How do we respond to injustice? What can one person do?
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
- Isaiah 1:17
This verse can seem overwhelming, can’t it?
How does just one person work against so much injustice in the world?
If you’re like me you wonder, “How can I simultaneously fight human trafficking while caring for at-risk kids, the elderly, the homeless, and the refugee? How can I make a dent in cultural biases and ingrained racism? How can I work to end systemic evils, the cycle of poverty, and inequitable education…” And, this is only just scratching the surface. The burden of addressing the world’s injustice is so massive.
And, it is not gospel.
What do I mean? I mean taking upon myself the colossal task of righting all the world’s wrongs is simply not good news ( i.e. it isn’t gospel). At best, it’s paralyzing or completely overwhelming, and at worst it crushes me. But, the Gospel, the real Gospel, is good news. It’s a message of freedom and irrepressible joy, not of heavy guilt and ceaseless work. God’s very intent is never to weigh us down, but to release us from the shackles that bind us－even the chains of guilty do-gooding. So, what do we do with this verse? Do we simply get a pass because it’s just too much for us?
This verse is the heart of our God! He is the God who identified with the outcast, served the marginalized, and saved the misfit. This is how God treats each of us, and he calls us to do the same. We are to look like him, being counted with the lowly and holding all people in profound regard.
But, I’m only one person. How can I live out this immense calling?
Quite simply, this verse wasn't written to a person, but to a people, God’s people－all of them. In fact, it isn’t just a command, but a rebuke, written at a time when injustice prevailed, leadership was corrupt, the outsider was exploited, and the helpless overlooked. Sounds an awful lot like the world today, right? It was in the midst of such injustice that God was calling his people to be ambassadors of justice. And, this verse is calling God’s church to do the same today, not just as individuals, but as communities.
Surely you know of people banding together in the name of Christ to bring justice and mercy in both word and deed. There are ESL classes to be taught, soup kitchens to be manned, children to be fostered, racial divides to be bridged, elderly neighbors to be supported… you name it, it’s out there. And together, this is what we are called to. We are called to stand in the gap together, supporting one another, praying for each other, and spurring one another on to love and good deeds! When we distribute the weight of injustice on the body of Christ, motivated and empowered by his Spirit, it is a labor of love instead of a crushing burden.
Do you ever feel paralyzed by the enormity of injustice in the world?
How might working with other believers give you support and encouragement?
Natalie co-founded Dwell with her sister, Vera. Together, they're committed to helping others connect with God each and every day. Natalie also hosts our weekly podcast, Dwell Differently. She and her husband, Jason, live in Chicago with their 5 kids, where Jason pastors First Free Church.