A Review of
The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance
Bethany Hanke Hoang / Kristen Deede Johnson
Reviewed by Kevin Book-Satterlee
Young Latin scholars, René Padilla and Samuel Escobar stood before a sea of evangelical leaders at the first Lausanne International Congress in 1974 and reminded these leaders that while the proclamation of the Gospel continued to be a critical aspect of both local and global mission, it was insufficient without attending to biblical justice in local communities and around the world. By many, they were applauded. By many, they were derided. Today Padilla and Escobar’s message is embraced by many evangelicals, especially passionate youthful ones. The Justice Calling is a simple book that follows in the line of increasing succession to encouraging evangelicals towards justice. Proclamation is no less important now, but justice has claimed its rightful place in integrated tandem, letting the words of the mouth work in conjunction with the deeds of compassion.
The problem is that compassion runs thin, and Gospel justice only bears fruit in perseverance. Without it, the passion for justice withers for many who drown in the draining emotions and overwhelming complexity that is injustice. It is to the heart of this interplay between passion and perseverance that Bethany Hanke Hoang, International Justice Mission’s Institute for Biblical Justice director, and Kristen Deede Johnson, professor of theology and Christian formation at Western Theological Seminary, address their new book.
As noted by each chapter headings, justice is core to the mission of God. Justice couples with righteousness. It is tied to creation. Justice is violated upon the fall. And Johnson and Hoang ground justice in each major narrative strand of scripture. For six chapters, they show God’s design for justice, culminating in their final chapter. Their eschatology of renewed justice depends on a theology where “all things becoming new.” Theirs is an eschatology of “now/but not yet.” Justice is being rejuvenated now towards a restoration that is to come.
Hoang and Johnson’s book is written for a popular audience. Their stories, particularly Hoang’s stories via IJM, illustrate well the depravity of injustice in the modern world. That modern day slavery exists, for instance, is of no shock to anybody. Thanks in part to IJM’s founder and Hoang’s superior, Gary Haugen, the world is aware of injustice’s dirty, “secret” multi-billion dollar industry. While Padilla and Escobar were certainly not the first to put forth the call to justice, they are no longer young men, but sages who continue to instruct their successors in holistic mission. And year after year, books by evangelicals discuss how to faithfully and biblically follow God’s call in a mission of justice and reconciliation. So what Hoang and Johnson have to say, generally, is not that new, but the call to revolution is rarely sustained by novelty. Persistence is the key. Justice prevails.
Other books shall be written about the subject. Probably better books. But the final chapters and their heartfelt intertwining of passion and perseverance is where Hoang and Johnson contribute most to the conversation. One who has already been formed by perseverance in the crucible of heartbreaking story after heartbreaking story has long passed their need for this book. However, it is an good first read for the one just entertaining God’s global renewal with a naive sense of compassion. I recommend this book as one that feeds compassion for justice with hope, but also nurtures it through the encouraging motivation where perseverance by faith is vital.