My family and I went to Park Cities Presbyterian Church Sunday morning instead of our usual Sunday church, Chase Oaks Church. I hadn’t been to a Presbyterian church since college when I only went when I was paid to play my flute every once in a while. I always left right after worship.
The worship consisted of congregational readings, hymns sung from a hymnal, a time to reflect on our week and confess any sins that we had committed and a lengthy prayer time for the different members of the body. Actually, I really enjoyed it and thought it was easy to feel close to God. (More on that in another post, I’m sure.)
I went to this church because Gary Haugen, the president of the International Justice Mission, was speaking. I’ve read his book, “Good News about Injustice,” have his other book, “Terrify No More” on my books-to-get list, and am trying to find a group of high school or college-aged students to let me lead them through the Justice Mission curriculum. Gary Haugen is one of those guys who you see really being the hands and feet of Christ in this world. Because of this, I think of him as larger than life, more capable than I to do this kind of work, a man being pretty close to aligning his heart and his life with the heart of Jesus.
So I was totally intimidated when I walked into the sanctuary and laid eyes on him. I was slightly worried that he’d see me as a wanna-be abolitionist and not be able to recognize that, like him, my heart aches for the injustices of this world. Although, unlike him, I don’t feel like I do much about it. Actually, he was lovely, greeting me when the congregation welcomed each other. At the end of his sermon, he had mentioned that the congregation could read his book, sign up to receive prayer requests from them and regular updates on what they are doing in the fight against injustice in the world. After the sermon, I approached him and mentioned that I already do all that, but I want to do MORE. He gave me his card and said to email him about any further help I could be to IJM. To help you realize what a goober I am, I have been carrying that card around with me everywhere like it's a prized baseball trading card or something.
Mr. Haugen’s sermon was called “Unfamiliar Passions of God” and these consisted of God’s passion for the world and His passion for justice. He mentioned that frequently our view of ‘the world’ isn’t the same as God’s. God isn’t just referring to our shriveled world of me and my family and my friends, those whom I like and who like me. He’s referring to everyone. Even those who would kill us in a heartbeat just because we don’t believe the way they do.
He asked a very important question that has stuck with me. He said “How is this world supposed to believe that God is good?” How can they believe that God is good when their needs are largely ignored by the world? How can they believe that God is good when they are intentionally mistreated by those who abuse their power?
We all know that this world of ours stinks for some people. If you are reading this, you have access to electricity and education, unlike many of God’s children. We’ve probably all heard of the hungry people in Africa, the sick, the people in South America and Mexico affected by hurricanes and those in South Asia who are constantly rebuilding their communities after earthquakes or tsunamis ravage their land. But the need is so great. It’s huge. Can these people look around them and believe that God is good?
Does God have a plan to convince the world that He is indeed good? Actually Scripture says so. WE are the plan, and God doesn’t have any other plan.
What? ME? Yeah, right. What can I do?
To see Christ’s heart, the world needs to see His body. God has put His reputation on the line in the character of His people. Are we doing a good job?
To help us understand the kind of injustice that God speaks out against in Scripture, Mr. Haugen mentioned that he often feels as if he is a constant victim of injustice. He said that he’s in a hurry a lot, and when he shops for groceries, he makes sure to only get 10 items so that he can use the express lane. And sometimes, to his horror, he will notice that the guy in front of him has 13 items! That Gary Haugen. Such a funny guy.
Is this really the kind of injustice that God refers to in Scripture? The bible is filled with references to justice, often aligning it with what is right. Job 8:3 says “Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right?” Job 29:14 says “I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban.” 1 Kings 10:9 and 2 Chronicles 9:8 both say to “maintain justice and righteousness.”
Psalm 11:7 says “For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face.” THIS is how the world will see that God is good.
Injustice in the bible refers to the abuse of power by some to take from people what God intended for them to have. This is the same injustice that IJM is fighting against today.
A few posts back I wrote out a portion of Mr. Haugen’s book, “Good News About Injustice.” He had asked us to consider when the disciples ask Jesus to send away the 5000 people who had gathered to hear Him teach. They mentioned that they didn’t have anything to feed them. The disciples were looking at the large amount of need and felt paralyzed to do anything about it. But what they didn’t understand was that if they just gave Him what they had, the young boy’s lunch of 2 loaves of bread and some fish, then He could provide for all. It’s like that with us. I can look at the world around me and become paralyzed in despair. As much as I have exposed myself to learning more about these beautiful children of God who are suffering under the powerful abuse of their captures, I’m doing nothing to help them recognize that my God is good if I feel so small compared to the abuse that I resist trying to reach them. Instead, what I should do is just give what I do have to Jesus, so that He can provide a way to rescue them from their oppressors and prove how truly good He is.
As of today, I don’t have the skill set that the victims of injustice deserve on their side. But I CAN pray. I CAN educate others who may have been blessed with the skills needed to be able to plead their case before those who can administer justice. I CAN financially support those who are serving on the frontlines. And as my heart swells with compassion, I CAN pray that someday, I can gain the necessary skills to be on the front lines, actually seeing the people’s faces as they realize that God is indeed GOOD!