2020 has seen a global pandemic which has really highlighted the prevailing struggle, inequality, and injustice in our society. On top of this, recent weeks have shown a long awaited rise in the Black Lives Matter movement. There is a growing sense of being tired of unjust, oppressive systems and structures in all forms across the world. We are observing more random acts of kindness, generosity and solidarity, in forms of a. national applause for the NHS and more charitable giving to those most in need. Maybe 2020 isn’t the year where everything went wrong, but indeed a year where everything wrong was exposed and set right. This is exciting, and it is certainly worth pondering what it will take for such a future to come to be.
So, what is our place in this?
As followers of Jesus, what is our calling in this wild year which I’m sure will be stamped in the history books for hundreds of years to come? Too often, the Church remains quiet on matters of injustice, seeking to avoid being too political, or simply dismissing the importance of justice in the Bible. How often are you preached to about famines, racial inequality, or environmental destruction? What would Jesus be doing in 2020? Aren’t we called to be like him?
Will the real Jesus please stand up?
Jesus was a Middle Eastern, refugee son of a teenage mother. Jesus was the King born in a farmhouse. Jesus, who healed lepers, and befriended prostitutes and tax collectors. Jesus who said ‘truly, as you did to the least of these of my brothers you did it to me’. Jesus who declared that all nations hear the gospel. Jesus who loved hanging with the poor, who said the first will be last and the last will be first. Jesus who knew we would be hated for following him. Jesus…the Prince of Peace. Jesus who made clear that the poor are indeed blessed. Jesus who leaves the 99 for the 1. Our King Jesus truly fought against injustice, and oppression (Luke 4).
We live in a world sapped of real love.
What exactly do I mean by this ‘real’ love? People adore calling out other people’s failures and wrong doings, bringing up dirt from the past and using it in the present to condemn someone. This world knows an awful lot about sin, but nothing of forgiveness – beautiful forgiveness and life-changing redemption that flows from God. Why is this an issue? Because it covers up the ‘love’ that often fights against injustice, which is bred from a root of hatred and anger. Because it makes love conditional – with conditions being that someone fully aligns with your beliefs and values. It is this pursuit of self-righteousness and judgement that breeds divide and oppression and inequality. Real love is unconditional. How can we envision a more just and equal world in light of this warped understanding of love?
You might jump to petitioning the government or big business’ to change their ways and act more justly. Indeed, calling on those who govern our societal structures is crucial, but Jesus didn’t just question the prevailing systems – he really lived out his words in his life. It’s easy to sign a petition, write an email, or post to Instagram, and tick that ‘good’ Samaritan box. But it’s hard to go out and love the homeless, to send your enemy a birthday card, to stand up to your boss at work, or to be so radically generous to those around you, you find yourself very tight in your own finances. We cannot point the finger without first looking at our own hearts and ponder on how we are personally acting towards a more just and equal world.
Unfortunately, when people hear the word ‘Christian’, they think ‘hypocrite’, ‘judgemental’, ‘bigoted’ etc. This breaks God’s heart. It is our responsibility to change that response to ‘lover’, ‘humble’, ‘generous’, ‘peaceful’ and more. Truly, there will be those who still hate us for being such radical lovers – Jesus makes this clear in John 15:18. The crux of this issue is that loving people is hard. We’re taught that love is this easy emotion we can just chuck about, when in fact loving people is one of the hardest choices we’re called to make. ‘Be merciful, even as your father is merciful’. We, the Church, should baffle those around us with our love and adoration for all people.
All of that sounds a bit scary to me. It probably does to you too. That’s chill, fret not. This pursuit of justice isn’t fully dependent on our physical acts and impacts – it’s a heart posture. The Holy Spirit is our Helper, we can call upon Him to make you more generous, more bold, more loving. Mother Theresa said ‘we’re not called to be successful, but faithful’ and that captures why, despite this being scary, we should confidently and boldly pursue justice for God’s glory. So long as we’re genuinely pursuing God, we will become more Christ-like, and thus help build towards a more just and equal world.