The Rise Campaign, among other things, encourages us to engage in the movement of the gospel already happening in New York City. On Friday, May 20, my community group found itself grappling with the idea of engagement in a very practical way. That evening, a Supreme Court litigator and leading theologian got together and challenged our understanding of race, social justice, and truth. Not our typical Friday night. The occasion was Grace, Justice, & Mercy: An Evening with Bryan Stevenson and Tim Keller, an event sponsored by Redeemer’s Grace & Race Ministry, Hope for New York (hfny.org), and the Center for Faith & Work (faithandwork.org). My group decided to go, largely at my behest because as a lawyer, I knew of Mr. Stevenson’s work at the Equal Justice Initiative (eji.org) defending inmates on death row. It wasn’t until we arrived at the sold-out event that I realized the universal relevance of this topic, and for two hours Christians and non-Christians from across industries and backgrounds gathered to jointly consider the idea of social justice.
To start, Dr. Keller pointed to God’s unequivocal call for all Christians to work towards justice and practice radical generosity, as modeled by Jesus. Mr. Stevenson then presented tangible ways we could (and should) create justice, by getting proximate to those who are poor, changing narratives around black and brown people to uplift the powerless, hoping boldly in restoration, and embracing truth and reconciliation in this broken world. At the end, Dr. Pamela Brown-Peterside moderated an active Q&A where both the speakers and audience grappled with the practical realities of social and racial restoration, particularly at Redeemer.
At the reception afterwards, my community group discussed how our Manhattan bubbles, for better or for worse, insulate us from the brokenness that Stevenson’s clients endure on a daily basis. This sobering understanding, in conjunction with the Bible’s call to action, spurred our group to “get proximate,” and that night we met representatives from Open Hands Legal Services, Defy Ventures, and Exodus Transitional Community — three HFNY Affiliates actively pursuing justice and restoration in our city. As a group, we decided to prioritize volunteering through HFNY and aspire to find an organization we can volunteer with regularly, to set roots somewhere and commit ourselves to renewal.
So, what does it mean for groups like ours to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God? We are not sure yet, but we are determined to find out, first, by getting proximate. As children of God, our calling to work towards social justice is daunting and clear, but I am so thankful that we can boldly cling to the hope of God’s providence, grace, and mercy throughout the process.
A video of the event is available at redeemer.com/graceandrace.