Christians And Social Justice


A number of things that have become causes in the general populace here in America actually stem from teaching found in the Bible. For instance, the Apostle Paul wrote more than once that there is no Jew nor Greek in the Church. Clearly he was not supporting nationalism. He also said that in Christ there is no slave nor freeman—no economic barriers that separate believers. Finally, he also stressed that there is no distinction between men and women when it comes to believing in the good news of the Messiah’s coming.

In truth, Christians should lead the way in such social matters.

Once upon a time, here in America, we did. Christians were at the forefront of providing literacy for all, dealing with sickness and injury, freeing the slaves.

Of course, not all Christians got on board with such causes, but the fact remains—there likely would not be a Harvard, Princeton, or Yale; a Red Cross or a civil rights movement if Christians had not stepped up.

Throughout the Old Testament, God reiterates more than a few times that His heart is for the orphan, the widow, the stranger, the oppressed.

Sometimes God gave a command to the people of Israel to care for those in need: Exodus 22:22 ““You shall not afflict any widow or orphan,” and later Isaiah 1:17: “Learn to do good; / Seek justice, / Reprove the ruthless, / Defend the orphan, / Plead for the widow.”

Sometimes the direction came with a promise: Deuteronomy 14:29 “the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

Sometimes there was a particular command to make those on the fringe of society welcome in their religious ceremonies: Deuteronomy 16:14 “and you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite and the stranger and the =orphan and the widow who are in your towns.”

Sometimes God gave strict warnings about the judgment He would bring on those who did not treat the needy as they should: Malachi 3:6 ” ‘Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me,’ says the LORD of hosts.”

Jesus lived out those Old Testament instruction. He did not turn away the poor and needy. He fed the hungry and healed the sick. He touched the leper and drove out the evil spirits from the demon possessed. He didn’t make a distinction between needy women or needy men. He came to the Jews, but He included Gentiles who came to Him.

I think the Church today continues to care for the needy in many ways. I know of people serving in pregnancy centers, people who have been involved in prison ministries, others who serve among the urban poor.

But surprisingly, the politics of Christians doesn’t seem to follow suit. I’m thinking here specifically of globalism. I mean, the Church of Jesus Christ, made up of Jews and Greeks, also has Italians and Chinese and Puerto Ricans and Egyptians and Irish and Kenyans and Guatemalans and Brazilians. Why should we care if America is great again? Or great at all?

Don’t get me wrong. I love my country. I’ve lived in a few other countries and visited far more, and I do not see a place I would rather live. America is abundantly blessed—with natural resources, an ideology that has been informed by Scripture, and a people united most by our humanity. It’s a unique place, and I am happy to call the US home. For now.

But my greatest allegiance lies with God who is the Sovereign Lord. His Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom, according to Psalm 145, and His dominion endures throughout all generations.

As such, it seems logical to me that Christians should be far more globally minded than the average American. We should be far more concerned about the oppressed and the strangers and the widows. It seems to me that those issues should drive our politics, more than those who don’t know God.

In some ways, it seems to me that we who consider ourselves to be conservative, who believe in life for the unborn and that God didn’t make a mistake when He created a Man or a Woman with the gender parts He gave them—it seems to me that we ought to be leading the way when it comes to advocating for the needy, welcoming the stranger. Instead, it seems we have let those who do not believe in God usurp those causes.

What do we stand for? Merit-based immigration? Walls?

Again, I want to be clear. I believe our government should not be so naive or cavalier as to allow terrorists and criminals to move in. It’s not easy to discern who is in need and who wants to take advantage of our open hand.

But I think that’s the principle which should drive our politics. We should want leaders who will treat all people well—rich and poor, natural born and naturalized and strangers.

And by “we” I mean Christians. We should not allow American politics or the American dream or any other factor to override God’s heart for people in need.

Think about it. Ruth—King David’s great grandmother—was a Gentile. And a widow. And Boaz, a kinsman redeemer, came to her aid when she was most in need. What a picture of Jesus Christ.

Should Christ’s Church be less than a living example of His love and care for the orphan and widow, the oppressed and alien?

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Pro-Life Doesn’t End With Birth


Painting_Lhermitte-Les_Glaneuses-1898When abortion advocates first started down the road to change society’s view on the subject, they framed the issue by identifying themselves as Pro-Choice and “the other side” as Anti-Abortion. Some in the media still use the latter designation, but those in opposition to killing the least, most helpless, voiceless people—the unborn—prefer to be known as Pro-Life.

But yesterday I read an article that poignantly reminded us that Pro-Life ought not end with ensuring a baby’s birth. God’s heart, as He says over and over in the Bible, is for orphans and widows and strangers. In the Mosaic Law, He made provision for those people so that they wouldn’t be tossed aside. The principle was this: in that agrarian society those who worked their field were not to meticulously harvest every last grain or olive or grape. They should reap their field, but not go over it a second time so that whatever they missed, the widows, the orphans, the strangers could harvest for themselves—an undertaking called gleaning.

