I am not sure what it was, but as a very young child, I felt connected, felt at home in the company of a people who were committed to human rights and dignity, who believed in Paul’s words that Christ had made us one, who acknowledged there is no longer Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free (Gal 3:26–28). This sense of unity, holiness, and justice seemed to resonate deep in my bones and, in some ways, defined me and my place in the world.
It wasn’t until later that I’d learn about the great Holiness revivals of the late nineteenth century, that I’d learn about sisters and brothers who were born of the same water and fire. All of us are descended from John Wesley’s Methodism. The Free Methodists had broken off because they believed the poor should not be excluded from worship if they couldn’t pay dues; the Wesleyans had separated during the fight for the abolition of slavery; and my own tradition distinguished itself over the insistence of inclusion, believing that all are welcome at the table of the Lord.
As I have matured, have studied, have grown, I have wondered about those early days, about the passions and call that drove us forward that seem to have been all but lost across the last century. I wonder where the fire that burned during the American civil rights movement of the 1960s has gone; where we lost our way in the fight for gender equality; how it is that we have been silent on issues of justice, have forgotten the poor and the alien in our midst. Instead, there has been much talk of justification, taking Augustine’s perspective on justification as conversion. We have busied ourselves winning souls for their safe keeping in the afterlife with no attention to living in such a way that we might make this world a better, more just existence.
This is a misunderstanding of the Pauline notion of justification, at best, and a complete and total missional estrangement, at worst. For Paul, justification cannot exist without justice, and the justice of God is worked out on this earth through the people of God who live and love as Jesus (1 Cor 15). As God’s creatures, we are saved to do the work of God in the world, to partner with God in setting all things right. (https://chognews.org/2014/03/24/justification-without-justice-on-dreaming-new-dreams/)