“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, NIV).
George Muller took this Bible verse to heart. As a result, more than 10,000 orphans in Bristol, England no longer had to call the street their home.
Muller didn’t start out following what the Bible had to say. By the time he was 14, he was known as a thief, a liar, a gambler and a drunk. But all of that changed when he was invited to a religious meeting and there, seeing the power of Jesus Christ, opened his heart to the Savior.
Muller took the Bible’s words quite literally. Many lives were changed as a result. He and his wife, Mary, started a work that transformed the times in which they lived (mid 1800s). He never went into debt to pay for their orphanage or the needs that the children had. He depended on a solid prayer life and believed every prayer would be answered. They were. Sometimes, remarkably, at the last possible minute.
Muller took social justice as a serious part of his Christian life. Should we?
The Bible tells us the answer, the only answer we need. Verse after verse tells us we have a duty to protect others, to defend the poor, to take care of the needy. The Old Testament is full of instructions on how exactly we are to meet the needs of others. Jesus made sure the message was continued in the New Testament, summing up the law in Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (NIV).
Man’s greatest need is to be reconciled with his Savior. In trying to do that, we often want to beat them over the head with the Gospel. We try to run our agenda up flagpoles for all to see. We even print our message on bumper stickers for all to read. Sometimes those things might actually work, but often they have the opposite effect than the one we are trying to reach them with.
So how do we fight for social justice without hurting our cause?
The simplest way is to love. Love was the reason Jesus came to restore God’s character to man. What had we misunderstood about His character? Simply that God is love. We can analyze it, dissect it, study it for hours on end, but the result will be the same: God is love. And if love is at the very root of His character, shouldn’t it be at the root of ours?
Love is not a noun; it is a verb. It is an action word. Being a Christian calls for action, not overreaction. It calls us to be faithful and diligent about caring for the needs and rights of others. Social justice is simply that—realizing that all people have rights and that each human deserves dignity, the same as we desire for ourselves. Isn’t that what Matthew 7:12 tells us?
Helen Keller may have been blind in sight, but she was wise with words when she said, “Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.”
Can we trust God to take care of injustice? Will His coming make everything right? Of course the answer is “yes”. Until then, we, as Christians, have a responsibility to care for our brothers, even though they may not yet see their need for a Savior. Because if we do, they may just see that need and find everything they will ever need in Him.
This article originally appeared in Accent magazine January-March, 2013.