No one said pursuing justice would be easy.
The road can be so challenging and the destination so distant that you may be discouraged by a lack of progress, compassion or commitment in your quest for justice. How do you stay committed to the journey when God’s kingdom can seem so slow in coming?
Kent Annan understands the struggle of working for justice over the long haul. He confesses, “Over the past twenty years, I’ve succumbed to various failed shortcuts instead of living the freedom of faithful practices.” In this book, he shares practices he has learned that will encourage and help you to keep making a difference in the face of the world’s challenging issues.
All Christians are called to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly in the world. Slow Kingdom Coming will guide and strengthen you on this journey to persevere until God’s kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven.
Slow Kingdom Coming: Practices for Doing Justice, Loving Mercy and Walking Humbly in the World
Written by Kent Annan (InterVarsity Press, 2016)
Out of these experiences I’ve written this book about doing good without hiding from the bad–both around us and within us–because we’re called to be part of God’s kingdom coming. We’re invited to confess our vulnerabilities in serving justice so we can avoid dead-end shortcuts that damage others and ourselves. We’re invited to accept the grace and responsibility of living into our deepest longings for God’s kingdom. We’re invited to a responsible approach to helping other people flourish in our neighborhoods and in our world, where there is too much suffering. We’re invited to be part of deep, lasting change. – Kent Annan, Slow Kingdom Coming
Have you ever connected with an effort to help others only to find yourself quickly overwhelmed by the task at hand? Maybe you have wondered, do my efforts really make an impact in the grand scheme of the work that is needed. I find it easy to become discouraged in efforts to do good knowing that my efforts will only make a small dent (at best) in a large issue.
Kent Annan’s new book “Slow Kingdom Coming…” is a book I will find myself referring to again for sure! There is much in this book that is helpful in living in the tension of the “present yet not fully here” Kingdom of God. This is a book that will help challenge your views of living out love and compassion in a way that actually can make an impact in your own life as well as others. While the book is short and a quick read it is very insightful and practical. Annan combines over 20 years of social justice work experience, Biblical insight and wisdom in writing this book. He provides a great combination that inspires, teaches and encourages the reader all in the same work. If you are involved in any way in any type of kingdom work this is a book I would recommend!
Annan states the purpose of his book as being “… how we can best stay faithfully committed to humbly doing justice and loving mercy in our world.” He then fleshes that out by writing of five practices: Attention, Confession, Respect, Partnering and Truthing. These, he writes, are meant to help us “…find the freedom to handle what you can and what you’re called to…”.
Annan begins with the acknowledgment that many who attempt to engage in mission and service opportunities of various kinds may wonder about the difference such efforts make: we may burn out from doing too much, become bored with routine or disappointed with how little changes, or perform a token gesture to assuage our own guilt. Whatever the attitude with which we approach such action, Annan proposes that there is a more holistic way to serve involving a shift in perception.
Attention could also be called “awakening,” as Annan describes the process of waking up to the world’s needs. However, it is also an awakening to one’s own passion: “Part of this practice of attention involves asking ourselves, what breaks my heart? In the world, my country or my neighborhood, what makes me angry because it should be better?” (p. 32) This practice is internal as much as external, as we intentionally notice what needs raise passion within us that will help us focus our time and energy.
Confession is our acknowledging our own half-hearted efforts at serving for a variety of reasons, some that he mentions being doing things for show, acting out of privilege, and operating with a hero complex. Service is good, but it can be done for the wrong reasons. Confession helps us name them in order to begin reorienting on the right ones.
Respect involves seeing the people you’re serving as fully human and entering more deeply into the other’s situation: “visitors should come to learn, not to save.” (p. 74) This practice continues to expand the readers perspective on proper motivation and perspectives in helping others. Annan more than once points out the flaws in short-term mission trips, cautioning against “poverty tourism.” Instead, those seeking to serve should be quick to listen and slow to impose one’s own voyeurism and values on another.
This leads to partnering, which Annan describes as serving alongside others rather than coming in to fix something with which we’re ultimately not that familiar. To show respect, one must see others as equals rather than those poor people we’ve come to save.
Finally, Annan borrows the concept of truthing from geology, where scientists compare aerial satellite images of an area with data collected through exploration of the same area on the ground. Annan uses this to describe the difference between studying an issue from far away and being immersed in it up close. The latter involves remembering the other four practices he describes, as well as realizing that God’s kingdom comes a lot more slowly when you’re actually in the thick of serving others.
Annan has written an honest assessment of what making a difference in the world really entails. As the title suggests, transformation often happens at a much slower pace than we’d like for a variety of reasons. But using the practices he suggests, we can at least help things along in a more realistic fashion that appreciates nuance and acknowledges our own limitations. God’s kingdom may be coming slowly, but there is yet hope that it’s at least coming.
The title Slow Kingdom Coming is for me a lament: we confess that we long for change and we long for it to come sooner, with continuous tears. Slow Kingdom Coming is also a commitment: we see the need for faithful ways that avoid shortcuts and live out the vision of the kingdom each step along the way, that we would be transformed and be part of transformative work. And, finally, Slow Kingdom Coming is a declaration of hope. It’s not here yet, but we believe and are willing to give our lives to living out this belief.
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