The pandemic has brought to light issues and controversies about oppression and injustice all over the world. People are deeply divided in discussions about social and political matters. As Christians, how are we supposed to respond?
This article is a companion article to another one that talks about submitting to authorities.
As Christians, how do we respond to oppression and injustice around us?
Recent issues and controversies about oppression and injustice in different parts of the world have triggered an outcry for justice globally. While most of the world is deeply divided on political and social matters, a growing number of people are expressing mistrust and discontent and are clamoring for social and political reforms.
Albeit we are citizens of the kingdom of God, Christians are still part of the social and political systems of the world. We are not exempt from the immense pressure to speak up and do something about perceived atrocities and tyrannies that pop up every so often.
Amid the mounting pressure to address oppression and injustice, how do we respond?
Yes, we know that God will ultimately end all evil in the world, but what can we do in the here and now to combat evil in society?
Here are several things that we can do in response to oppression and injustice:
Lamentation is a response to pain and grief. It is the outcry of a soul that has seen death, suffered loss, and experienced pain and injustice.
The Bible contains numerous lamentations of people toward God. In fact, an entire book was written to express deep lamentations about Israel’s depressing state.
To lament is to freely express one’s pain and emotions toward God. Instead of explaining away pain and suffering, lamentations allow the soul to release its grief onto the righteous Judge who sees and knows all things.
In the face of great injustice, lamenting is not just a means to make us feel good. It is a necessity for healing, a cry for revival, and a means to reach the bleeding world.
Lamentation is necessary for healing. The first step towards healing is to recognize the reality of our pain and suffering. Biblical lament recognizes the broken state of our society. It allows us to grieve about our bitter reality and to cry out to God for healing and redemption. It is a reminder that we live in a world where pain and suffering exist because of sin. It acknowledges that we are in a mess of our own making and we need God to redeem us.
Lamentation is a cry for revival. It is not just a passive, therapeutic act to help us deal with our emotions. It is a subversive protest against the status quo defined by evil, injustice, and oppression.
When Christians don’t lament the thousands of lives who are killed without mercy, it’s an acceptance of the status quo that makes us complicit in the culture of violence and death.
Yes, being still and praying in faith is always a great response to any situation. But there are times when the only appropriate response is to lament—to mourn, to cry, to appeal to God to arise from His throne and deliver His justice.
Lamentation is a means to point the world to God. Sometimes, what the world needs is not someone who will preach the word to them, but someone who will grieve with them, listen to them, and walk with them through the valley of the shadow death. The world needs people who will not always try to explain their pain away but will patiently empathize with them.
When we shut off people’s grief by simply spewing out Bible verses without first listening to them, we come across as tone-deaf and insensitive. But when we lament with them, we become agents of mercy and grace who lovingly point them to the source of all hope.
As we have previously discussed, Christians are actually allowed and even encouraged to speak up against evil, injustice, and oppression.
Murder, greed, immorality, and violence are not social or political issues; they are moral issues. And the cross of Christ should stir up from within us indignation against evil and compassion for the oppressed.
As renowned historian Dr. F. L. Foakes-Jackson said, “History shows that the thought of Christ on the cross has been more potent than anything else in arousing a compassion for suffering and indignation at injustice.”
When people in authority deviate from their God-ordained functions to uphold righteousness and justice, it is the duty of the Church and of Christians to voice out dissent in light of God’s truth.
The Church is God’s prophetic voice in this broken world. In the Bible, God used His prophets to confront erring leaders, to expose and pronounce judgment against sin, to call people to repentance, and to proclaim His will.
To be God’s prophetic voice is not just to expose evil in the social and political systems; it is to expose evil in the human heart and to lead people toward repentance and faith in Christ.
To be God’s prophetic voice in the world is to speak up for those who cannot speak, and to protect the rights of those who are poor, helpless, and needy. (Proverbs 31:9)
To be God’s prophetic voice is to comfort the afflicted, to edify the weak, to encourage the hopeless, and to preach the good news of God’s salvation.
To be God’s prophetic voice is to be the voice of Jesus that proclaims God’s kingdom in the here and now, and to preach about the hope of God’s coming kingdom where evil and suffering will ultimately end.
