Every church is different, but Satan has one tactic that trips up every congregation: fear. It is easy to justify not reaching beyond the building’s four walls and not subjecting ourselves to the judgement of man. It can be easy to ignore the commands God gives us to love our neighbours and put others before ourselves. So why should we make the effort to step outside of our comfort zones?
Philippians 4:8 (NIV) tells us to focus on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy, but what do we do when the injustices and unfair happenings right in front call us out of our cozy christian bubbles?
This topic is very relevant, especially considering what went down between K-LOVE Radio and the team behind Unplanned in April. Unplanned is a movie that shows how Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director, realized how horrific abortion actually is. The film shows the process of quitting her job and how she ended up running an organization that helps abortion clinic workers find healing. K-LOVE came out with a statement saying that they would not run ads for the movie, as the movie was too political and had an R rating.
The makers of this Christian film were shocked. The radio station reassuringly tweeted out that they “believe in the sanctity of life,” yet they refused to promote a film that supports just this. When I read that K-LOVE “focus[es] on positive and encouraging content that is safe for the whole family,” it did not sit well with me. What about important content that is negative and discouraging, yet may inspire the audience to fight for a righteous cause? When Christians fear controversial issues because of what others might think, we let ourselves get in the way of God reaching the world. When we focus only on the good, we become ignorant of the corruption God mourns over.
How do we brave the messiness of injustice? We need to remind ourselves that our lives are not our own and that obedience to God is how he requires us to display our love for him (John 15:9-11). Slowly but surely, we must consciously strive to align our hearts with God’s.
Have a heart for the broken
The Bible says, “guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV). Similarly, Psalm 119:37 (NIV) instructs us not to look at unworthy things. Clearly, God desires us to use our bodies in ways that honour him.
Although it is good to focus on what is good, it’s easy to use this as a justification to put on rose-coloured glasses and fail to address corruption around us. Being “in the world, not of it” is a popular saying among Christians, but I believe many Christians separate the world ‘out there’ from the power and potential of the church. Although we are called to be separate, focusing too much on this can bring on a sense of elitism and selfishness.
Learning more about God and fellowshipping with others are not ends in themselves. God calls us to be vessels that let God’s love easily flow through us. The good news is meant to, and ought to, be shared. Christ died for us; who are we to let our complacency hinder the life changing power of the gospel?
It is also important to see how Jesus handled scandalous matters. John 8 tells of the time Jesus was at the temple courts and was approached by the Pharisees regarding an adulterous woman. Jesus did not ignore the case or deal harshly with the convicted woman, but instead extended love. Jesus wedges his way into the situation, forgives her, and tells her to leave her life of sin. He was not happy to strictly abide by the law on the sidelines in order to preserve his image and avoid controversy. Despite the power of fear, Jesus’ desire to extend mercy was a far greater motivator. Disregarding what the world may think of him, he embraces the discomfort and uses it to point to his glory.
Don’t look away
If you’ve seen The Passion of the Christ, or read virtually any of the Old Testament, you understand that God’s word is not for the faint of heart. The Bible has it all—murder, adultery, slavery, prostitution, poverty, and war, just to name a few. God hates these things, but he finds a way to use them for his glory. Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1 shows God’s ingenuity, as Tamar (prostitute), Rahab (also a prostitute), and David (adulterer and murderer) were the predecessors of the Son of God. God intentionally chose to use broken people in his story, and we should do the same in our own.
Many times, Jesus tells stories that encourage us not to look away from injustice, no matter how degrading and hard the world may see it to be. The story of the good Samaritan reminds us that living life in obedience to God sometimes requires us to face devastating cruelty. This story also suggests that one’s religiosity does not necessarily correlate with their desire to help others. Although one of God’s greatest commandments is to “love your neighbour as yourself,” excuses abound when it comes to practicing this law. We are all in need of rescuing, and we are commanded to reach out to others the way God reached out to us.
In Mark 2, Jesus shows us how to interact with sinners. He doesn’t just converse with them; he dines with them, treats them like family, and sees their potential, despite their imperfect state. He states to the Pharisees that he has come to call sinners, not the righteous. The Pharisees chose to believe that their status negated their obligation to care for the least of these. They feared what others might think of them if they were seen with ‘those people’. Those we may see as beyond help or unworthy are the ones that Jesus decides to associate with. While Jesus does not condone sin, he sees the humanity and image of God in each individual and deeply cares for them. The Lord came to save people such as these. God commands us to have this same humble heart for the lost.
Lift your eyes toward heaven
It’s tempting to stay arguing about which earthy thing we should direct our gaze towards the most, but Paul instead encourages us to focus on the bigger picture. 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV) says, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” We must consider that what is happening around us has eternal, spiritual impact. We must think like God thinks: long-term, desiring permanent healing, reconciliation, and peace. We must recognize that it is our role to tend to the seed and God’s role to make it grow. His ways are higher than our ways, and it is best to trust him as he works things together for our good.
Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Every problem that plagues the modern world has a spiritual dimension.
Identity issues are some of the root causes of many of this world’s difficulties such as suicide, alcoholism, and sex addiction. These are all a result of the failure to acknowledge who God says we are. Pride and greed are also some of the root causes of many injustices, such as war, inequality, and human trafficking. These exist because we ignore God’s sovereignty and lordship over all.
But what can I do?
If we look to God and let him be our strength, we will have the power to face the issues around us. Addressing corruption can be scary and uncomfortable, but we have the God of the universe on our side. It can especially be daunting when the issues seem too large to even grasp. First of all, as Christians, we must wield two of our most powerful weapons: hope and prayer. Additionally, we can do things such as volunteering time at your local pregnancy centre, sponsoring a child, or giving food to a food bank.
But, maybe most importantly, we can also just be a friend to those around us and support them in their time of need. Jesus attracted broken people; we should also strive to have hearts that mourn with those who are poor (financially and in spirit). Sin has defiled humanity and has brought suffering to this earth. God does not enjoy seeing his children suffer. We bring a bit of the kingdom down to earth with simple actions and words of encouragement.
We must also strive to diligently peel away the layers of sin that trap us. We must examine our own hearts to see where we may be contributing to injustice. For example, something as small as pledging to shop more fair trade contributes to stopping labour and environmental injustice. In doing so, we can be forced to rethink our consumer mindset and better understand our true identity in Christ.
Through Jesus, God has shown that he is willing to go to all lengths possible to heal his people. Jesus’ life is proof that we ought to not live selfishly and let injustice pass us by. When God calls us to live righteous lives, lives that declare his love and healing power to the world, we have to embrace the fact that they will include facing issues that are disturbing.
May we break free from the shackles of routine and pursue true religion: looking after the vulnerable in their distress (James 1:27). May we let go of self and take hold of the power God gives us to make a difference in the world around us.
"*" indicates required fields