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The recent and current “Black Lives Matter” movement has brought to our attention the legacy of the slave trade. Whether or not we agree with the protests, we agree that the movement has challenged us to advocate for justice in society. However, we may wonder: What can I do? I’m just one person. How can my voice be heard?
The voices of several individuals who advocate for justice inspire us.
Mother Teresa gave love and dignity to the dying in India.
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Gary Haugen founded the International Justice Mission, an organization that protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world. It is one of the most respected organizations in the world today.
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Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, published in 1852 several years before the American civil war. It has been claimed that she single-handedly sparked the fire that led to the emancipation of slaves, proving that, “the pen is mightier than the sword.”
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Most of us don't have the stature of these leaders. However, God calls us all to embrace causes bigger than ourselves—causes which are near to his heart. “Whoever is kind to the needy honours God,” wrote the author of Proverbs (14:31). Isaiah added God’s further instructions: “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17).
It breaks my heart as I pray for Christ’s tender
compassion and freedom to come to millions of street children in large cities. To
child labourers who are forced to work long hours every day with little concern
for their poor nutrition, health, and education. To workers who agonize in bonded slavery. To the
poor and orphans who suffer violence and abuse. To the 260 million believers
worldwide who suffer severe persecution. To those in my back yard who are
hurting and need Jesus.
In addition to prayer, God has compelled me to give to organizations such as the International Justice Mission, and then participate through such endeavours as sponsoring children overseas and writing letters to encourage persecuted believers. Perhaps my most dramatic engagement has been to take part in mission trips overseas where I met and encouraged persecuted believers and HIV/AIDS sufferers.
However, in the last year, God has opened up a new avenue: to write to these issues. (For example, I wrote a companion piece to this blog post which will be published in the upcoming FellowScript issue.)
As we accept God’s invitation to advocate for the needy, we will become sensitive to needs, both around us and worldwide. The more we comprehend how much God cares for the oppressed, the more He will empower us with His Spirit of compassion and mercy. The more we are filled with compassion, the more we will honour God, both in strategic or small actions—even something as small as giving a cup of water (or mug of coffee) in Jesus’ name. And the more we are inspired to action, the more God will use our abilities and passions to become engaged in causes larger than ourselves.
Gary Haugen said, "God has a plan to help bring justice to the world--and his plan is us." Let us join him in God's plan.
How has God challenged you to become involved in social justice issues? What are your roles in change, both in your ministries and in your writing?
In conclusion, my prayer for all of us comes from this poem.
O Lord, open my eyes
that I may see the need of others,
open my ears that I may hear their cries,
open my heart so that they need not be without succour.
Let me not be afraid to defend the weak
because of the anger of the strong
nor afraid to defend the poor
because of the anger of the rich.
and use me to bring them to these places.
Open my eyes and ears that I may, this coming day,
be able to do some work of peace for you.
The poet was Alan Paton of South Africa, who wrote, Cry the Beloved Country, published in 1948 at the beginning of the decades-long apartheid system that gripped his country.