It’s easy to think of social justice–otherwise termed social mercy and Christian service this past weekend–as simply a convenient, warm fuzzy-dispensing app or add-on to the OS of the Christian life.
But service is paradigmatic. It is, arguably, the OS. Service is the mindset with which Christians are duty-bound to interact with this spiritually and physically suffering world. Demonstrating love and mercy for those around us by not only preaching the gospel but acting out the gospel is the way that we show that we love God. While we are not saved by works, we are saved for a life of good works.
GYC’s commitment to service has been encapsulated in its “Spirit of GYC” for years: “An enthusiasm for service through care for the needy, service to the community, promotion of human rights, and stewardship of the environment.” The theme, too, was a natural segue from Pastor Kameron DeVasher’s appeal to be active in service in one of his evening messages at GYC 2011.
The event, held February 1-3 at Camp Au Sable in Grayling, MI, attracted a small group of young adults committed to studying this all-important dimension of Biblical Christianity. The weekend began with a presentation on hermeneutics by Pastor Justin Kim, and continued on to a symposium featuring short presentations on theological, historical, and practical aspects of the topic, and concluded with Pastor DeVasher’s messages on the example of Christ and exigency of Adventists being concerned with social justice.
Attendees themselves were able to engage in studying social justice by submitting book reviews, Bible-based reflections, and artistic pieces prior to the conference. They also gathered for small-group studies on passages of Scripture relevant to the theme on Sabbath morning.
On Saturday night, Michigan-based Adventist missions/athletic organization, Team Revolution, ran a collection drive for various Adventist outreach organizations, raising over $1,000 and collecting several boxes of clothing and other supplies. This effort gave attendees an opportunity to immediately practice the principles of service. (You can read Team Revolution Event Coordinator Judy’s report on the collection drive here!)
One major, albeit unintended, focus of the weekend was the connection between social justice and character. Several presenters’ conclusions converged on the character-shaping value of sacrificing oneself through acts of service. For Adventists, the reality of the pre-advent judgment assigns character development vis-à-vis service an even greater value, as noted by symposium presenter Amy Sheppard. The imbrication of presenters’ conclusions, moreover, demonstrates the beauty and resulting unity of studying the Bible from a shared hermeneutical perspective.
The aim of GYC Studies is to lead Adventist young adults to critically examine and redefine issues and topics through the uniquely Adventist sola-tota-prima scriptura hermeneutic. This initial gathering marks a groundbreaking effort by young people, and continues the spirit of GYC itself as a Bible-based movement.
As GYC co-founder Israel Ramos once noted, “You are making history…You see, it has been thought to be impossible that young people in North America would gather together to study the word of God like we have done today…But we have made history.” When young people continue to study the Bible, that history continues to be made.
Audio recordings from the conference will be available shortly in the Resources section of the GYC website.