justice: what love looks like in public

justice is what love looks like in publici am leaving today for el salvador for spring break with my family.  no cell phones, no internet, no tv. just us. oh yeah, we need it.  for this week, i thought i’d just share a post i wrote for christine sine’s lent series (the theme was called–easter is coming, what do we hunger and thirst for? and there are a great mix of posts over there).  enjoy the capital letters, too, ha ha.

this post also reminded of the series i did last year on the beatitudes so i put those links at the end in case you missed them.  have a great week!


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“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.”
– Matthew 5:6, NLT

“Justice is what love looks like in public” – Cornel West

When I was in high school and college, I was an activist. I cared about causes, paid dues to organizations that advocated for equal rights and social change. I was passionate and idealistic. In my early married years, a few years out of college, I started to lose some of that passion. I was the first in the my family to ever switch political parties from Democrat to Republican (yeah, I’ve since switched to Independent). I became increasingly more secure in my Christian bubble and began to pay less attention to wider issues. I instead began to focus on issues that the people around me were spending energy on–the erosion of the morality of America, the horrors of public education, and making sure tax money wasn’t spent on things I disagreed with. Even though they looked like worthy causes at the moment, the truth is that my support for them had nothing to do with anyone else.

They were all about me. My protection. My kids’ protection. My Christian-world’s protection.

I laugh when I look back at that season in my life, not to mock it but just to acknowledge that as different-as-it-from-where-I-am-now, it was part of my spiritual journey, and I’m really glad I’m not there anymore.

Then, I was not hungering and thirsting for justice. I was hungering and thirsting for a false feeling of safety and protection that I felt entitled to as a Christ-follower.

And it didn’t satisfy.

It actually only made me feel more afraid.

Deeply embedded in my thinking was “I must protect us from them.” It was for more focused on being “right” than being kind, on distrust than love, on self than others, on division than unity.

That was many years ago, and as I’ve grown up, my passion for justice–a more others-centered kind–has increased exponentially.

I love what Cornel West says–”Justice is what love looks like in public.”

What does love look like in public?

I think it looks like all of Beatitudes, not just one. Humility & radical dependence on God. The ability to mourn and grieve for ourselves, others, the world.. Mercy. Gentleness. Meekness, power under control instead of passivity. Purity of heart. Justice and the pursuit of righteousness and goodness. A willingness to be persecuted for love.

Yeah, love in public looks like sacrifice.
It looks like restoring dignity where it’s been lost.
It looks like humility and gentleness.
It looks like unity instead of homogeneity.
It looks like caring when no one else cares.
It looks like advocating.
It looks like diffusing our power and resources on behalf of others.
It looks like practicing equality across gender, race, socioeconomics, and host of other things that keep people over or under others.

All of these things are the Beatitudes-in-spirit-and-in-action.
They look like Jesus.
Reflected in the here and now.

In all my efforts to protect myself, I was not reflecting Jesus. I was reflecting Christian culture.

This Lent, as I reflect what I’m hungering and thirsting for, I am reminded of how easy it is to seek safety, comfort, and protection instead of brave Jesus-centered love in public. How easy it is to get sucked into power games, division, and building walls between “us and them” instead of opening our tables and discovering what we have in common. How much more familiar self-centeredness is than others-centeredness.

Self-protection, culture-protection will never satisfy, will never quench our thirst.

The scriptures say, “Why spend money on what is not bread and labor on what does not satisfy. Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare” (Isaiah 55:2).

The Beatitudes are the food I want to eat not just for Lent, but for every season of the year.

They’re what love looks like in public.

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the series i did on the beatitudes in 2011:

also, just a reminder if you or someone you know is feeling stuck & alone when it comes to past church experiences–we are hosting another “walking wounded: hope for those hurt by the church” online class starting april 9th. the last one was so beautiful!  all of the details are here:

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • Justice is what love looks like in public. I am going to use these words more often, not only in my speech but in my everyday actions. Good Word. Enjoy El Salvador.

    • thanks, laurie. i thought of you a lot in ES. now we have our flight benefits down there with the continental-ual merger so hopefully one of these days i can come down there and hang out with you!

  • When do we get to hear the story about you switching from Democrat to Republican to Christian culture warrior? What helped you figure out that voting Republican and posting lawn signs for “Yes on 8” were not going to usher in the Kingdom of God on earth?

    All that stuff is a handy device to misdirect us from the real issues, is it not (and a handy way for certain politicians to get votes and then do none of the stuff they promised)?

    • ha ha, “christian culture warrior”, that made me laugh. the #1 thing that helped me with the shift–being up close to the hurting, the struggling, the marginalized. that changed everything.

  • This is a really good post, Kathy. I think you’ve captured well a fundamental problem with conservative American Christianity. And I’m not immune to it. You have challenged me to think about my own actions and priorities. What is it we are really hungering and thirsting for? Whose kingdom are we really building anyway? I hope more people will have their eyes opened as you have. You’re part of what God is doing to help me see things in new ways.

    • thanks for reading, andrew. i’m really glad you are here. i am always so challenged by these passages; my love for comfort and security and ease is so strong and i find all of the time how much i want to have both. and how impossible that really is. this is that hard part, once we’ve tasted it, we’re ruined somehow (in a good way).

  • How is being concerned with the ever more debased and debasing trajectory of liberalism all about you and yourself?

    When you were concerned about the horrors of public education were you really only concerned about yourself and not about the children suffering through them?

    I read a lot of these lefty-Christian blogs and all of them share the same simplistic understanding that people who care about the issues that are important to conservatives are trying to use politics to usher in the kingdom of god. How ridiculous.

    The implication of your post is that conservatives just are not as mature and sensible and God like as you are and that their concerns are not legitimate as whatever yours currently are. It seems to me that you really should be more fair to those with a different point of view. If you are going to preach about justice being what love looks like in public, maybe you should start by practicing on those stupid, old fundies.

    • O.K. Virgil, you won. You got me to take a look see at your blog. Sorry, I won’t interact with you there or look again.

      Obviously you do not know Kathy and are one very angry person. What brought you here? Just so you could lash out at someone you don’t even know?

      I challenge you – Get off the internet and spend a year or five with the poor, those who have no hope, those who live under a bush, those who’ve been abused and perhaps you’ll get a new perspective on others. Perhaps you’ll get a real cause, not just bashing women and what you perceive as “liberals”.

      Kathy, if you delete Virgil’s comment, delete this one also. Now you know why I decided not to have my own blog.


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