How to Fight Injustice with Love
- Thursday, March 03, 2011
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Mark Labberton's recent book, The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor: Seeing Others through the Eyes of Jesus , (InterVarsity Press, 2010).
Injustice is all around you in this fallen world. Every day, you encounter or hear about people who are suffering because of some kind of injustice, from poverty and crime to bullying and neglect. It’s easy to see people’s problems, feel troubled, and turn away. But you serve a God who chose to enter into people’s pain and take action to help them – and He wants you to follow His example by doing the same.
If you respond to God’s calling to fight injustice, He’ll give you the love you need to be the agent of change He wants you to be in the world. Here’s how you can fight injustice with love:
Realize that doing nothing isn’t a valid option. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that it’s fine for you to turn away from helping people when you sense God urging you to respond to their needs. Recognize that a key part of being a Christian is representing Jesus in a world full of hurting people who desperately need to see His love in action. Keep in mind that, if you do nothing about a situation in which God wants you act, you’re helping evil triumph over good in that situation. Also, God has said that you can’t truly love Him unless you also love your neighbors. So decide to live the kind of life God is calling you to live – a life of service – from now on.
Take an inventory of your current lifestyle. Ask God to make you aware of all the advantages that you have that some other people in the world lack due to injustice – from your ability to leave in freedom instead of under oppression, to your regular access to clean water and nutritious food. Notice how much time and energy you currently devote to helping out people who lack the advantages that you have in life. Consider what’s keeping you from reaching out to people in need: Are you pushed around by a too-busy schedule that causes you to hurry past opportunities to help others? Are you afraid that getting involved in other people’s lives will complicate your own too much? Does seeing other people’s pain make you uncomfortable with something in your own life? Do you feel so overwhelmed by the magnitude of injustice in the world that you don’t think you can do anything about it? Be honest with yourself and God about the factors that are causing you to neglect helping others as much as you could be helping them.
Ask God for new eyes and a new heart. The sin in this fallen world has given all people eye and heart problems, making it hard to see people’s true value and move beyond selfishness to the sacrifices necessary to respond to their needs. So ask God to open your eyes and help you learn how to see people as Jesus sees them, and pray for the love you need to expand your heart beyond caring for just your own needs so you can genuinely care about other people. Recognize that you’ll ultimately gain rewards from God Himself for making sacrifices in this fallen world to help others.
Change how you perceive other people. Ask God to help you stop separating people into “us” versus “them,” differentiating between people you know and love and people you don’t know or those you don’t like. Realize that you’re really connected to all people because God has made you all in His image. Practice looking beyond your own immediate circumstances every day to pay attention to other people’s experiences, asking God to help you notice their problems and prompt you to help them in whatever specific ways He’d like you to reach out to them. Think about people who our culture doesn’t pay much attention to, such as disabled people, the elderly, homeless people, and prisoners. Pray for the ability to value them as much as God does. Consider some global issues of injustice that concern you – such as child labor or sex trafficking – and spend some time researching it to learn more about specific ways you can personally help right the wrongs involved, from volunteering with or donating to a charity that works on those issues, to contacting government leaders about them and interceding in prayer for the people who are suffering. Humble yourself before God in prayer every day, asking Him to keep teaching you more about other people’s needs and strengthening your ability to see them from the right perspective.
Change the names you give to other people. Consider what labels – names – you’ve given to people, through the ways you think about them, talk about them, and act toward them. Realize that you’re constantly naming the people you meet in those ways, and the names you give them reflect how much you value them. Understand that when you give people names that they don’t deserve, you diminish them, causing you and other people to view them inaccurately. Decide to change the way you name people by praying often for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind, helping you to think accurately about them. Keep in mind that your saving relationship with Jesus has given you a new name, calling you someone who’s forgiven and free. Let your gratitude for the new name that Jesus has given you through grace motivate you to give grace to other people by saying and doing what reflects their real value when you interact with them.
Change the way you act toward other people. Decide to treat other people in ways that reflect the way God treats you. Keep people’s dignity as God’s children in mind whenever you interact with them. Let the suffering that you go through in your own life teach you how to feel more compassion for other people who are suffering, and motivate you to enter into their pain to listen to them, pray for them, and help meet their practical needs. Worship God regularly, opening your soul up to God’s love so it can flow through you to other people and help bring more justice into their lives.
Adapted from The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor: Seeing Others through the Eyes of Jesus, copyright 2010 by Mark Labberton. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com.
Mark Labberton is Lloyd John Ogilvie chair for preaching and director of the Lloyd John Ogilvie Institute for Preaching at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Previously Labberton served as senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, Berkeley, California, for16 years. Labberton received his doctorate in theology from the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England. He is also a senior fellow of the International Justice Mission. He has published articles in Leadership Journaland Radixmagazines.
Whitney Hopler is a full-time freelance writer and editor. You can visit her website at:http://whitneyhopler.naiwe.com/.
Publication date: March 5, 2011
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