Isaiah 58: 6 -9 The Message
“This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’
One of the passions God has given me is for social justice.
I’ve studied about social justice (sociology). I’ve read a lot of inspiring books and articles about it. I’ve wrote some papers about it (for my teachers’ eyes). And I’ve occasionally put my two-cents in on Facebook.
But have I really done all that much to actually help those who suffer unjustly?
Sometimes I’m not sure…
What is social justice exactly?
According to businessdictionary.com social justice means, “The fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice.”
Basically it means that everyone is treated the same under the law.
It doesn’t matter what ethnic origin the person has, how much money they have, what religion they subscribe to, or anything else–they are treated the same as anyone else would be treated.
On one hand, social justice can be practiced in so many ways–including everyday actions of kindness to people, especially towards those who feel like underdogs and outsiders.
This certainly can and does make a BIG difference in this world!
All our loving efforts ARE making a difference –even when they seem to be the smallest things.
When More Is Called For
But sometimes there are situations that we become aware of that seem to call for more.
We learn of a situation and feel strongly that someone needs to do something; someone needs to say something.
But the truth is, this kind of social justice work can be intimidating.
It involves risk and can require a large amount of perseverance.
It can seem just plain too difficult… and too easy to push aside and leave for someone else to do.
But if you ever get a strong feeling that “someone” needs to do something and this feeling just won’t go away, I encourage you to begin praying about how you might be that someone.
If you have a desire to help bring justice into a situation of injustice, I want to give you some tips and encouragement in your journey.
The truth is, I’m just a newbie at this kind of thing, as well. I’m in the middle of some journeys of social justice.
But here’s what I’ve been learning a long the way.
Tips for Bringing Justice:
Pray, Pray, Pray.
Honestly, I think this is the #1 tip for effective social justice work.
God DOES want to use us in a big way to bring justice, but HIS power is our fuel. Also, our relationship with Him is where our desire to help comes from. Prayer is what helps us access His power, wisdom, and direction and encouragement.
Without prayer, we likely won’t make much progress and it’s much more likely we’ll give up.
But with prayer, all we have to do is the little we CAN do (with His help), and He will do the rest!
I’ve seen some situations where I had tried and tried and finally felt like giving up …and I kind of did. It seemed the situation was not going to change.
But I did keep praying (when I remembered)…. and ……over time…. He answered those prayers and later we saw results!
So no matter what, never give up praying, no longer how long it takes.
God can do amazing things, even when you feel like nothing is happening.
2. Pray with Others.
Are you getting the idea that prayer is important?
Honestly, I think sometimes we try too hard to get things done ourselves, and what we really need to do is sit down and pray.
Yes, God could do things in this world all by Himself, but what He really wants is for us to partner with Him both in prayer and action.
Praying with others is also SO powerful.
Remember that verse: “Where two or three are gathered together, there I am”–Jesus (Matt. 18: 20 KJV)
If you can find other people who have a passion for your issue and are willing to pray with you, you may be amazed at the results!
When we take the time and effort to pray with others, God honours that.
3. Don’t get Discouraged with Yourself — Accept Grace.
In the face of injustice, we can feel so small and insignificant.
We can also beat ourselves up for our fears and any inaction on our part.
We can think we are not doing enough. We can feel like we are failing.
But God is pleased with even our desires to make a difference.
He is please with our prayers, even when they haven’t seemed to help yet.
And he is pleased by the actions we take, even if they seem to fail.
And even when we DO make mistakes (which we will), He uses them for His good purposes.
God loves us so much– actually whether we ever did a single thing to help or not.
At the same time, He does want to give us the thrill of working with Him to help bring justice to this world. He wants to use us to make a difference in people’s lives!
So when you stumble, falter or even avoid helping, don’t beat yourself up.
Ask God to help you accept yourself no matter what, and also ask Him for the courage to do what you CAN do at this point in your life.
The truth is that the road to success is always filled with failure, so just know that even when things are hard, God is there, cheering you on.
4. Use Wisdom.
Forces of injustice can be very powerful.
