How do you respond to injustice in the world? Do you sit idly by, or do you rouse yourself and actually do something about it? Insensitivity within mainstream Christianity toward societal ills is a lightning rod among many younger people today because they tend to feel more motivated to become involved in various causes. Demonstrations, protests, riots and even rebellions and insurrections–all tend to historically be heavily comprised of a younger demographic. Following Jesus can, at times, seem simply like an older person’s excuse to sit back and do nothing when the situation is crying for action. But is this what God teaches us–what are those who follow Christ to do when confronted with injustice in the world around us?
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9 NIV)
Even a precursery study of world history demonstrates that from the beginning the United States has been the exception rather than the rule. Ever since Europeans arrived on these shores, devout people of God sought to institute rules of governance that honored Him and followed Biblical principles. We may argue about whether the founding fathers were true Christians or merely deists, yet it is undeniable that they were highly influenced by the general Christian principles of the day–hence the success of our Constitution, which has governed this country for over two hundred years. Yet according to John Adams this document “…was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” The Founding Fathers prayerfully conceived a form of government for a moral and godly society, but is that what we still are today–or are we something else entirely?
When a people–any people–give up on God, He gives them up to their own ways–to the misguided and sinful desires of their hearts. Romans 1 tells us:
“People did not think it was important to have a true knowledge of God. So God left them and allowed them to have their own worthless thinking and to do things they should not do. They are filled with every kind of sin, evil, selfishness, and hatred. They are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, lying, and thinking the worst about each other. They gossip and say evil things about each other. They hate God. They are rude and conceited and brag about themselves. They invent ways of doing evil. They do not obey their parents. They are foolish, they do not keep their promises, and they show no kindness or mercy to others. They know God’s law says that those who live like this should die. But they themselves not only continue to do these evil things, they applaud others who do them.” (Romans 1:28-32 NCV)
When a society rejects God is it loses its knowledge of Him–of what godliness is and how to solve problems without stepping outside the construct and protection of God’s will. Jesus voiced this principle when He said, “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matthew 25:29) When we read, study and implement Biblical precepts we thrive personally and as a society, and things get better; when we reject God’s ways even the good we once had is eventually lost. Human solutions to societal ills might be well-intentioned, but they are invariably ill-conceived.
Moses is a wonderful example of someone who meant well:
“Moses grew and became a man. One day he visited his people and saw that they were forced to work very hard. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew man, one of Moses’ own people. Moses looked all around and saw that no one was watching, so he killed the Egyptian and hid his body in the sand. The next day Moses returned and saw two Hebrew men fighting each other. He said to the one that was in the wrong, “Why are you hitting one of your own people?” The man answered, “Who made you our ruler and judge? Are you going to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Moses was afraid and thought, “Now everyone knows what I did.” When the king heard what Moses had done, he tried to kill him. But Moses ran away from the king and went to live in the land of Midian…” (Exodus 2:11-15 NCV)
God had not forgotten His people, nor was He indifferent to their suffering or oblivious of His promise to rescue them, and forty years later He did just that–through an older and better-prepared Moses. This time, however, God called the shots and the results were good.
The lesson of this story is that although Moses’ heart was in the right place–he was grieved by an injustice–he tried to fix it the wrong way–through murder. James tells us, “…the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)
The problem is not in doing something when confronted with injustice–GOD SAYS WE MUST STAND UP FOR THE RIGHTS OF THE UNFORTUNATE–it is in doing it the wrong way, rejecting God’s solution in favor of a sinful one. We must seek correction of societal ills through legitimate God-honoring means. I believe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.–and the countless legislators and officials who work within our legal system to effect a change–got it right, while Malcolm X, for example, did not.
Look to Russia in the early part of the twentieth century: a small aristocracy controlled the country’s wealth and the masses were starving. Lenin led the communist revolution which resulted in the execution of the last Czar, murders and deportations to Siberian camps of countless innocent people, untold destruction and a complete upheaval of the society before the resultant USSR recovered even marginally.
We cannot stay silent in the face of injustice or oppression, but our response must be of God, not from our sinful inclinations, or it will not end well. The Bible says, “All of you must yield to the government rulers. No one rules unless God has given him the power to rule, and no one rules now without that power from God. So those who are against the government are really against what God has commanded. And they will bring punishment on themselves.” (Romans 13:1-2 NCV) We must work within the construct of our democratic form of government to effect a change. If there is a societal wrong that is not being adequately addressed, or which you feel strongly about–get educated about the issues and work toward a solution! Run for public office and get elected, if you are in a position to do so. If you cannot, sign petitions or collect votes for referendums. Do not engage in rioting or violence–do not try to accomplish good through bad means; it will not end well.
Various other countries have suffered insurrections, revolts, and coups as a result of people trying to fix societal ills without a regard for what God says. We have, up until now, been blessed with relative stability because we have worked through legitimate means to solve our problems. May we continue to do so!
Help me stand up for the rights of the unfortunate, but–as with everything I do–help me do it in a way that not only legitimately effects change, but also honors You! Amen.