Archives For justice

Top Posts of 2010

Erik Cooper —  December 27, 2010 — 1 Comment

According to Google, these were my most read posts of 2010 (and seriously, who argues with Google and lives?). Since this is the week of top 10’s and best of’s, I thought I’d join the end of year festivities. Hope you enjoy a little stroll down BeyondTheRisk memory lane.

10.  Memorabilia: What Do You Hold Onto?

Our lives are full of memorabilia. Some trigger beautiful memories.  Some conjure up nightmares. [Read more]

9. Should Churches Ever Go Out of Business?

A question I still question if I should have even asked. [Read more]

8.  Should the Church Really Be Promoting Social Justice?

Glenn Beck made some strong statements against churches who talk about social justice. I tried to engage the conversation [Read More]

7.  Saying Goodbye

After 32 years, my parents finally moved from my childhood home. These were my nostalgic thoughts as we closed those doors for one last time. [Read More]

6.  The Problem with the Church

With all the condescending finger pointing and pithy diagnosis, I thought it was time to talk about the real problem with the church. [Read More]

5.  You Can Keep Your Hymnal

How often am I guilty of trying to relive the past? What are the “hymnals” in your life? [Read More]

4.  Embracing Biblical Values and Completely Missing the Point

Is it possible to love Jesus without truly following Him?  [Read More]

3.  Goodbye Maddie

Directly or indirectly, relationships will hurt you (confession: cried again re-reading this one). [Read More]

2.  I Hate When People Tell Me About Their Missions Trips

A trip to Honduras once again messed with our normal. What you hear from these two guys sums it up perfectly. [Read More]

1.  Fifteen Years Ago

My wife and I crossed a major milestone this year. This is my tribute to her (to us). [Read More]

Don't Miss The Point

Erik Cooper —  September 15, 2010 — Leave a comment

Healthy human connections are a vital part of developing a relationship with God.  We need people. We need the Church. We weren’t designed to live life alone. (Acts 2:42-47)

But it’s possible to be connected. To make friends.  To build your entire social network around the life of the Church. To pursue and cultivate solid, Christian community.

And not be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Knowledge of God’s Word is imperative for living a life of worship to the Creator.  The Word is truth. It’s our lifeline.  It’s living and breathing, able to transform. (Heb. 4:12)

But it’s possible to ingest a bazillion sermons.  To devour every Christian leadership book.  To fill our minds with endless volumes of spiritual information. To memorize countless Scriptures.

And not be a follower of Jesus Christ.

God’s people are concerned for the poor. They have a heart for justice.  To take on oppression.  To make a tangible difference in their communities, their cities, and the world around them.  It’s a Scriptural mandate, and the natural outflow of a heart truly transformed by God. (Is. 58:6-9, Mat. 25:31-46).

But it’s possible to volunteer.  To serve.  To raise awareness.  To take action against injustice.

And not be a follower of Jesus Christ.


Community. Knowledge. Justice. Without Jesus, these noble goals can end up leading to a lot of self-gratification and self-righteousness.

But as the outflow of an honest pursuit of Christ, they become powerful. Meaningful. The cultivation of true relationship with God, and the fruit of an undeniable connection to the Vine. (Luke 13:6-8)

So what’s your goal? Relationships?  Knowledge?  Social activism?  Great.

Just don’t miss the point.  It’s movement towards Jesus that matters?

“Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NIV)

Praying for Doctors

Erik Cooper —  August 4, 2010 — 8 Comments

Her name is Jasmine and she lives in a Honduran slum.  We met her on our first CityCom overseas adventure this past June.  She captured all of us (especially Mike).

Perhaps unexpectedly.

Not accidentally.

Jasmine is developmentally challenged. She can’t walk or speak.  And to complicate matters, her parents are mute (they can hear but not talk).  Getting an accurate understanding of her challenges was difficult, to say the least.

Through scribbled shards of paper and animated charade-like gesturing, Jasmine’s family was desperately asking for help.  And our compassionate American-Christian spirit immediately kicked into action.

We had translators on the phone with doctors.  Businessmen brainstorming potential funding for therapy.  Logistical minds coordinating transportation.

It was beautiful in so many ways.

And terribly sad in another.

The conviction of the Holy Spirit flattened me in the comfort of our hotel room later that night.  In all our rightly-motivated desire to live out compassion for this beautiful little girl, I failed.

Miserably.

As a leader, I never stopped the flurry of godly activity to do the most important thing.

Pray that God would heal her.

