Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1:17
Last time we began to talk about the repercussions of taking Isaiah 58 seriously, as student ministry leaders, as parents, and as disciples of Jesus. But where do we even begin to “do away with the yoke of oppression?” If you have spent any time at all with “poor” people, or homeless people, or people coming out of slavery—you have seen that they are chin deep in oppression of every kind. How much time and energy and money and focus and man power is that going to take?
So here’s my thinking. I am not a social activist. I have no formal training as a social worker. I am not at all attracted to things political. I’m in process and I am working this through.
First, we have to decide if this really is important. I mean are we willing to take this to heart and believe it and study it and make it a priority and work it out and do it? If we are serious about this, then what? Hopefully, when your church started their Children’s or Youth Ministry, they didn’t just throw a bunch of Veggie Tales coloring books and crayons on the table and call it a program.
As most of us know, Children’s Ministry is complicated. What works for 4 year old’s doesn’t necessarily work for 10 year old’s, or 14 year old’s. As a matter of fact, what attracts a 5 year old will very likely repel a 15 year old. So, obviously, there has to be a well thought-out plan and program and the right people need to be chosen for the right jobs. Yet, so often, when churches think about ministry to the poor, they just address the very surface needs without thinking it through. You know the old, “Give a man a fish and he eats for the day, teach a man to fish and he eats for life”…We would all agree that makes sense, but then how do we work it out?
I would suggest that, for one thing, we need to be willing to look around and see how others, both inside and outside of the Christian community, are doing it. It may very well be that the best way for you to have a ministry to the poor is to not have a “ministry” at all! By that I mean, don’t start something new inside of your church, but rather, come alongside someone outside of the church who is already doing it.
“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.” (Isaiah 58:8-9)
I so want that! Don’t you? I want that in my life, in my ministry, in my dealings with non-Christians, I want it said about my church—why do you suppose God makes these promises? He loves us. He wants good things for us! But these promises are linked to specific acts. Look at the verses preceding the promises:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (Isaiah 58: 6-7)
I can’t be sure, but I have a feeling maybe it’s because these acts of service—“setting the oppressed free” and “spending oneself on the poor”—are as much for us, the church, as for them: the poor, and the homeless, and the enslaved, and the broken, and the outcast, and the ignored. Because in the process of really and truly giving ourselves to the service of those who have nothing to give back to us, we are changed more into the likeness of Christ and our hearts are changed to more resemble the heart of Christ.
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
Redpoint features quarterly articles about human trafficking from VAST (Vineyard Anti-Slavery Task Force). This is Part 2 – check out Part 1!
- How Do We Break the Yoke of Oppression (Part 2) - October 23, 2012
- The Promises of Spending Ourselves for Others (Part 1) - October 10, 2012
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Hi Cheryl, I just finished this piece and I want to tell you how significant I think it is. I believe you are delving into the deep things of God. I think you are discussing the very heart and pulse of Christ’s ministry and God’s concern. I read a piece by F.B.Meyer that I think you will really enjoy. I’ll include it here – “The compassion of Christ was so infinitely attractive to people because he never dealt with them in a mass, but always with distinct individuals. Nothing hurts our philanthropy so much as the habit of classing men together under certain great divisions, and dealing with all members of a class on the same principle. In this way our finer feelings become deadened. We look at the forest; Christ knows every tree, nay, each branch and twig. We view the crowds as Xerxes did from the eminence of his throne; Christ is familiar with the bitter story of each human life, its tragedy and comedy, its hope and fear, its temptations and burdens, down sittings and uprisings.
We read in the newspapers that eight or ten thousand men have fallen in a single battle, but Christ knows how each man fell, the havoc the news brought into the home circle, and the bitter tears for one whose step would never be heard returning along the garden path. The woman that was a sinner, Nicodemus, Zacchaeus, were all distinct subjects of his thought.
The fountains of compassion would begin to rise in each heart, if we would begin to individualize the need of men, thinking not of the lame, but of the one lame man; not of the blind, but of one sunless face; not of the dumb, but of the one man whose tongue was locked; not of the flock, but of the one sheep which has wondered from the fold, and is in danger. Remember that the one lost sheep attracted the Shepherd, the one lost money-piece incited the woman’s search, the one lost child returning, filled the father’s home with mirth. F.B. Meyer.
I think your point about joining a group that is already doing a work might always be the way to begin, working in another’s vineyard will doubtless lead to a small plot of your own. I see you are working in Anti-trafficking, surely the most grievous sin, I wish you all of God’s speed in this noble work. Thanks for taking the time to write this page. God bless. Fred Blauer. P.S. my blog is called Flying Embers, there are some posts on it I think you would enjoy.