By Mark Sandlin

Unfortunately, most spiritual communities have become much better and much more comfortable at giving people a “hand out” than giving them a “hand up.”

Put simply, we prefer the self-serving feelings of charity to the self-sacrificing realities of justice.

We feed a person for a day, we turn their power back on for now, we give them shelter for a night, and those are good things, but we fall miserably short of challenging and changing the systems that will have those same people starving in a week, sitting in the dark next month, and sleeping in the streets all too soon.

Charity does help those in need, but only temporarily. Who it helps the most is those of us who have a need to help, who feel it is our calling to aid those in need. Charity lets us feel like we are doing something to respond to need in a world that is overwhelmed with people in need. There’s really no risk in it and people are usually very supportive of such efforts.

Justice, on the other hand, is hard.

It frequently requires a great deal of sacrifice and you probably aren’t going to get a lot of people cheering you along the way. Probably quite the opposite. So, most spiritual communities simply don’t do it.

Justice looks like words of love put into action.

Justice looks like activism and spiritual communities tend to shy away from that.

Justice requires you to not make nice with abusive systems. It requires you to rock the boat a bit and to take a stand on issues that are frequently political hot buttons. For too many churches, that sounds very… well, un-Church like. Too many of us think being “church” means being liked and all that standing up for something means standing against something and we just don’t like the thought of people not liking us because of it.