People’s self-interest (whether they are perpetrators of injustice, or anyone with power to change it) can make them very stubborn and not want to give in.
So it’s very important to prayerfully ask for wisdom when we think about how we might get involved.
We can have beautiful hearts and intentions and try to jump in to save the day, but end up just getting really hurt.
“It isn’t good to have zeal without knowledge; nor being hasty with one’s feet and missing the way.” Prov. 19:2 (WEB)
It’s so important to pray, to ask for advice from wise people, to get help instead of trying to do everything on your own, and to do things in a way that is wise.
And it’s usually best to take baby steps, and see where they go.
Here’s an example: someone may want to move into a poor neighbourhood to help those who live there–which is amazing!
But people have tried to do this own their own and later left completely discouraged and defeated. It’s much wiser to pray about your desire, to find a reputable organization that does this, and if it seems to be God’s will for you, that you find others who are interested in teaming with you. There would be a lot of other wise planning and actions that go into something as big as this, and it’s always important to do things with lots of prayer and advice from wise people.
5. Find Others who can Help You.
Often we feel like we have to do everything ourselves.
And sometimes, yes, we may need to take unpopular stands by ourselves… and find ourselves alone in our stand.
But often there ARE people who are more than willing to help you (and others who just need a bit of persuading.)
It’s so much better to join forces with others in order to gain wisdom and get assistance in whatever needs to be done.
Perhaps all you need to do is tell someone what’s going on, and they can take it from there. (They may need some gentle reminders, though)
Also, when talking with people who can help you, it’s important to remember to be respectful, and not forceful.
When dealing with issues of injustice, it’s so easy to get passionate and angry about it, and take that anger out on the people we want help from.
But this is just an easy way to turn people off.
Assume that most people are good and want to do what they can, and whether they are friends, family, or your local MP, treat them with respect, and you’ll find them more likely to hear you out…
6. Focus on the Solutions
Often people in power (leaders, politicians, bosses, etc.) here about problems.
And thought they may want to help, because they are human… they are prone to get weary as well.
And perhaps feel stumped.
And maybe feel way too busy.
So if you and your team can present the problem along with some simple solutions, you are getting on their side and getting that much closer to a resolution.
So pray and brainstorm some solutions. Then, after presenting the problem, make the potential solutions known.
7. Have Courage and Persevere.
Prayer is certainly the most important thing we do… and sometimes that important work is all that is needed from us.
But at other times, we may be called to have courage and step out a little bit and help.
That could mean writing a letter to make people aware of the issue.
That could mean talking with someone. More than once. Or twice. Or more (with respect).
That could mean doing a bit of research.
Again, it can feel discouraging when you muster up your courage and take some steps and not much seems to happen.
But keep praying and taking those little opportunities. If you don’t give up, something eventually WILL happen.
And remember to rely on your team for encouragement, prayer, and help.
8. Have Faith.
Often when it comes to issues of injustice, most people think that the issues can not– or will not–change.
They believe that this is just the way things are.
That it’s too hard to change people’s minds.
That the steps are too daunting.
But the reality is, that ANY injustice can change if good people will just pray and do something… and not give up.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke
For example, slavery in the U.S. seemed like it would never change, and praise God, with tons of prayer and effort– it did.
There are many, many examples of this. It may require some sacrifice, but if you have a passion in your heart for an issue and you are praying and even taking some action, you can know that God IS going to use your efforts for good.
Keep praying, keep believing, even when things look impossible and people look like they are never going to listen or change. God WILL do awesome things.
“It shall be done for you as you have believed.”–Jesus
Whether it’s soon (which I hope for you)… or many years later ..or even after your lifetime… your actions WILL result in good results, and many people will praise God because of you.
So go for it! Bringing justice to unjust situations could be one of the most fulfilling thing you can could do!
What do you think?
Am I missing something here? I’d love to know in the comments below.
What does it take to advocate?
Do you have any success stories of advocacy to encourage us?
Any struggles in which you need encouragement?