The purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence.
We recently moved into a neighborhood behind a high school with no through streets—a perfect place for our kids to ride their bikes. Or so we thought. One afternoon the kids were riding in front of our house while we looked on. Suddenly, a silver car, with squealing tires, fishtailed around the corner and raced past my kids down the street. Thankfully our children quickly hugged the curb to avoid being hit. No sooner had we adults remembered to breathe again, did the car return barreling around the corner with reckless abandon.
I did what any mama bear would do. I took the license plate down and called the police.
Within five minutes a police officer pulled up to our house just in time for the car to come once again around the corner. Within another few minutes, three more police cruisers arrived with quite a show of force. Children and adults alike looked on with the thrill and in relief of justice being served.
The reality that most poor people live outside the protection of the rule of law is a sobering one. Living in a place where someone will usually answer our call for help provides a subconscious sense of protection. Law enforcement is the invisible air we breathe. We have a voice and a right to protection, even from reckless drivers. We have the right to an attorney, even at no cost if necessary, and all of this is quite empowering.
Imagine not having a voice. Imagine not having an advocate. Imagine not having any law enforcement available to you. No protection. No security.
This is a glimpse into the lives of an estimated four billion poor in the world today.
The Call to Speak
God’s people have a calling to speak up. I once heard someone share his story of coming to faith and then feeling led to compose a personal mission statement. He then challenged each of us to thoughtfully consider writing our own. I took up this challenge and wrote down what has become my mission statement: I was created to know God and make him known. This mission helps shape my daily activities. My ability to make God known is contingent upon my knowing the character and mission of our Creator as displayed throughout all of Scripture, particularly in the life and ministry of Jesus.
If Jesus, our advocate, was sent to us to proclaim good news and liberty to the poor, captive, and oppressed, aren’t we to do likewise?
In the Old Testament, kings were urged to lead the people in defending the weak and the voiceless. In Psalm 72, we find a “royal psalm,” which is a prayer for David’s line of kings to rule faithfully. The psalm mentions judging righteously, defending the poor, crush¬ing oppressors, delivering the needy when they call, having pity on the weak, and more. This psalm, like Psalm 2, also looks forward to a worldwide rule in which the Messiah will fully execute this vision of peace and justice and righteousness.
When you read the prophets, you find that God rebukes leaders for failing to live out such a dream. Isaiah says, “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”
In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel records a charge received from his mother:
Open your mouth for the mute,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Old Testament scholar Duane Garrett comments on this verse, “The plea to ‘speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves’ is as eloquent a statement of the royal duty of doing justice as one can find anywhere.”
Very little information is available about King Lemuel, but the majority of Bible scholars assume he was a king outside of Israel. If this is the case, then this text underscores how all rulers are called to act justly and speak up for the voiceless.
While most of us aren’t kings, one can apply this principle to anyone with influence. If you have a voice, then use it for those who don’t—regardless of your position.
The book of Ruth tells the story of a widowed Moabite (Ruth) who meets an Israelite man named Boaz, whom she will eventually marry. Boaz shines as an example of manhood, justice, mercy, and advocacy in a dark period of Israel’s history. As Ruth tries to glean in the fields for food, under God’s established laws of providing for the poor, she remains dependent on Boaz’s favor. Boaz understands that Ruth is vulnerable and in Christlike compassion, he seeks to protect her and preserve her dignity and purity. Boaz tells Ruth not to go into other fields to glean, but to stay with his servants in his field. (Her mother-in-law, Naomi, later warns her about the possibility of being “assaulted” in someone else’s field.) Boaz informs Ruth of his protection saying, “Have I not charged the young men not to touch you?”
Boaz does the work of advocacy, speaking on behalf of Ruth, defending and protecting her from harassment and abuse. Professor Daniel Block says, “Contemporary readers will be struck by how modern this comment sounds. Boaz is hereby instituting the first anti-sexual-harassment policy in the workplace recorded in the Bible.” Boaz is another example of using one’s influence to defend the vulnerable—may his tribe increase!
…For the Christian, we should know and appreciate advocacy. For Christ is our Great Advocate! Jesus is the one who has acted righteously, and now stands in the presence of our Father to speak on behalf of those who haven’t acted righteously. Because we stand accepted before God, through the cross-work and intercession of Jesus, we can speak courageously. Because of Christ, we need not fear death or people. And the Spirit now empowers us to speak the truth in love. So let us advocate for others, as servants of the Great Advocate, for the good of the voiceless.
Excerpted from Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down by Tony Merida (2015, B&H Publishing Group). Excerpt written by Kimberly Merida. Used with permission.
Tony Merida is the founding pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C. He also serves as Associate Professor of Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. His books include Faithful Preaching, Orphanology, Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down, Proclaiming Jesus, and eight volumes in the new Christ-Centered Exposition commentary series (B&H), of which he also serves as a general editor, along with Danny Akin and David Platt. He is happily married to Kimberly; and they have five adopted children.
Publication date: February 26, 2015