BOOK REVIEW – Just Courage
by John Vooys
Just Courage is Gary Haugen’s description of the intersection between faith in God and social justice – the ways in which a relationship with Jesus should lead to a courageous involvement in the world on behalf of the needy. The call to justice from Scripture is made clear throughout the book – it is something in which we need to be personally involved, it is an act of worship to God, and it is a project capably overseen by God; this God has deliberately chosen to work through us. Before describing this call to action, though, Haugen speaks of the fight for justice as an opportunity – to leave behind the sense of smallness and purposelessness that accompanies life, both inside and outside of the church. Justice is, among other things, God’s means of saving us from small fears.
What precisely is meant by this term “justice,” though? Haugen first looks to the Bible to define “injustice”: the abuse of power, exercised to take from others the good things God intended for them. Therefore, “justice” is, among other things, working against those who perpetuate injustice. The cause dearest to the author’s heart is addressing the problem of aggressive human violence, as seen in the work of International Justice Mission. This violence against the weak matters because of how damaging and humiliating it is, but also because it is widespread, and very little is being done to stop it. To paraphrase his view succinctly – “The number of people suffering from injustice is roughly equal to the number of people suffering from homelessness, hunger, sickness, or lack of access to the gospel, yet we devote literally a hundred times the people and resources to the latter problem.” With this need, though, Haugen also identifies the hope we have that our efforts will be worth it. The book is full of stories of people whose courage in the face of injustice has had dramatic results – some historical, others from actual accounts of IJM missions.
Gary Haugen does not present a comprehensive theological work, nor a comprehensive account of the work of IJM; it is rather an exhortation, coming from a man who is living out the biblical call to look after the marginalized, and who has seen how this has changed his own life. The credibility of the author speaks volumes. This is a book to spark unaware or restless Christians – to learn more about how the justice preached in the Bible has been lived out in certain contexts, and to look further, to start seeing how God’s call to justice could be exactly what is needed in their lives.