legal ministries in warm, welcoming environments. Hospitality would be key as we welcomed clients with food and activities for their small children. We would communicate the value and dignity each person has because they are created in the image of God. No one should be dehumanized.
Welcome new legal ministry in Tennessee
This past week we welcomed legal ministry site 81 to the gospel justice family in partnership with Compassionate Counsel. Belmont University Law School is meeting in a community facility to welcome and serve the needs of low-income neighbors. Lawyers, law students, hospitality, prayer, and other volunteers come together to demonstrate the love of God to neighbors in need. One neighbor attending the first meeting wrote,
“I deeply, deeply appreciate the legal and spiritual support you offered in service to me for the sake of my two children and our family!”
Justice requires diversity
Alvin finishes our journey by helping us understand the beauty of a diverse heaven which should be reflected on earth. He helps us address implicit bias and work through barriers that divide us. Alvin uses stories to connect our hearts and minds with Scripture and discussion. He finishes by challenging us to be radical Christians. Jesus was a radical. Following Him should not be safe or sanitized. We should be willing to enter into the messiness of our world, set aside our pre-conceived ideas, listen and learn from one another.
Alvin helps us write a new story for our lives. He provides a blueprint for the group to take action on a sustainable basis going forward. I know this is why I love working with my friend. One way to take sustainable action is by establishing legal ministries. I spoke with Alvin this week and he is helping us open three new neighborhood locations in Chicago over the next month. What a great way to show we are crazy enough to care.
I encourage you to come hear Alvin speak at our Restore conference on June 7-8. Registration opens this week on our website. Alvin will be speaking on “Know justice, Know peace!” He is a gifted speaker. Get an autographed copy of his book. Bring friends and experience his message and the conference together as a group. That is Alvin’s ultimate challenge to us. No one does justice alone. We need one another as together we do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.