Book Review: Just Courage

Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian is a book by Gary Haugen, the president and CEO of International Justice Mission (IJM), a human rights organization based in Washington, DC. A former U.S. Justice Department trial attorney, Haugen founded IJM to pursue justice for victims around the world caught in situations such as slavery, prostitution, or poverty caused by injustice. Haugen makes the premise in Just Courage that the Christian life is meant to be an adventure, but because Christians (specifically American Christians) choose to pursue comfort and safety, they miss out on the exciting life that God has for them. He says the answer for those seeking a life of adventure is to confront the violence and injustice that occurs around the world against the defenseless.

Just Courage is filled with accounts of victims of injustice as well as those who stood up for them.  There are also historical accounts of people who made a difference, such as William Sheppard, an African American missionary who helped document and end the atrocities committed by Belgium’s King Leopold in the Congo before the turn of the century.  But slavery is not a solved issue in our world, and Haugen highlights a number of cases in which IJM employees have freed people from slave labor or forced prostitution around the world.  These employees are often highly talented and successful lawyers who have given up lucrative positions in the U.S. in order to move to a third world country and protect the defenseless.

The part of the book that stuck with me the most was the question, ‘Would you rather be safe or brave?’.  An IJM employee named Sean Litton made a decision to leave his law practice and test the words of Jesus: You find your life when you lose it. He found that there were four things holding him back: Comfort, Security, Control, and Success.  When he let go of these things, he instead received a life of Adventure, Faith, Miracles, and deep knowledge of Jesus.  Just Courage makes the assertion that we can’t be both safe and brave.

While reading this book was very inspirational, there are next steps to take if its assertions are true.  The appendix to Just Courage contains helpful study guide questions, making it a good choice for a small group to read and discuss. There is also a helpful list of next steps that a person can take to be involved in pursuing justice through IJM. The actions range from something as simple as sending one email to pursuing a career with IJM.  There is a reasonable next step for every person, regardless of their vocation or abilities.

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