Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series on Tearing Down Strongholds. In the first installment, Michelle Melchor examined strongholds that perpetuate injustice. Today, in Part 2, we explore ideas on how believers can create a more just society.
Ericka was desperate for answers. Her special needs second-grader was struggling in the midst of the family's transition from Guatemala to the United States. She sought out doctors but the onset of COVID-19, coupled with the language barrier, only added to their suffering.
Ericka, whom we profiled in a blog earlier this year, was face to face with a cultural stronghold that can limit resources and opportunities for immigrants. Fortunately for her family, their connection with Cru® Inner City in Los Angeles led her to someone who could advocate on her behalf, removing that language barrier and shining light in their darkness.
As we see in Erika's story, once Satan's strongholds, gripping our minds and culture, have been exposed by the light of God's Word, we can join the battle of conquering evil by doing good. Paul says in Romans 12:21, "Don't let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good" (NLT).
Last October, Aaron Robertson, from our Inner City team in Minneapolis wrote a blog post, "What Does God Care About," in which he discussed the issue of biblical justice. Aaron describes injustice as using God-given blessings and resources for one's own purpose and gain, rather than for His holy design to help others grow and flourish. God's justice, according to his article, seeks to restore individuals and society to God's original plan of righteousness and peace.
Carl Ellis, an author and Provost's Professor of Theology and Culture at Reformed Theological Seminary, explains there is a two-fold expression of righteousness: personal piety, "doing right by God," and justice, "doing right by fellow human beings." In other words, justice can be seen as doing the right thing to correct the harm done by the wrong thing. This is not revenge or retribution. Two wrongs do not make a right!
In Exodus 22 and 23, God gives to Moses the laws of the covenant to govern Israel's relationship with Him and each other. The laws are not so much punitive as restorative, whether of property or personal injury. Special attention is given to the most vulnerable among them, the impoverished, orphans, widows and foreigners.
In all our relationships, we try our best to avoid causing hurt or perpetuating harm. But when it does happen, and sadly it will, we should do our best to bring justice to the situation.
Jesus told His disciples to be salt and light and let their good deeds shine out so that people would glorify the Father in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16). The Christian church has a long history of ministering to each other and to the vulnerable people in their communities — taking up collections for Christians who were impoverished by persecution, rescuing abandoned babies and children, caring for widows, the disabled and strangers. Many people were drawn to faith in Christ by the light of these good deeds.
Believers in the New Testament church were God's agents of justice for untold numbers of marginalized people in their communities. And so they changed the Roman Empire! Centuries later, we see that at work today as members of the Ukrainian church risk their lives to serve their neighbors as war destroys cities and families.
The first thing is to ask God to show us the strongholds in our thinking and attitudes about people in need. Scripture tells us not to judge, condemn and punish people for being poor. Unless I know a person's story and how they came to be in dire straits, I try to defer to God, because only He knows all about everyone and what His plan is for that person. Even if I do know their story, God is still the judge.
The next thing is to ask God to show us who are the vulnerable people in our homes, extended families and communities. Is there an elderly, disabled or mentally ill person in your home or family? Maybe there's a family in your neighborhood or church who is from another country and is struggling to find their way in a new place with a strange language and culture. They are now our neighbors.
Matthew 15:21-28 tells us about a Phoenician woman from Syria who came to Jesus, begging Him to deliver her daughter from a demon. The disciples told Jesus to send her away because she was bothering them with her begging. But Jesus, moved by her persistent faith, granted her prayer and delivered her daughter. All the disciples could see was a woman from another culture "bothering" them with her pleas for help. Jesus recognized a woman in great need with great faith. There are many people around us who have great needs with great faith and God wants to use us to meet their needs and learn from their trust in Him.
John Bump, a Cru Inner City staff member in Tallahassee, Florida, shared a present-day example of being salt and light. While cleaning up after a Boxes of Love® outreach, John heard a voice asking, "Hey, am I too late? So where's all the food, where's all the boxes?"
John's eyes followed the voice to Jonathan Hunter, a 29-year-old man sporting dreadlocks. As the young man rolled up in a wheelchair, John noticed his legs were atrophied from lack of use and, likely, poor nutrition.
He was clearly in need of food, but everything was already gone. The scheduled distribution time came and went, but a hungry man was still staring John in the face. After apologizing for not having anything to offer, John told Jonathan he would call several nearby churches to see if anyone still had a Box of Love®. He vowed to get back with him personally. It took consistent and concerted effort, but John collected enough food to fill a box, including a Bible.
Jonathan was glad to see him the next morning with the promised box in hand. He confided to John he had never had his own Bible before. He also told John he was struggling with addiction but unable to get into a recovery program. Jonathan responded to the message of hope John shared with him and invited Christ into his life. He agreed to meet for pizza and Bible study. COVID-19 kept them from getting together again but Jonathan did get into a recovery program.
Bishop Gershon Suan pastors the Coat of Many Colors Church in the Houston area. He named it Coat of Many Colors because of the racial and cultural diversity of the neighborhood he serves. In the first year of the pandemic, Bishop Suan encountered three widows, all with large families, laboring under the loss of a husband and much-needed income. As the holidays approached, the women had no way to provide a Thanksgiving meal for their children. Family and friends did what they could but their limited support ran out.
The pastor acknowledged there wasn't much he could do to ease the grief of a lost spouse, but thanks to his partnership with Cru Inner City, he was confident a traditional holiday meal would bring at least a few hours of comfort. Each family received a Box of Love, gospel literature and additional groceries from the church. All of the families prayed to receive Christ.
"Money's awesome," the bishop said. "It helps, but I think it was the meal that really blessed them."
God's solution to the injustice that results in pain and loss requires individuals and the Christian community to surround those who are in peril with divine resources to reverse their situation. So often we minimize, what to us, maybe small acts of kindness but they can make a huge difference in the life of someone struggling to make it from one day or even one hour to the next. I have a dear friend who demonstrates this. Although she's retired, she makes meals on a regular basis for the children who attend the after-school program at our church, making sure they have one good meal that day.
There are many ways we can be salt and light making meaningful changes in individual lives.
You don't have to become a politician to use your voice and your vote to seek justice. Everybody doesn't have to do everything, just ask God what He wants you to do, what He's gifted you to do.
Make sure you include the gospel anytime you can in everything you do. Jesus came to preach the gospel to the poor and He wants us to do the same.
|‘The collective power of the American people for good can certainly be exercised by investing in underserved communities and especially protecting those most at risk.’||The government, the church and individuals all have a role to play in bringing God's compassionate justice to fruition. It may not be the government's role to alleviate every social ill, but wouldn't it be better to invest in schools instead of prisons? The collective power of the American people for good can certainly be exercised by investing in underserved communities and especially protecting those most at risk.|
American Christians, individually and corporately, have been a powerful force for good around the world. Caring for the poor and the vulnerable is as much a part of the fruitful Christian life as prayer and Bible reading, regular church attendance and sharing Christ with others. In fact, it should be the natural result of growing and maturing in Christ.
Michelle A. Melchor is team leader for Cru Inner City Atlanta. She has served the ministry for 47 years.
Can’t you just imagine a world where Christians faithfully invest in the practical helps suggested by Michelle? Pass along this refreshing message by sharing her article on Facebook or other social media platforms by using this link:
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