I have a confession: I almost always feel way too overwhelmed by the gross injustice and oppression in the world, to the point of numbness. I turn away from news reports because my feelings of deep despair are too much to bear. Anyway, there isn’t even anything I can do that would make an iota of difference, it seems.
Yet my heart, my faith, and the Holy Spirit won’t let me rest there. The news of injustice is ubiquitous, and it seeps in through the God-made cracks in my being. My desire to be faithful, my desire to bring good into the world, my desire to be part of God’s kin-dom here on earth – these aches won’t let me rest.
Neither will the likes of Kent Annan, author of the book Slow Kingdom Coming: Practices for Doing Justice, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly in the World. In the preface, Annan talks about experiencing those immobilizing feelings of despair. He also shares a glimpse into the hope of the kin-dom coming, and the “freedom of faithful practices.”
Wait, what? Freedom? When doing the impossible work of justice? But then, when I think about it, that is the fruit of spiritual disciplines, the freedom in the Spirit to live faithfully, hopefully, and in capital-L Love. Okay, so I think maybe this book has something to say to me, and I read on.
Annan’s wise words are inspiring and hopeful. They are also a radical acceptance of reality. Not just the stark reality of how intransigent oppression is, but also the insistent reality of God’s kin-dom breaking in – too slowly for many of us, but . He offers “five faithful practices that can help us be committed to deep instead of shallow change.” They are: attention (“awakening to justice”); confession (“the posture for engaging”); respect (“the golden rule for helping”); partnering (“with not for”); truthing (“hard thinking and feet on the ground”). As profound as those practices are, the final chapter of the book is perhaps the most transformative. In it, Annan writes, “For the kingdom to come it’s crucial we lose to God our claim of ownership. Then we can be faithful stewards of God’s kingdom.” What happens when all of this overwhelms us? This is where Annan shares some thoughts about how to keep moving forward.
In this book, Annan challenges my spirit and faith. He reminds me that “when things around us are moving too fast, we can be committed to the slow work of the kingdom.” Especially with technology advances, everything moves more and more quickly. “But,” Annan writes, “this is a slow kingdom coming.” The practices he offers helps us to slow down so that we might be more faithfully in step with God’s timing.
To the very good practices that Annan invites us to, I would add a seventh: act from a place of love. A prayer that God has recently invited me into is this: Jesus, help me to love the world as you love the world. This prayer, as simple as it is, challenges me mightily. Because it reveals to me how little I love the world. How can I work for justice with so little love in my heart? So my prayer here continues: Jesus, please help me to love the world as you love us.
Read this book. It will help open your heart to God’s in-breaking kin-dom; it will help you to respond faithfully to your part in bringing God’s kin-dom to its fullness. This book has profound insights and wisdom that will change the way you work for justice. It will help you to do the work in the freedom of the Spirit. Read this book.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.