When you hear the phrase “social justice” what comes to your mind? Do you picture people handing out clothes and food to the poor? Do you think of picket lines and people yelling with passion? Do you think of governmental agendas or laws and legislation? Do you see the face of Martin Luther King jr., Mother Theresa or___________?
No matter whose face you see or the situation that comes first to mind the reality is in this day and age these words are growing in importance. As our world becomes smaller, through news and internet, not only are we more aware of the needs of people around us but the responsibility to act on these grow. In this post modern world these two “hot-button,” jam packed words are taking almost a revolutionary thrust in the heart of both the general community and the church. This is not by any means new to the heart of our Heavenly Father.
Now if you were to try to look up the words “social justice” in your Bible you would not find the phrase. Like other themes or truths of scripture (example: the trinity) they are very real and abounding in God’s word but not linked to our terminology. What is God’s heart for the many issues of social justice? This is seen when God commands the Israelites to welcome outcasts, when Christ says to care for the widow and the poor, even the command to love ones neighbor as yourself is an act of justice. Justice is to uphold what is right and what is just. We hear it echoed in familiar but radiant verses such as Micah 6:8, “O, people, the Lord has already told you what is good, and this is what he requires: to do what is right, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” There are many verses that reflect God’s boldness and passion on these issues surrounding “social justice”. The Bible Society staff and experts who are responsible for many translations of Scripture today spent months debating and sifting through the Contemporary English Version (CEV) Bible to pull out the verses that say something about God’s attitude to poverty and justice. The result was more than 2,000 sections, with almost every page from Genesis to Revelation emphasising just and fair behaviour.
So now what do you picture in your mind when you hear the phrase “social justice?” Do you think of amazing and life changing mission organizations rooted deep in Scripture like ‘Kids Alive,’ ‘International Justice Mission,’ Compassion International’ or ‘Voice of the Martyrs?’ These organizations are daily creating a voice for those who may not be able to speak for themselves. But what about us as a church family at Bluewater Baptist church in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada? We are not wiping away tears of the faces of children who have not eaten in days. We are not collaborating with local police to stop human trafficking, we are not within arms reach of those who have just been jailed or beaten for their faith. How do all these Scriptures apply to us in our daily lives? I promise you if you are willing God will open up your eyes to the silent cries of this very community.
I remember speaking to a lady once who had a long heritage of living the Sarnia area. She told me that her mother always said: “Never go to the grocery store without putting on your makeup because you never know who you will run into.” Can any of you relate? Sarnia is a very tight knit community. I don’t think a week goes by where I do not learn of some new connection between two people who I thought would never have anything in common share through a mutual acquaintance. This being true the same can be said for the soft and silent voices of those who are considered the outcasts of our community, those who are marginalized and those who are hurting.
If you are not in one of those situations how do you begin to reach out in Christ’s love. Do you put a big sign out for an event or posters offering help? These can be helpful but they are the second step to the solution. The first has to do with people and secondly programs. God doesn’t want us just to put a bandage on the bleeding wound or feed the empty stomach or protect the victim but he wants us to point that person to Himself. The prophet Jeremiah recounts, “But I will preserve the orphans who remain among you. Your widow too will be able to depend on me for help,” (Jeremiah 49:11). The only way we can begin to direct someone is to know where their heart lies. To know their heart we must begin to know them.
So start today. Frequent the places you might think people of lower income might go such as: parks for kids to play, shopping areas, etc. Get to know someone new as you are out more for the summer and pray that God will let you know their heart. Remember, in a community like Sarnia, meeting someone who needs Christ’s love is as likely as running across a familiar face at the grocery store.
(Written by my compassionate wife, Daphne).