Having worked in many churches and Christian communities, I have seen numerous well-intentioned Christ-followers living simple lifestyles, but apathetic to many of the world’s travesties around them.
We are well-meaning and profess to love Jesus. We care about our neighbors — those we encounter on rare occasions. We give money to the church and to the poor, but often, we don’t know any poor people by name.
I think there are many reasons for this. Perhaps we are too consumed with full schedules — TV shows, committee meetings, soccer games, and taekwondo practice — or are overwhelmed because the surrounding problems seem too big to tackle.
Have we become apathetic to the things that break the heart of God because of the many things that have gotten in the way? Life, it seems, keeps us from living on behalf of the gospel.
One dictionary definition of “apathy” is the “absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement” or a “lack of interest or concern.” Apathy leads to passivity, and passivity is a great sin.
Sometimes when I am traveling, I try to take time to intentionally “see” the people around me. I wonder about the stories of the men and women who join me on an elevator. I watch a young mother cross the street while holding the hand of her toddler and wonder whether all of their needs are being met at home. I observe the migrant workers on the street corner waiting for work to help fill their day and put food on their families’ tables.
It has become increasingly difficult to connect with the people with whom we cross paths on a daily basis. Our culture propels people into an all-consuming lifestyle that leaves little room to care for those who are not in our immediate sphere of influence. The apathy that is present isn’t intentional; it is a byproduct of full agendas and busy lives.
Called to justice
I wish moving from apathy to advocacy could be outlined in a four-step process. But the fight against injustice is specific to the time, space, region, and context to which God has called each individual and community. To become advocates for justice, we must begin the spiritual process of discerning how God is calling us to get involved.
Not only does each person have a unique calling for his or her life, but each church, ministry, and community is called to witness to the kingdom of God locally, regionally, nationally, and around the world. Some are called to battle human trafficking in Southeast Asia. Others are called to support better educational programs in their local school district. Some are called to pass legislation regarding healthcare for the poor. Still others are called to work with disabled orphans across the globe. The beauty of God’s kingdom is that each person has a significant part to play in the body.
Just as Jesus and the Holy Spirit are our advocates, we are called to advocate for one another on earth. Advocates are change agents who work on behalf of others who might not have a voice or the power to change their unfortunate circumstances.
Ask God to reveal to you if there are any places in your life where you are being apathetic. Prayer launches the movement from apathy to advocacy by bringing awareness. One of the ways that God graciously moves people out of apathy and closer to advocacy is by opening their eyes to what is happening in the world. Many social reform movements in history began when people were exposed to truth that had otherwise been ignored.
Mother Teresa said, “Following Jesus is simple, but not easy. Love until it hurts, and then love more.” As we seek to raise awareness in our communities, we must do so with humility and brokenness. The only way to become sensitive to injustice is to allow hearts to be broken by the things that break the heart of God.
Engaging in social justice is the greatest evangelistic opportunity the church has in the 21st century. The world will see the love of Christ expressed through the actions of His followers who diligently seek justice. The church cannot sit idly by and allow injustice to occur. Rather, the people of God must rise up and stamp out the injustice that exists, all the while pursuing the shalom (peace) of God, which is expressed in Christ’s perfect love.
None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something! Let us partner together as we seek to be advocates of justice for the sake of the gospel.
This post is taken from Social Justice Handbook: Small Steps for a Better World by Mae Elise Cannon.
Learn about some of the justice issues that impact the well-being of the poor and vulnerable in our world, especially children. Visit World Vision’s Advocate Network to explore opportunities for action.