by Michelle Bauman, Director of Y4Life
I’ve been thinking a lot about justice lately. I’m guessing we all have. It’s a topic that resonates with people of all ages and races, all nationalities and cultures. In fact, the need for justice has been an underlying and uniting issue behind much of the world’s news cycle in 2020 thus far. It can be seen in arguments for and against healthcare rationing, and it influences conversations about shutdowns, sheltering in place, and basic COVID-19 prevention. A desire for justice is foundational to the conflict between China and Hong Kong, and it shapes opinion on foreign exchange student mandates. Justice, in many ways, has even beget outrage over possible Tik Tok bans in the U.S. Say it isn’t so!
Most obviously, though, the topic of justice has been a lodestone for racial tensions in America, drawing its citizens into discussion, reflection, activism and, in some cases, change.
Unsurprisingly, justice is a topic that also resonates powerfully with today’s youth.
And you know what? That gives me great hope.
Despite social distancing, mask wearing, and good handwashing, I have had the pleasure of spending lots of time with youth the last few months. From the two youth who live in our own home to the leaders of various Y4Life Teams, the 60 (approximately) youth who have been active in Chats 4 Life and to those I’ve had a chance to converse with on the phone, through email, or at graduation parties and weddings, my life has been filled with conversations about justice and injustice.
And those conversations have provided fertile ground for discussions about life.
What’s made me hopeful is that the youth I’ve been talking to clearly recognize the connection between justice and preservation of life. More specifically, they ardently believe that being for life is not only the compassionate choice, but it is also the right choice.
Is there still work to do? Yes, there most certainly is. There’s even work to be done among those who already understand that life is important.
For example, many 4Life youth know that taking an innocent life through abortion is a flagrant injustice to the unborn child. With a little guidance, though, they begin to see that abortion is a gross injustice to the mother and father and family as well—an injustice that often has long-term ripple effects.
Likewise, 4Life teens easily see how euthanasia is an act of injustice. But with guidance, they might also recognize that physician-assisted suicide and other forms of “mercy killing” are injustices too, injustices done not only to the individual dying, but also to the family, the nurses, and the very body of Christ whose call it is to care for another beautiful child of God.
And when 4Life youth recognize that justice was not served to a man named George Floyd, we adults readily admit that our world is full of despicable sins. We confirm that his life was valuable too, and we mourn his loss truly and deeply as God’s beloved creation.
And when those same 4Life youth note that racism has played a horrendous role in American history, we agree that treating others inequitably because of the color of their skin is always wrong. We affirm again and again that God handmade all people and Jesus died for all people. And that means ALL lives are valuable and equally loved.
However, because we are people of life, we can do much more than mourn and bemoan our fallen state; we can provide hope. Once again, we can and should offer guidance, pointing to the only true source of justice in the world, God Himself.
Psalm 103:6 says, “The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.” That justice is never found in harming our neighbor or purposely causing division. It is never promoted by anger or hatred or vengeance. True justice can only be found in the gross injustice that was done to Christ on the cross. His innocence now covers our guilt; His blood paid the price for our sins.
Romans 8:1 reminds us that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That means we have been set free from the sin that has imprisoned us, even if those sins are full of anger and vengeance or apathy and indifference. We now wear the righteousness of Christ, and through Him we are empowered to love, serve, and protect the lives God has placed in our paths.
And you know what? Sometimes those lives are the lives of our youth.
As Christian adults, we are privileged to guide, mentor, and care for youth—even (and perhaps especially) during times of uncertainty, turmoil, and unrest in our world and nation. We are privileged to look for ways to validate their concerns and lead them in the paths of righteousness. We are privileged to meet youth where they are and walk with them as fellow travelers on the road to eternity.
I know. Sometimes that walk can be difficult. Sometimes we don’t know what to say. Sometimes the only way to serve is simply to love.
But you should know that you’re not alone. Y4Life and Lutherans For Life have many resources available to you. From Zoom calls and programming to pamphlets and retreats, I’m available to help you meet the For Life needs of your students. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com for ideas, resources, or a word of encouragement. I look forward to helping in any way I can.
In the meantime, I’ll keep praying that God gives you both joy and blessing as you uphold and support the lives of youth in your community. And I’ll keep rejoicing that through Christ, you are making an eternal difference 4 Life!