Gandhi and JFK Had It Right

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  This quote has been tampered with through time but the essential message is that personal and social change must be intertwined.  One person alone can’t change anything compared to a universal effort united behind a cause.  But it does start with one person taking a stand, much like Mr. Gandhi himself did.  “Ask not what your country and do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”  President Kennedy was calling on Americans to take an active role in building a better, stronger country.  I like to tweak and combine these timeless quotes and say, “Ask not what God can do for you, but be the answer to the  prayer you want to see.”

Once again, I’m expressing the need for personal responsibility and involvement regardless of the results on November 6.  We have seen this last week how political foes and communities can rally together to impact disaster stricken areas.  But it needs to be an all hands on deck effort if we are to see substantial transformation in America.  People need to care and think beyond themselves on a daily basis.

The book of Micah was written in the 8th cent B.C.   While Samaria and Judah were being taken captive, there is the promise of hope in a future King who would restore order.  Until that time, God’s people had their marching orders:  “…the LORD has already told you what is good, and this is what he requires: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).   It’s quite clear, we are to…

Espouse Justice.  This means to take up a cause; act or treat justly, equitable mannerWe are to DO right, not BE right. Quiz time:

  • Why did God destroy Sodom and Gommorah?  Not just immorality, but for their unjust treatment of the poor.  Ezekiel 16:49 “’Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”
  • In the times of the prophets, why did God condemn His people? It was due to idolatry and unjust treatment of the poor.  Isaiah 1:17. After deeply condemning Israel for their meaningless worship, God says: “learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”
  • How does James define “pure religion”? Not just personal holiness but just treatment of the poor.  James 1:27 “to look after orphans and widows in their distress”

We are to bring relief when we can and the need arises.  Food insecurity means having limited or insufficient access to food on a consistent basis.  This describes 1/5 Americans.  In Champaign County alone, it’s 13.3% of the population while 8.8% live in extreme poverty equaling 17,000 people!  The recession has added 1.5 million to the already 3.5 million homeless people. 1/3 are veterans, 10,000 just from the Afghan/Iraqi wars. Since the beginning of the 21st Century, sex trafficking has claimed over 300,000 victims. Well, the need is quite apparent.

Extend Mercy.  This is compassion or kindness shown toward another, especially an offender, or even an enemy.  “When he (Jesus) looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd” (Mt 9:36).  Jesus was moved with empathy for their needs, NOT disdain for their hang-ups, issues, and sins.  We see the symptoms quite clearly in our community: tense race relations, domestic violence, people trapped in cycles of drug addictions, alcoholism; broken families, and a consistent rise in crime, especially violent ones.  While we say we know the answer is Christ, how will people hear or know? Our silence and inaction becomes a death sentence for thousands of people.  We must be gripped with a passionate love that sees past the imperfections and rough edges and embrace those with different experiences than our own.  Do we dare empathize with people, trying to understand  the context of their struggles and say “I’m willing to face them with you?”  It’s time to be His hands, go where He would go, and demonstrate His amazing love.

Exemplify Humility.  Can our egos afford to make ourselves low in rank and lesser in the public eye; where pride and arrogance are destroyed?  Unfortunately, the Body of Christ isn’t known for being humble or Christlike, not in America anyway.  People know what we’re against but not what we’re for.  Our description is bigoted, highly opinionated, self-righteous, and condemning of people just trying to live their lives.  At the slightest challenge, we claim persecution.  We claim “our good is being ill spoken of.”  NO, our stupidity and foolishness being exploited and Christ gets a bad name.  Yes, we’ll be attacked but let it be because we’re serving God’s agenda not our own.  When Jesus was attacked He didn’t defend Himself, answer or strike back, demand His rights, or strive try to be right!  Only to be a servant.

We must reflect His gentleness, meekness, and love.  Let’s not forget the often overlooked ingredient:  Jesus fed the poor, healed the sick, and comforted the hurting all for one purpose…revealing God…His Glory, Love, and Redemption!

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