As we have been traveling around the west coast talking about injustices in our world and challenging us all to respond with action, there have been two themes that have surfaced. The first is that ‘doing justice’ is really about obedience to Jesus. To some extent, this obedience is universal, taking the words of Jesus and applying them to or lives. On the other hand, it is very personal, where we must ask God what it is He has for us specifically and then be obedient to follow through on what He speaks to us. The second theme that follows is that we can’t fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. If we are being obedient to know what Jesus said, hear from Him regarding our own personal journey, and obediently follow through, we shouldn’t be stopping to compare ourselves to others.
Easier said than done. We read stories and hear the news about amazing men and women who are literally impacting the world with their work and think to ourselves, what can I do that would measure up? There is no way what I do is as significant as what they are doing. Then, we fall back into paralysis, unable to shake the feeling that our efforts would not really make much of a difference. As we have shared these things at the Evenings of Justice & Worship, it continues to challenge me personally. It is easy for me to start feeling like the work we do isn’t enough, isn’t hands on, isn’t as good, but I have to remember that it is exactly what God has asked us to do and therefore it is significant.
A few months ago, I was reading through the book of Nehemiah and was struck by Chapter 3. This is usually the type of chapter that I would skim through because it seemed more like a long list than anything important. Nehemiah has just returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall around the city as it was in ruins, making the nation vulnerable to attack. Chapter 3 begins to tell the story of how the wall was rebuilt. Amazingly, it seems everyone and every tribe in Israel was participating and doing their part to rebuild the wall. It wasn’t just the masons, but even Hananiah, a manufacturer of perfumes, is listed as participating. When you get into verse 19, the people listed here rebuilt the section of the wall directly behind their house…and then their neighbor built behind their house…and so on.
As I read this, it struck me that every single person’s contribution was critical to rebuilding the wall, whether they could build an entire gate, laying the beams and bolting doors, or they could only restack the bricks behind their own house. God was showing me the impact that can happen when His people all get on board with the work He is calling us to do and do our piece, big or small. I think this is the picture of the kingdom of God, his people working together to accomplish something that seems insurmountable. God can use many small acts to make a big impact.
A few days ago, Chris and I went into Portland to visit Powell’s books. I picked up a book called Zealous Love: A Practical Guide to Social Justice, written by Mike and Danae Yankoski. I am only a little ways in, but they talked about the same idea in the introduction. It says, “Consider how Jesus speaks about even the tiniest gesture of love. Addressing those who cared for the needy, he said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matt 25:40). Jesus isn’t talking about heroic, earth shattering accomplishments, but rather simple – and even obvious – responses to needs: food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, acceptance for the outsider, clothes for the naked, comfort for the sick, relationship for the lonely. If a child scrapes her knee, you comfort her and get her a bandage. It’s not rocket science. Jesus is talking about obvious responses to real needs. Despite their simplicity, God counts these actions as services rendered directly to him.”
Imagine what it would look like if we all, as a collective group of followers of Christ, were obedient to the call to do justice, care for the orphans and widows, the sick and the lonely, the oppressed and forgotten, in our own neighborhoods and cities but also around the globe? What if we all recognized the significance of small steps, small acts that together paint a picture of a God who cares, who hears, and who responds? I know that I will continue to wrestle with how to do this well and walk through my day with eyes open, attentive to the needs around me and ready to instantly respond when God prompts. I just want to be an encouragement that there are no insignificant callings, no act of love or sacrifice that goes unnoticed by God. Let’s be committed, big or small, to obedience and trust God’s ultimate plan and the part He has chosen for us.
“All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it….some parts of the body that seem the weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.”
I Corinthians 12:27,22