So before the people of Israel arrived in the Promised Land, God had in place a plan to provide for the people some today call throw-away people.

Unfortunately, God’s people don’t always reflect God’s heart. The article I read detailed an encounter a mom had in the grocery store. Mind you, she’s a foster mom as well as a mom to her own sons. She had her hands full. Her husband, who was with her, saw someone he knew, so got caught up talking. The mom decided to proceed to the check out. Here’s how things went:

The 7 month old I was holding got hungry and started clawing at my shirt trying to nurse. The 1.5 year old tried to grab candy that I wouldn’t let her have and starting wailing. (No, she is not spoiled. Sometimes, 1.5 year olds cry loudly. I promise that sometimes, regardless of how awesome a parent you are, they just do.) The 2.5 year old was trying to help his 6 & 8-year-old brothers put the groceries on the belt, and of course, he dropped the container of blueberries, which spilled all over the floor. To top it all off, I had WIC [The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children] coupons for our foster daughter, and I grabbed the wrong cheese (I swear it was labeled WIC approved!), so the cashier had to call someone to come figure it all out.

OK, pretty much chaos. She apologized to the people in line behind her, but one couple responded in a judgmental way:

The man looked at the woman and said in a voice much too loud, “Some people should stop having kids.”

Yeah, he didn’t know she was a foster mom. Now here’s the kicker. When she got to the parking lot and began loading groceries, she saw the couple get into a car with a Pro-Life bumper sticker on it. Now it’s possible that they bought the car used and the bumper sticker was already in place. Nevertheless, the point is clear: life begins with birth, so those of us advocating for the unborn ought not stop caring when they successfully come into the world.

As I was reading in Deuteronomy this morning about the gleaning laws, it struck me that God included “the aliens” in with the widows and orphans. It seems a little odd at first. But people didn’t buy and sell land back then the way we do today. Especially the Jews. They divvied up the land by drawing lots, and they were to retain those parcels in perpetuity. Should they sell, they actually would be leasing the land because at the Jubilee—every fifty years—the land would revert to the family that had received the parcel when they first arrived.

People from other countries, as I recall, were not part of this process. So they weren’t land owners. The best they could do would be to hire out as a worker for someone else. Or glean someone else’s land.

If God’s people are to have God’s heart, it seems to me we should have as much concern for the orphans—the foster care kids—as we do the unborn. But we should also care for the “aliens.”

This seems especially important at a time when we seem to be flooded with “aliens,” including a host of illegal aliens. And now, potentially, aliens from a strange land that may harbor enemies who wish us harm. I’m referring, of course, to the Syrian refugees our government is making arrangements to bring to America.

Some US citizens, including some Christians, complain. Why don’t they go to Saudi Arabia or Kuwait or United Arab Emirates? I’ve asked the same question. After all, we have our own immigration issues to sort out. Why bring in more people when we haven’t figured out how we’re to handle the influx of immigrants we already have?

But I wonder if these questions reflect the heart of God. I suspect not because here’s what God actually said in Scripture:

He [the LORD God] executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. (Deut. 26:18-19)

Later Moses instructed the priests in a rite to remind the people of God’s commands when they arrived in the land. First the priest would tell the people what God had said, then the people would respond. The first on the list were familiar, don’t make any idols, honor your father and your mother, but then tucked in behind Don’t mislead a blind person, is the command involving aliens:

‘Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ (Deut. 27:19)

If we look into the New Testament, we see Jesus commanding others to love their neighbors. And then the lawyer who had prompted Jesus’s statement asked a question designed to let him wiggle off the hook: who is my neighbor? Jesus responded by telling a story about a stranger. He didn’t cast the stranger as the one in need of help, however. He made him the hero of the story. The guy who acted like a neighbor was the hated stranger who put his prejudices aside to help someone in need.

That’s God’s heart. He cares about people. He makes it clear in Paul’s letters that those who follow Him are equal in His eyes.

So here’s the thing I realized this morning. In some of these places in the Middle East, it’s been next to impossible to preach the gospel. But as Syrian refugees stream into the West, they have the chance of hearing about Jesus, perhaps for the first time. We might not be able to go to the mission field, but God is bringing the mission field to us.

What a great opportunity for all of us who are Pro-Life!

Published in: on September 24, 2015 at 6:23 pm  Comments (8)  
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The Cost Of Loving A Neighbor


The_Good_Samaritan007Once upon a time “roadside assistance” consisted of some kind stranger stopping to help a person in need. I grew up watching my dad pull over to help a needy motorist with a flat tire or to give him a lift to the nearest gas station.

Once when we were crossing the desert (The Great American Desert, somewhere between Los Vegas and LA), my sister called for my dad to stop the car. She’d seen a little boy on the side of the road, she said. The “little boy” turned out to be a young man, but he was indeed out in the desert alone. With some hesitancy my dad agreed to invite him to join us.

