The Advocate reached out to Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, Director of the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness to Washington, D. C., to gain his insight regarding the connection between the work of Christian education and social justice ministry. The above image shows Jimmie (with sign) and comes from the PC(USA)’s Office of Public Witness page. Jimmie shares the following message with our readers.
Christian education plays a vital role in social justice advocacy.
The church is an institution whose purpose is to proclaim the good news of the gospel and equip disciples of Christ Jesus for faithful living. There is a dual nature to our call: to respond to the cries of the poor as we proclaim the gospel of salvation.
The Christian faith is centered in a messiah whose life and teachings are grounded in a call to justice. The first sermon Jesus preached announced an anointing to liberate the poor. (Luke 4:16-19) Jesus provided direct assistance by feeding the hungry and healing the sick. He openly criticized the structures which oppressed people and the systems which upheld injustice. He chastised the Pharisees for failing to follow the “weightier matters” of mercy, justice, and faithfulness. (Matthew 23:23) Our lives are modeled upon his as we attempt to live in a Christlike manner.
Christian education teaches disciples what it means to be a Christian. Our manual is the Bible. To teach the Bible, one cannot ignore God’s call to justice. We read the Bible and are instilled with a discernment that God is a God of justice. Justice runs throughout scripture, from the story of Exodus and the liberation of the Hebrew slaves to the prophetic utterances of the prophets that “justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 4:24)
A Christian educational praxis establishes actions needed for justice. According to Moon Son, adjunct professor of Christian education, Christian teachings about justice should be illustrated by “Biblical stories, compassionate listening, community-building activities, and social and ministerial involvements.” We utilize teaching strategies that cultivate a compassionate concern for the poor. We enact social justice through engagement with a community and not for a community. All for the purpose of developing advocacy skills. Christian education resources should be holistic and include a wide array of strategies to instruct on justice, love, and faith. They must be taught as interlocking rings; you can’t have one without the other. Faith in Christ Jesus is grounded in a love for God and others and a desire to seek justice. (Matthew 22) (https://religiouseducation.net/rea2012/files/2012/10/RIG1.1-Son.pdf)
Christian education teaches the Christian faith in a manner that influences the way we live on a daily basis. To be a Christian involves living with a heightened sense of awareness to the struggles people experience in the United States and in the global community. It involves the ability to care so much that you are committed to doing what you can to alleviate pain and suffering. It is not simply a desire to do good but is motivated by a God who “cares for the least of these” and calls us to care, and to act. At the heart of the mission of the Christian faith is a call to live a just life and to work to see that society reflects the Kingdom of God. The epistle of James instructs, “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26)