This week’s post is about justice and compassion. Each week during Lent we’re featuring a post by Indigenous Spiritual Care Chaplain, Lauren Sanders to support your own spiritual traditions and reflection.  

Lauren is a multifaith spiritual care provider, which means her worldview tries to be open-hearted, supportive, and respectful. Her faith traditions that power her caregiving are some combination of Christianity and Indigenous ways of being and doing. Lent is a type of season for certain types of Christians. If your faith tradition doesn’t have a “Lenten Season”, please join us anyway as we journey through this false-spring, where we swing between winter’s finish and not-yet-spring. We are learning how to rediscover our sense of wonderment. 

“Justice is what love looks like in public. Tenderness is what love looks like in private,” Dr. Cornel West 


“Justice is what love looks like in public. Tenderness is what love looks like in private,” Dr. Cornel West 

I put Dr. West’s tweet on here twice on purpose. Sometimes we need to read something a few times to let it seep in. Please allow these words to seep into you today. 

Love is a complex emotion and a hard-to-describe feeling with so many different facets. We have various ways to love. And, sadly, many of us have been trained to recognize harmful emotions or actions as love. We have to unlearn those toxic ways and learn to love ourselves healthily. 

A couple of years ago, my children asked me, “What is love?” (And yes, I immediately started singing the song by Haddaway…) My immediate answer at the time was, “That’s a really great question. I know how love feels, but I don’t know how to answer your question. Can I think about it and get back to you?” My kiddos are used to me answering like that so they nodded and went about playing. 

Scientists say love needs three things: intimacy, passion, and commitment. To answer my kids I said “a relationship, feeling warm and cuddly, and everyone in a relationship deciding to work hard to be a good friend.” Even if there are only two out of three components, we can grow other types of love. 

Justice and compassion (or what West calls “tenderness”) are outward expressions of our love for all humanity. I know it’s kinda weird and seems to be different than what West said. Compassion tends to be what we talk about in public: charity, helping, acts of kindness. Justice tends to be about anger in our society. A “no justice, no peace” kind of anger. When we lack justice or love’s outward expression—that commitment to “everyone in a relationship working hard to be a good friend”—then of course, we feel indignation, cynicism, or withdrawal. And when there’s no intention of or repeated denials of justice then anger, outrage, and frustration make sense…who wouldn’t feel that? 

When we communicate words like social justice, anti-racism, decolonization and such, it might sound watered down to link justice with love. If we are talking about love as only passion…yup, that’s a bunch of malarkey. When we emphasize relationship, passion, and commitment as hard work that we all are actively doing, then love has unlimited imaginative power. 

Our sense of wonderment about our global neighborhood compels and pulls us towards justice and compassion. Our senses of justice and compassion help us sustain curiosity and amazement in humanity. Love and wonder are in a reciprocal relationship; one helping to grow the other. 

In Psalm 146, the writer is in awe of God as love, embodying justice and compassion. This poem emphasizes certain words by echoing them. It repeatedly gives God names that describes God’s direct loving actions in public and in private to those who know God’s presence, and to those who don’t. Though the poet does not have much trust in any of their current rulers, the poet implies what we all could do to love each other.  

Below is my interpretation of Psalm 146. As you read, let’s spend some time reflecting: 

Psalm 146 

Praise God!
Praise the HOLY ONE with my whole life!
I will praise the HOLY ONE while I live,
I will sing praises to my God while I am yet alive. 

Don’t blindly trust leaders,
Or anybody really – There’s no help.
Their breath leaves;
they return to the earth;
on that day their thoughts come to nothing.
Happy are those who have help from the God of Jacob,
who have hope in the HOLY ONE,  

God: the Maker of heaven and earth,
Maker of the sea and everything in it,
Guardian of truth forever,
Maker of justice for the oppressed,
Giver of food to the hungry. 

The HOLY ONE sets prisoners free;
the HOLY ONE opens the eyes of the blind;
the HOLY ONE raises those who society tortures;
the HOLY ONE loves those who do justice;
the HOLY ONE protects 
those without homes, 
those without families,
and those without money,
again and again,
but makes the journey of the wicked tortuous. 

Hey y’all who love what’s holy:
the HOLY ONE will rule 
from time immemorial until forever,
your God, 
from generation to generation.
Praise God! 

Find all of the Lenten Season Series posts and more on our Ministry Resources page.