Those were, in fact, changing times, when hitchhikers might actually be robbers or worse. The common wisdom had shifted. Motorists were to be wary of strangers. Someone who looked like she was in need of help might actually be bait for nefarious schemers planning to take advantage of kindhearted people.

More and more, “kindhearted people” began to disappear.

Now it is news when a stranger acts selflessly on behalf of someone in need, when a “finder” doesn’t turn out to be a “keeper” but a “returner” instead.

What society seemed to discover was that there was a cost to helping others. Not only were fewer and fewer willing to pay the price, we actually had public service announcements warning us not to try to be heroes. Don’t try to stop the robber or pick up the hitchhiker. Let the professionals handle it. Because getting involved is costly.

Then came the day when Kitty Genovese was murdered in New York with thirty-eight witnesses ignoring her screams for help. She lived for fifty minutes after the first attack. A more recent retelling of the event suggests that only fourteen people actually witnessed the attack and that several phoned the police, to no avail. Still, the horrific event stirred people’s conscience and had them asking whether we had become too disconnected from each other.

Some have even referred to the case as the antithesis to the Good Samaritan.

Which is precisely the point.

Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan in answer to the question, Who is my neighbor? The story revealed that the hated Samaritan who went out of his way, spent his own money, risked his own life, made himself religiously unclean, was in fact the one who acted like a neighbor to the mugging victim.

Loving a neighbor costs. Sometimes in rich western societies, it’s easy to throw money at hurting people. Certainly money can be a help to someone who can’t pay the rent or who doesn’t know where his next meal is coming from. But I wonder if that isn’t the easy out. We can write a check and don’t have to get our hands dirty or our schedule disrupted.

The fact is, the needy person might not be a random stranger, but the person across the street. The help might be weekly visits to a lonely person or doing grocery shopping for someone elderly. It might be volunteering to mow a lawn or to take on the watering. It’s hard to think about adding someone else’s needs to our own already overly busy schedule. How can we possibly love our neighbors as we love ourselves when we really don’t have time to do all we know we should be doing in our own family? After all, love costs, and sometimes the price just seems too high. After all, those people across the street are strangers . . .

Published in: on August 14, 2015 at 6:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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The Cost Of Loving A Neighbor


The_Good_Samaritan007Once upon a time “roadside assistance” consisted of some kind stranger stopping to help a person in need. I grew up watching my dad pull over to help a needy motorist with a flat tire or to give him a lift to the nearest gas station.

Once when we were crossing the desert (The Great American Desert, somewhere between Los Vegas and LA), my sister called for my dad to stop the car. She’d seen a little boy on the side of the road, she said. The “little boy” turned out to be a young man, but he was indeed out in the desert alone. With some hesitancy my dad agreed to invite him to join us.

Those were, in fact, changing times, when hitchhikers might actually be robbers or worse. The common wisdom had shifted. Motorists were to be wary of strangers. Someone who looked like she was in need of help might actually be bait for nefarious schemers planning to take advantage of kindhearted people.

More and more, “kindhearted people” began to disappear.

Now it is news when a stranger acts selflessly on behalf of someone in need, when a “finder” doesn’t turn out to be a “keeper” but a “returner” instead.

What society seemed to discover was that there was a cost to helping others. Not only were fewer and fewer willing to pay the price, we actually had public service announcements warning us not to try to be heroes. Don’t try to stop the robber or pick up the hitchhiker. Let the professionals handle it. Because getting involved is costly.

Then came the day when Kitty Genovese was murdered in New York with thirty-eight witnesses ignoring her screams for help. She lived for fifty minutes after the first attack. A more recent retelling of the event suggests that only fourteen people actually witnessed the attack and that several phoned the police, to no avail. Still, the horrific event stirred people’s conscience and had them asking whether we had become too disconnected from each other.

Some have even referred to the case as the antithesis to the Good Samaritan.

Which is precisely the point.

Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan in answer to the question, Who is my neighbor? The story revealed that the hated Samaritan who went out of his way, spent his own money, risked his own life, made himself religiously unclean, was in fact the one who acted like a neighbor to the mugging victim.

Loving a neighbor costs. Sometimes in rich western societies, it’s easy to throw money at hurting people. Certainly money can be a help to someone who can’t pay the rent or who doesn’t know where his next meal is coming from. But I wonder if that isn’t the easy out. We can write a check and don’t have to get our hands dirty or our schedule disrupted.

The fact is, the needy person might not be a random stranger, but the person across the street. The help might be weekly visits to a lonely person or doing grocery shopping for someone elderly. It might be volunteering to mow a lawn or to take on the watering. It’s hard to think about adding someone else’s needs to our own already overly busy schedule. How can we possibly love our neighbors as we love ourselves when we really don’t have time to do all we know we should be doing in our own family? After all, love costs, and sometimes the price just seems too high. After all, those people across the street are strangers . . .

Published in: on April 11, 2013 at 7:02 pm  Comments Off on The Cost Of Loving A Neighbor  
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