Last Monday was Martin Luther King Junior Day. A day we as a nation focus on racial inequality and injustice. We’ve struggled with this issue pretty much since day one.
On this holiday I often wonder what it is I should personally do to address race issues. I feel so helpless to effect any kind of change. And on a broader scale, what can/should I do about any injustice? What words should I say to others? What actions should I take? Are there ministries or movements I should support, or participate in? Is addressing injustice in the world a calling for some people, but not for all—not necessarily for me?
Three lessons landed in my lap last Monday that made me think more deeply about injustice.
I wasn’t looking for them. They just showed up on their own.
The first lesson came unintentionally from my own words. I always write my blog essays several days in advance and schedule then to go live each Monday morning. So in writing last week’s essay I had forgotten it was going to post on MLK Jr Day. It just so happens that in that day’s blog I had made the following observation:
God has deep feelings for the poor and those who suffer injustice. He has strong words for those who inflict this kind of suffering on others. Yet, He never puts an end to it. He promises an end, but He seems to do little to bring it about.
I wrote those words out of the fact that my own observations have seemed to support what Jesus said:
“The poor will be with you always”
(John 12:8, NKJV).
I wondered if Jesus would also say, “Injustice will be with you always.” Thus my questions continued about what my role should be in fighting injustice.
The second lesson I encountered last Monday showed up in my devotions. The book I’m currently reading is called No Longer Orphans by James S. Macchi. The section in the chapter I just happened to read, discussed our heavenly Father as being a God of justice. Oh, so though injustice will always be with us, God doesn’t like it, and He intends for something to be done about it. It’s His very nature.
Last Monday my blog examined Jesus’ declaration of Himself being the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (Luke 4 referring to Isaiah 61). On that very day I came across the third lesson in another Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 42:1-4. Take a look at what God says about justice in this passage.
1. Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;
3. a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.
Isaiah’s prophecy hints at how Jesus would handle injustice.
Notice verse 2.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street.
Hmm. Isn’t that what we envision we’re supposed to do in order to confront injustice? March down streets in media-snagging protests, cry out with loud voices at rallies, thrust signs skyward on capital steps?
This is not how Jesus dealt with it.
What did Jesus do?
He reached out to them directly. He met their specific needs in ways they could not do for themselves. That’s how he confronted injustice. Privately, compassionately, completely.
Look at this example in Luke 13:10-17.
Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.
But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.”
Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him” (ESV).
I noticed two things in the way Jesus confronted injustice in this story.
1. Jesus didn’t go looking for this woman. Neither did He ignore her when she showed up.
2. When He was challenged for healing her on the Sabbath Jesus spoke up. Again, He didn’t go looking for a platform. But when one presented itself, He used it.
We don’t necessarily have to dedicated hours each week to fighting injustice around us, but we can keep our eyes open and be ready when it crosses our paths.
Oh it looks rather brave, I suppose, and maybe it soothes our guilty consciences, to attend rallies—or should I say to pass along social media graphics of someone else’s words. But I have a feeling most people have done little to minister to victims of injustice the way Jesus did.
I wonder what inspires us the most: motivational speeches before cheering masses, or stories of people who are in the middle of it all, quietly making a difference? What effects the greatest changes: blocking interstates, throwing bottles, and raising fists, or serving soup while smiling deep into lonely, hurting eyes?
Now for the most part I’m probably preaching to the choir. Right?
We adoptive and foster moms have chosen to plunge in—heart-first—into the mess of injustice.
We are doing exactly what Jesus would have done. We are co-workers with Jesus joining what He is doing right now. This bringing the orphan into our homes is the most impactful way to confront injustice.
And it’s not pretty, easy, or glamorous. Is it?
Rather, it’s filthy, hard, and lonely.
Frequently, we end up at the raw end of injustice ourselves, even as we seek to free those caught in it. Like releasing a wild horse straddling a barbed wire fence—we might end up kicked in the teeth as a result of our brave efforts.
Even though it’s been almost 21 years since I jumped into the middle of it all, and even though I crawled to the edge of the mess as an empty-nester 8 1/2 years ago, the filth and stench still erupt in my face every now and then.
Since last Monday. I received an update on one of my children that left me reeling. I operated in a fog the rest of the day, cried all morning the following day.
But still God met me and spoke to my weeping heart.
Lord, I prayed, when You look at the debauchery in today’s world, how can you not turn your face away? The brokenness is too heart-wrenching, the ugliness too harsh.
He answered, Because I put all of it on my Son on the cross. At that moment I did look away. But because my Son took it all on the cross, I can now look at those who are steeped in their messes. And I can love them.
This is how we confront injustice.
(Not just for the victims of it, but the perpetrators as well.)
Confident in the God who will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth. And in our homes.
I know some of you have personally confronted injustice. In what practical ways would you encourage us to do more? Or maybe you’re not confronting it at all but are convicted that you should. In what specific ways can you step into this arena?
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