Speaking Against Injustice – 7/23/17

“Speaking Against Injustice”    07/23/17

We see throughout Scripture that God is just, that God desires justice for the poor, and that God calls His people to work for justice.  This means not only acting justly as individuals but seeking to make our systems just.  It means not just feeding the hungry but asking why there is hunger and what can be done to end it.  It means not only helping the poor but addressing the reasons we have poverty.  It has to do with laws and oppression.

Isaiah 10:1–2  Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.

Spoken to the leaders of Israel

Taking advantage of people who could not defend their rights

Because of this behavior, the nation would go into captivity – Assyrian conquest

There is a story about a village which was overtaken by enemy forces. All of the warriors who inhabited the village were gathered together and imprisoned by the conquerors.

Amidst the villagers were four philanthropists who became aware of the prison conditions that their compatriots were enduring. The first philanthropist went to the prison and said to the captors, “I understand that my brothers are without clean water. I want to take all my riches, and use them to purify the water, so that my brothers will have clean water, that they will not get sick.” The captors agreed and granted the man this right. He walked away, glad that he had been able to show this act of charity for his brothers.

The second philanthropist went to the prison, and approached the captors, saying “I understand my brothers are sleeping on rocks. I want to take all my riches, and provide bedding for the men, so they may rest comfortably in prison.” The captors agreed, and the man left, feeling that he had fulfilled his purpose in aiding his brothers’ plight.

The third philanthropist went to the prison, and spoke to the captors, saying “I have heard that my brothers have no food. They have only bread and water. I have a large farm, and want to harvest all my crops to see that the men have good food to eat while they are in prison.” The captors agreed, and the philanthropist left, knowing he had done much good in helping his brothers in prison.

The fourth philanthropist though heartened by the acts of the other three, was disturbed that his brothers remained unfairly imprisoned. So he found the keys to the prison, and one night, he slipped into the prison and freed all his brothers from their captivity.

The four philanthropists show us the difference between mercy and justice. The first three engaged in acts of mercy. They certainly came to the aid of their brothers and made their difficult circumstances more comfortable, but they did nothing to change the unjust situation. The fourth philanthropist acted to change the unjust situation, not just the circumstances. He acted to pursue justice and not simply mercy.

The prophet Isaiah speaks out against:

Unjust laws

.Procedures which make it more difficult for certain groups of people to have something they have a right to – voting laws which make it difficult or impossible for certain people to register, laws which inhibit free speech, which bypass due process, which allow unfair hiring practices.  Remember the struggles of the civil rights movement?  It was often Christians who were leaders in changing the unjust laws which deprived people of equal access.

Oppressive decrees

Laws which lead to unequal access to medical care, legal protection, and education

Deprive the poor of rights

Exodus 23:6 “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits.

Withhold justice from the oppressed

Is it possible for a small group of people to make a difference to the practises of multinational corporations? In at least some cases it is, as was proven by a group of sociology students from Eastern College in the USA. Set an assignment in which they were asked how a small group of Christians could bring about significant social change these students focussed upon the practises of the Gulf and Western Corporation in the impoverished country of Haiti. Their proposal was so audacious one of the students said “why don’t we do it?”. Why not take this beyond a college paper and actually put their proposal into action?

Their method was simple. Along with their professor, Tony Campolo, each student purchased a share in Gulf and Western and showed up to the annual general meeting. As shareholders they were entitled to have a say in the running of the company, and one by one stood up, read passages from the bible that condemned injustice, then asked why Gulf and Western was treating the people of Haiti unjustly. They wanted the company to address the issue of low wages for the sugar workers, to do something about the fact that they’d made the country more and more dependent on a single crop, and to provide education and medical services for the people.

The purpose was to shame the directors into action, and they were effective. The directors of Gulf and Western invited the students to meet to talk the issues over. Eighteen months later Gulf and Western released a plan to act in a socially responsible way in the Dominican Republic. They would partner with Mt. Sinai Medical Center to create health services in Dominican Republic communities, would set aside substantial amounts of quality land to produce food for the Dominican people, and would institute a variety of educational programs that included working with Eastern University to develop a new university that would train teachers, lawyers, nurses, and engineers. Over the next five years Gulf and Western spent half a billion dollars following through on their plans. And the lives of thousands were dramatically improved.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

May we not passively accept the injustices in our society but speak out, naming it, challenging it, changing it.