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Justice for Christ’s Sake: A personal journey around justice through the eyes of faith by James Jones

by
14 January 2022

Peter Selby considers recollections relating to the pursuit of justice

DELIBERATELY, no doubt, what the title means depends on tone of voice. There is angry demand in this book, a record of campaigns and outrage at justice delayed and denied. But mostly the anger is the justified anger of those whom the author has encountered in his “journey around justice”, rather than his own.

James Jones shares the fruit of his lockdown reflection on a hugely varied ministry. We read the roots of his life-in-faith, so that we see the issues and his participation in them alongside the poems, texts, psalmody, prayers, and the historical characters who have inspired and sustained him; and we do so in the company of members of his family negotiating the “It’s not fair” of life.

In the best Evangelical tradition. this is testimony offered by one constantly moved by the teaching and life of Jesus, a looking out on the world through his eyes, and therefore inspired by Evangelical social witnesses such as Wilberforce. There are contemporary heroes on these pages, supremely encountered through the decades of campaigning for justice for the Hillsborough 96 and their bereaved families, whose cry for justice was ignored for so long and remains disappointed. The account of Jones’s crucial pastoral work and leadership in relation to this will be what most immediately and rightly engages readers.

But, if the Hillsborough story will most immediately engage, and is what caused the author to be so profoundly respected by those many public figures with whom he had to deal, this is not a Hillsborough book. There are also accounts of his reflections on life in the city — Hull and Liverpool; on racism, on the dialogue with Islam, and on his engagement with the prison service.

We learn also of his journey into the issues of environment and climate change, significant areas of debate with and within the Evangelical community on both sides of the Atlantic. Some of his BBC Radio 4 Thought for the Day contributions are reproduced, and the sense of the personal and varied character of what the book describes is enhanced by the inclusion of photos.

AlamyBishop James Jones in 2017

A “personal journey around justice” will often be unpredictable and even disorderly, and this reflective testimony is no exception. Interspersed among the specific issues of justice are chapters on more general topics — suffering and mercy — and a chapter entitled simply “Jesus”, which sits slightly oddly in the middle of a book in which Jesus appears again and again throughout. But, read as a personal memoir rather than as a “theology of justice”, the book offers something deeply authentic here, and readers’ likely “yes but” response to some very direct statements about very complex questions will not prevent their finding Jones an invaluable travelling companion on their own journey around justice.

Decades ago and from a very different ecclesial background, Trevor Huddleston CR made the point that he had not become involved in opposing apartheid as part of a plan for political witness, but because he went to Sophiatown as a pastor, and as a pastor he was obstructed, claimed, and ultimately affronted by what he encountered.

Jones has offered a must-read reminder that there is no Christian engagement with justice issues which is not rooted in a pastoral heart, in seeing in human suffering and injustice in their varied forms an irresistible claim on our energy and what must in the end determine the shape of our action. For him there’s a simple reason for that pastoral imperative: it is how Jesus looked out on the world.


The Rt Revd Dr Peter Selby is a former Bishop of Worcester.

 

Justice for Christ’s Sake: A personal journey around justice through the eyes of faith
James Jones
SPCK £12.99
(978-0-281-08625-2)
Church Times Bookshop £11.69

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