My wife, Barbara, recently read Tim Keller's latest book. She wrote the following and consented to post it here:
Why am I a wee bit bothered by Tim Keller’s Generous Justice? I might even say I’m troubled. I have benefited much from TK, as have so many. However, when I FEEL my Christian liberty is being stolen away, the hair on my neck stands up, and I get fidgety! Then I get a little crazy. I start accusing TK of patronizing the poor and pandering to the powerful.
I’m just a simple cave (wo)man. I can understand when someone tells me I have fallen way short of what God commands. I can understand when someone tells me that, on my behalf, Jesus has met the very demands of which I fall so short. I can understand when someone says go therefore and live out a thankful, generous, charitable life.
I cannot understand when someone tells me THAT must look like THIS. Tim Keller is saying just that in Generous Justice. I love that he wants Christians to be aware of needs. I love that he wants Christians to be given and that he wants us to consider how we might be more so. But a red flag goes up when the call to love my neighbor is put out there as looking a particular way - that true Christianity is about healing the community around us, even remedying its systemic injustices. Really? How it looks to love one another will have everything to do with our own place. But please don’t tell the single mom to spend her time fixing a broken community program; she is mending broken hearts. Why heap guilt on the stay-at-home mom who, though not organizing soup kitchens, is taking a meal to a sick neighbor while trying desperately to be kind to her kids and unselfish towards her hard-working husband?
Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden is light. Why? Because He has fulfilled all those demands of which I fall so short. He did come to bring justice, generously! He points me in His good direction, puts me on the path, and nourishes me along the way. That sustenance has everything to do with what HE HAS DONE. The way is clear. The fruit I will bear in acceptance of the sweet message of what He has done for me will be love, joy, peace, self-control, patience, gentleness, kindness, longsuffering, goodness, faithfulness. My family, my neighbors, my community benefit as I seek to put others above myself, to give increasingly of time and resources.
That my heart is stirred is natural. God loves the unlovely. He cares for the downtrodden. To care is written on the heart. Tim, we all know we could and should do more. The suffering in and out of the city is before us daily. We know that we haven’t given all we could. As Christ’s we pray that we would walk more selflessly everyday.
Guilt is not the sweet response that Christ’s own have to their Savior. But it seems here guilt is the motivator for action. Justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone does not result in a vague persistent sense of guilt but in fruit borne of the Spirit.
We beggars in the pews are clinging to the bright sufficiency of what Christ has done. Please don’t over burden us. His yoke is easy. His burden is light. Our rested souls seek to serve. Our thankful hearts have a myriad of ways to do so everyday. Generous Justice? For this wayfarer learning to be just generous will do.
-Barbara VB Miller