I was raised pentecostal (I know, there’s a support group for that).  And even though I think our particular church was pretty well balanced, I still grew up around a lot of “hyper-charismatics” (if I grew up around you don’t worry, I’m definitely referring to those other people).  People who wielded the Holy Spirit as a manipulation tool or to empower their own insecurity (hey, we keep it real here).  I mean really, how do you ever present a counterpoint to someone who starts every sentence with “God told me?

Over the years, I began to subconsciously distance myself from this unhealthy expression. And somewhere in the mix I also seemed to lose my belief in the mysterious, supernatural, and biblical way God longs to interact with our lives.

I stopped praying for healing and started praying for doctors.

I overcorrected.

Which actually made me incorrect.

I’m glad our team mobilized in a tangible expression of love for this precious little girl. It was the right thing to do.  I believe God works through medicine, and I know He equips us with the ingenuity and creativity to respond to practical needs.  That is His Spirit at work.

But I also believe in the miraculous.  And sometimes we simply reason Him out of the equation.

I want faith that embraces mystery.  That risks the unknown.  That expects God to intervene.

Do I have that kind of faith? Or will my faith only ever be big enough to pray for doctors?

Honduras Day 1

Erik Cooper —  June 13, 2010 — 2 Comments

Our first ever missions team from City Community Church started their trip with a bang.  Or perhaps more of a splatter.

After 24 hours in four different airports, a very close call catching a flight out of Miami, and 8 lost bags (which are still lost by the way), the CityCom “crew of 22” spent their first day in La Ceiba plastering cinder block walls.  Or, well, sort of.

Note to humanity:  learning to spread concrete plaster is an art form that cannot be learned in a few short hours.  I’m “constructionally challenged” to begin with, and this project did nothing to boost my self esteem.

For many, this was a first hands-on taste of abject poverty.  And even with time let me tell you, this is no acquired taste.

In this environment absent of anything resembling our American way of life, this team longs to bring hope. But standing in the middle of a Honduran slum, something that seems so unnecessary, so fixable, you get this uncanny sense that God is near. That His presence is tangible, even in what we would consider incredible discomfort.

And maybe even more so.

So after being here just a few short hours, I wonder what’s more likely this week in La Ceiba.  Will we bring hope into the midst of their poverty, or perhaps find some hope for our own self-sufficiency?

Maybe a little of both?  Time will tell.

I don’t think I was the only Christian to bristle at conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s strong statements this past week against churches that support, or even use the term, social justice.

“I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words [for Communism and Nazism]. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!”
Glenn Beck

I’m a white, middle-class, suburban-raised, Evangelical christian, so you can quickly deduce toward which side of the political aisle I naturally lean.  And while I do understand what’s at the core of Mr. Beck’s concerns, I think he’s wrong.  Or at best misinformed. Although I’m sure I could never out-argue a pundit of his wit and verbal capacity, I at least want to share my own personal awakening as it pertains to the issue of social justice.

People are broken.  And spiritual leaders, unfortunately far too often, fall victim to using their influence to manipulate God-fearing people towards their own human, political perspectives. There’s no doubt that some pastors push social justice, and the ultimate “God-said” trump card, to promote liberal personal agendas.

But so do conservatives pastors.

And rather than digging for God’s truth, we use Him as as circumstantial support for our selfish motivations.  We form sides aimed at protecting our way of life, rather than submitting to The Way that is greater.

Here’s the (probably) overly-simplified way I see it:  Conservatives desire to preserve personal freedom.  Liberals wants to mandate universal fairness. And depending on which side of the equation benefits us most, we go to battle.  But what if there’s another way? A third option?

The Bible unfolds God’s perspective, His ideals, His Kingdom. The way I read it, God is all about freedom and all about fairness. The catch?  What happens when free people willfully choose to use their freedom to serve one another?

“It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?” (Gal. 5:13-15 MSG)

Mandated justice never works. It spirals towards corruption. Even God Himself doesn’t mandate we follow Him (without choice there is no love).  That’s why I love America, because this freedom gives us unbridled opportunity to live out God’s Kingdom calling.  But only if we choose it.  When we willfully submit to serve, we truly become free. We willfully begin to make right the injustices that permeate the world.

Let’s be clear, the Kingdom of God is certainly not only about social justice (if it were, every secular Hollywood mogul and rock star would have achieved sainthood).  But to ignore the justice thread and call to serve the poor woven throughout Scripture is plain ignorance. Dangerous.  Incomplete.  A puzzle with missing pieces.  A stool with missing legs.

So here’s the ultimate question:  Are we building God’s Kingdom or just fighting to preserve a way of life? What are you willfully submitting to?

I don’t always like answering that one either, but it’s worth asking.