We are all familiar with the oft-quoted passage from Micah that begins by asking the question, “What does the Lord require of you?” The answer the passage gives is: to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.
What it means to act justly, show mercy and walk humbly will mean different things for each of us, but all of us who call ourselves disciples of Christ must grapple with what it means for ourself, must ask ourselves: How can I live justly? How and to whom to do I show mercy? And what does it mean for me to walk humbly with God.”
John Green tells us how he thinks about those questions in Streetwalking with Jesus: Reaching Out in Justice and Mercy, a powerful account of his ministry over the last two decades with Chicago male prostitutes. His book is a series of reflections on the questions posed by Micah. Green intends with his book to challenge us to “step off the tracks” on which we’ve been “chugging along,” to help us discern how be better make choices that will deepen our own sense of mission.
I loved this book. The stories of the men Green encounters in his ministry are heart-breaking. They are also thought-provoking, and both the stories and the material at the end of each chapter that comes under the heading “Digging Deeper,” (which includes links to songs performed by Green’s wife, which are well worth spending some time listening to, as well as passages and questions for reflection) encourage the reader to struggle with some tough questions. (And I confess, I continue to struggle with some of the questions that surfaced during my reading.)
The book also offers some important reminders for those who seek to live a life of mission. I’ll mention only a couple here. One of the most important is that our efforts may not always succeed. Working in the ministry he does, Green has ample experience with putting a lot of effort into individuals who, despite all efforts, can’t escape from their lives of prostitution and/or addiction. Yet, he continues his efforts. All we can do is do ur best to fulfill our calling; the results are up to God and we have no control over them.
Second, is that what those on the margins need is less our money than our time. That is not to say we shouldn’t donate to worthy causes; ministries like Green’s need cold, hard cash to do the work they do. But people also need someone to whom they can tell their story…someone who will show them that someone cares about them.
Third, is the reminder that all of our choices reflect “justice decisions.” Whether it is where we live or how we choose to use our time and our resources, we need to exercises an intentionality that involves prayer and discernment about the consequences.
Finally, is that the role of the prophet is to “point people to the present – to spotlight where God’s people fell short of His road map for living. Living a prophetic life is not about revealing the future (as our common use of the term “prophesy” might suggest), but about “highlight[ing] the way forward, by asking pointed questions that demand heartfelt answers.”
The book is worthwhile picking up for your own summer reading. As I was going through it, it also struck me that it would make a good book for group discussion or even a retreat setting. I highly recommend it for either setting.
I received this book through the Catholic Company reviewer program. Check out their site for other good reads or gifts.