Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Why Social Justice?

The Biblical mandate comes for social justice in these words: “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.” Isaiah 1:17

If these words sound familiar, but the scripture reference sounds out of place, it is because this idea is reflected in multiple places in scripture. This is a Biblical mandate to do good, to engage in social justice issues. The call comes based on the infinite value God places on life. The reality that Christ would’ve died even if only you repented, also applies to your neighbor.

We are to step in and fight for social justice issues based on the human value and dignity that God bestows. The value God places on the unborn, on the elderly. The value He sees in those with special needs, those displaced immigrants. The love lavished from our God on the trafficked, marginalized and undervalued.

I ask with Ann Voskamp in her book The Broken Way. “Why do we rush to defend God to a broken world, and not race to defend the image of God in the world’s broken?” This is not an area that comes easily to me. I could, as could you, repeat many stories of where my choice to be involved in social justice ended in pain. Jesus himself reach out to the broken and it ended in pain, and death on our behalf. And yet the call comes to be involved, to not let that pain be the last chapter in the story.

But even agreeing that we must be involved, the question comes “How?” I can tell you it is much easier to write a check to an organization than to get up close and personal. To salve the conscience pricks that come as a result of news stories covering Aleppo, or the staggering statistics of humans that are trafficked for labor or for sex. We are tempted to stay at arms length, to salve the conscience jabs with a dollar sign and a stamp. I am completely convinced in my heart that we must engage in social justice, yet it often gets messy. How should engaging social justice look? What is the appropriate manner to get involved?

Does it look like the early days of our church’s history and Sarepta Miranda Henry? This is the lady we credit with founding women’s ministry. Her way of addressing the evils of alcohol was a pray in at the local bar. The women showed up and loudly prayed until the owner agreed to close.

Is it softer and gentler like the church that visits a home for severely developmentally challenged children to brush their hair and hold their hand? These children don’t even know they are there, cannot communicate in words. And yet this church goes daily to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Is it joining with the six year old boy who penned a letter to the president inviting the shell shocked Syrian boy Omran to live with him? Alex wrote: "Can you please go get him and bring him to [my home]?" he said in the handwritten note. "We will give him a family and he will be our brother."

People shout to close our borders and to lock the gates. And yet immigrants are who we are. We are all ethnic. We as the church don’t do ministry to those dependent on us like benevolent Santas. Rather we learn from these marginalized people, and our hearts begin to beat more like our Savior’s. “The church isn’t white or American. The church is headed by a middle eastern Jewish man who never spoke a word of English.” Russell Moore, Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel.

It is so painful to wrestle with how to engage, because by choosing one place to step in, we are saying no to others. Our hearts break to know that because we dedicate our resources to immigrant connections, that we will not have the resources to help unwed mothers. But I invite you to engage in this prayerful wrestling. In invite you to sit down to ask questions and listen to the Holy Spirit. To formulate a plan that is as unique as the gifts God gave you. And in this wrestling to know what it looks like to follow the invitation of Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”

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