I sit hear struggling to find the right words to say. It has been two days since I heard about a video which was released showing a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd as he used his final breaths to cry out that he could not breathe. What do I even say? Do I talk about how it has been 95 days since Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed by two white men while jogging. Or do I talk about how it will be 6 years in just over a month since Eric Garner was choked and killed by police officers well crying out "I can't breathe," and yet here we are in 2020 and the story is eerily familiar. Or do I talk about how I could never understand what it is like, or all the things I could have done to change this system of injustice but because it didn't disadvantage me I stayed quiet. I cant stay quiet any more.
I don't have all the right words. I am not free from prejudice or the temptation to ignore what is going on around me, but like Paul said in 2 Corinthians, Christ's love compels me.
Here are God's words.
"Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause." Isaiah 1:17
"Learn to do good." There is good in all of us, but there is also a lot of evil. We are born with the desire to advance ourselves at the cost of others. We come with the tendency to seek short term pleasure. we are taught prejudice and judgement of other people without even the desire to understand who they are. We need to learn to do good. From the source of all goodness, God, we are called to learn how to serve others, to care for those around us, and to love without condition.
"Seek justice." It might not be easy to find. Especially right now it seems that justice is only a concept, and can never be a reality. But God calls us to search for justice. to shine a light on systems, individuals, organizations, that stand for justice as a representation of what justice looks like. Our churches should be place where people who seek justice can find it, our homes should be a place where those looking for justice will see it. My life should be built on this principle that comes from God himself.
"Correct oppression." It is not enough to seek for justice, we are called, I am called to enter situations where oppression is present, where injustice is prevalent, and correct it. I love that in Hebrew the word for "correct" means "to go/set straight, and to go on." How do we correct oppression? I don't claim to know all the answers but I do recognize several principles from this verse in Isaiah. First, it takes education. it takes setting straight those who have been educated to see those who are different then them as lesser then them. It takes sharing the truths of the Bible which show that every human being is created by God and is fearfully and wonderfully made. Each person is loved equally and immeasurably by God, and Jesus died for "whoever," without exclusion. Second, it takes leadership. It takes the willingness to stand up and to point out the path that leads to justice, and to be willing to walk that path no matter the cost. This is what Jesus did. He didn't care about who was considered clean or unclean, who was of high or low social standing, He demonstrated the love that God had for each of His creations by walking the path of justice, even in the face of ridicule, betrayal, and death. Third, it takes perseverance. It takes a supernatural strength to "go on," even when it feels like the cause is hopeless. Right now the mountain of injustice towers above us. Today, I am committing myself to take up my shovel, and start to digging. One shovel full of dirt at a time, and foot at a time, until the mountain is gone, or I am.
"Bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause." The fourth and fifth principle for correcting oppression are outlined in this part of the verse and apply to those who are disadvantaged who need someone to stand up for them. "Bring justice to the fatherless." This is not about being a hero and saving people who are helpless. It is about offering up what I have, my advantage in society, to those who through not fault of their own have been disadvantaged. Fifth, "plead the cause of the widow" means to use your influence on behalf of those who are ignored. It is not that the widow was not able to plead her own cause in the time this was verse was written, but that no one would pay attention to her pleading. I believe this is applicable to today in the realm of injustice, particularly the racial injustice that has been displayed so clearly here in the United States. Those who are discriminated against, those who are being killed and put in prison without equal opportunity, those who are assumed guilty until proven innocent (often much to late), are pleading. But the systems in place, the leaders, those who are advantaged are not truly listening and are not making changes. God is calling me to plead their cause too.
The love of God compels me, the Word of God convicts me. "Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause." I hope somewhere in my jumbled words you found the heart of God which is full of love for every human being, and calls for us to stand up for the justice of our sisters and brothers whom God loves.