I have struggled for years with the term “social justice.” To make it simple, I have worked in places where people have taken advantage of our governmental system in ways that made me squirm. Watching people do this made me skeptical to the good in individuals. So today, I went to the internet to look up the definition of “social justice” hoping it would help me.
Social Justice is:
• inclusion of everyone in the full benefits of society
• empowerment of people to participate fully
When I think of it this way, it becomes a little clearer. Inclusion and empowerment are terms that I like. It doesn’t say the people are worthy of receiving the benefits, but it does say that we are to include and empower them within those benefits. I started to think about this. Why is it so difficult for me to work in soup kitchens and serve at food pantries? I am almost embarrassed to tell you why, but I am going to write it out because I think it needs to be said so that I can confront my issues about this. When I see people smoking or driving nice cars to food pantries and soup kitchens, I have a hard time understanding why they need the services. Judgmental, I know. I cannot help it. It sneaks into my mind and then moves down into my soul and I cannot let it go.
Inclusion and empowerment are words I need to meditate on. I wouldn’t turn away my best friend if they pulled up in their new minivan and asked me for food for their family, would I? I wouldn’t push away my family if they came to my house looking for a meal, would I? Nope. I would welcome them with open arms and tell them everything will be okay. Come in and enjoy a meal. I believe that is called inclusion. So why am I judging these poor people who are asking for a meal or food for their family? Why am I being so judgmental? Just because I don’t know them doesn’t make them any less worthy of the food.
Empowerment is a little more difficult to wrap my brain around. Empowerment to me means that I give people the tools to survive in this world. When their self-esteem is low, I help them find the good in themselves. I do this all the time for my family and friends. When I see they are really dragging in life, I help them see the good God has given them. I pray for them. I support them as long as they will accept my help. When I am working at a food pantry or soup kitchen those people walking in the door are asking for my help. Just like they are my family members, I need to help and support them. I need to empower them with my words and my prayers.
Funny all these years I had never thought of social justice in this way. I guess I just always assumed it was a way for people once again to take advantage of the system. Really when I think about it – it must take everything they have to walk through those doors and say, “I need help. I cannot do this alone anymore. Please don’t judge me, just help me.” If I would have looked closely at each person, I probably would see desperation and sadness, but I wasn’t looking, I was judging.
Just writing this out today makes me realize my desire to break this trend in my life. I need to include social justice in my volunteer work. I need to find ways to be kind and caring to all – not just my family and friends. I need to give unconditional love to ALL my neighbors, just as Jesus commanded.
Mark 12: 29-31 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
You notice he says, “There is no other commandment greater than these.” Hmmm… So when I don’t practice social justice, I am basically telling God that I don’t have to follow that second commandment He just spoke. You know the one that says “love your neighbor.” Yep, I am just skipping over that. Sure, I can love the Lord above all else. I practice it every day. I spend lots of time with Him. I write and speak His Word. The problem is I don’t take the second one into account. I need to love my neighbor. Neighbors are everyone on this earth. Not just our next door neighbors, not just our family and friends, not just the person that is easy to love. Nope, he is saying to love ALL. He is commanding me to treat everyone the same. Empower and include all people the same. That means my family members all the way to the person who walks into that soup kitchen door. EVERYONE! That is one hard commandment to follow.
What it all boils down to today is that God needed me to be aware of my short comings. I didn’t understand why He placed this subject on my heart today, but I realize that I need to do a little work in this department. I am failing Him. If the definition of social justice didn’t get me today, those verses from Mark did! When I allow God into my heart, He helps me recognize my failings, not just by nagging at me, but by loving me. I don’t feel guilty about my faults, but I do want to change them. God inspires me to change them!
Let God work on you today!