Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Julie Dawson's book, Everyday Justice (IVP, 2009).
How does a Christian to live justly, in imitation of God's justice? What are the practical ways to imitate God's passion for justice and righteousness?
God's justice isn't merely punitive. As a practical outworking of loving God and others, true justice is restorative. True justice represents God's love to those around us, thereby honoring the image of God in people. Christians are called to imitate God's love in every area of life, and living justly reflects this.
Right relationships with those around us are part of just living, but they're not the whole picture. These principles also extend real justice to every area of a lifestyle, taking our focus beyond those with whom we directly interact. For instance, your morning coffee habit doesn't just pay the barista and boost your workplace performance—the farmers growing coffee in Central America may be starving under unfair trade agreements made with your favorite coffee distributor. American Christians must be aware of the larger picture. If you practice an integrated, just lifestyle, you have to make ethical, God-honoring decisions in your consumer habits and how you steward resources.
The good news is that a just lifestyle doesn't mean a major overhaul of everything—it can be achieved by gradual tweaks based upon awareness and abilities. Here are some areas of everyday life that can be tweaked to honor God's call to justice in your life:
Start your morning with fair trade coffee. Everyone's talking about fair trade coffee, and rightly so. The fair trade label promises buyers that the coffee is being purchased from growers at equal or greater cost than production expenses, assuring them some profit from the sale. This counteracts the effects of the NAFTA agreement that is so damaging to coffee growers' ability to profit from their crop. The cost may be higher for the consumer, but the quality is usually better and the farmers make a living. Buy fair trade labels, and encourage others to do the same. Be careful to do your research, though—not all fair trade-labeled products are completely faithful to the free trade principles.
Buy slave-free chocolate. Your chocolate afternoon pick-me-up might be produced by child slaves in Côte d'Ivoire. Check the label—does it say "Slave Free"? Most notably, Nestlé and M&M/Mars do not ensure that their chocolate products are purchased from slave-free farms. Encourage your elected officials to support laws that will ensure children are protected. Use your buying power to influence the market, supporting only slave-free chocolate producers.
Eat organic and locally grown foods. Pesticides and loose farming ethics harm producers, the environment, animals, and consumers. The pesticides can sicken workers and consumers, and poor farming torments animals and ruins the land. Shopping for organic and locally grown products employs your buying power in support of ethical food production, as well. This also reduces fuel waste from transporting out-of-season foods. Cook from scratch with organic produce to eliminate the presence of harmful chemicals at your table.
Avoid clothing brands that employ sweat-shop labor. Cheap clothes from a big-name store might be best for your shopping habits, but they might also support sweatshops and the use of harmful chemicals in fiber production. This hurts both the sweatshop employees and the environment. Most people have a long list of excuses for not bringing justice to this area of life, but Christians should to examine their purchases carefully to practice justice in all areas of life.
Conserve fuel. Environmental stewardship condemns wasting gas and supporting gas companies that either pollute the areas around production sites or enslave workers in third world nations for a lower cost. Purchase gas only from conscientious gas companies. Drive less, and drive fuel-efficient vehicles. This also ties into your spending habits -be conscious of your consumer habits and use plastic less. Combine your errands. You could even lobby to support alternate fuel options.
Cut everyday waste. American consumerism at its very worst is a disgusting display of poor stewardship of resources. The average American produces four and a half pounds of trash every day. A throw-it-away mentality pervades our culture. Instead, recycle, precycle, and practice contentment. For instance, try using cloth diapers and buying strictly necessities.
Do your research. Check your labels. Read the news. Know where your products come from and how they're made. A quick online search about a product can reveal some astounding things. Julie Clawson's website: http://www.everydayjustice.net/ is a great place to start your research.
Participate in activism. These issues aren't going to just go away because a handful of conscientious consumers practice everyday justice. Help spread awareness of these issues and connect with others involved in the justice mission. Grassroots activism, a phone call to a congressman, and a petition or two can go a long way toward change.
Justice is a very real calling for Christians today. Practicing love may not be as abstract as it sounds. With community awareness, individual responsibility, and a bit of hard work, you can implement justice in the everyday.
Hännah Schlaudt is a student at Grove City College where she is the junior editor of The Quad Magazine. She may also be found climbing trees or standing on her head. Grace, light, and words intrigue her, and she wants to be like Amy Carmichael if she ever grows up. This article originally appeared September 22, 2009.