In 64 A.D., a huge fire engulfed and ravished the great city of Rome. Rumors spread that the emperor himself, Nero, was responsible for the fire. In order to divert public attention, Nero blamed the fire on the Christians and ordered their arrest.
Thousands of Christians were rounded up, killed, torn apart by wild beasts, and were even burned alive as human torches.
In this dark and horrifying backdrop, Paul wrote these words to Timothy:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:1–4 (NIV)
Why should we pray even for evil leaders?
Prayer is activism. Don’t minimize prayer to “prayer lang.” When we pray, we recognize our limitations and powerlessness, and we call on the All-Powerful God to work on our behalf and to accomplish what we cannot.
And this faith is not without basis. All throughout the Bible and in human history, we can find stories of how fervent prayers resulted in miracles, revival, and salvation. Prayer activates God’s action and releases God’s power over our situation.
Inasmuch as speaking up on social media is important in demanding accountability and influencing policy-making, the real battle is won beyond our digital screen.
Being woke on social media doesn’t amount to much when our words are not backed up by concrete actions to help the oppressed. As they say, talk is cheap.
. . . you show love for others by truly helping them, and not merely by talking about it.
1 John 3:18 (CEV)
It’s time to roll up our sleeves and find ways to actually help the least in society, to empower the poor, and to combat ignorance and apathy.
There are countless social responsibility efforts being done by churches, civic groups, and individuals; take part in a cause that you believe in. Or better yet, initiate one with your friends.
James 1:27 (NIV) says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Jesus has shown us that the way to combat evil is to do good. Speaking up on social media isn’t the end-all-and-be-all of being socially responsible. Don’t just love with words. Prove your love with deeds.
How do we effectively change society? Through education? Through social and political reforms? Through revolution?
Time again, through the ebb and flow of history, we have seen how human civilizations have advanced greatly in terms of technology and education. History has seen the rise and fall of kingdoms and empires. We have witnessed wars and revolutions. We have ousted leaders and elected new ones.
But none of these mechanisms have actually succeeded in creating lasting change and transformation in the world. If anything, it seems like we’ve only succeeded in making the world a darker place for the next generation.
If there’s one glaring lesson in the story of Noah and the Great Flood (Genesis 6), it is the fact that not even a global cataclysm can change the world. When Noah and his family repopulated the earth after the flood, sin abounded and repopulated the planet just as quickly as human beings did. Do you know why? Because sin resides in the hearts of people.
Oppression and injustice continue to exist because of our tendency as human beings to consider something else of greater importance than God. We make an idol out of fame, power, comfort, and pleasure, at the expense of the good of others. We have all taken part in injustice—when we turn a blind eye to the suffering of others just because it would be inconvenient for us otherwise; when we refuse to hear someone out for fear of displeasure from people we look to for affirmation; when we keep silent for fear of conflict; or when we contribute directly by responding with less than God’s love and grace.
More than changing political parties or systems, what really makes these things immoral are the people behind it—that includes all of us.
Sin lies at the heart of human beings. Sin is more than just an evil act committed against God; it is a potent force that compels us to rebel against God’s authority in our lives. Social injustice and political abuse are manifestations of sin in the hearts of people.
If we are to wage war against social injustice, let it be a war against sin and evil that destroy lives and corrupt our civil society.
While I definitely hope that we will grow wiser in choosing leaders to govern us, the bad news is that no human leader can ever be enough to weed out evil and corruption in our government systems.
Change in government and society can never be achieved by simply removing corrupt officials and replacing them with equally sinful ones.
We can try our best to legislate Christian behavior or to cut the supply of sin in the world, but we will only fail in the attempt unless we cut the demand for sin, which starts in the human heart. We need to be made aware how each of us has contributed to oppression and injustice through apathy, lack of integrity, and entitlement.
Ultimately, what we need is not a new system of government. What we need are not just new leaders—though we definitely need to elect good ones! The way to societal transformation is for the Holy Spirit to ultimately change people’s hearts. And each Christian has a role to play. We are called to lead people to Christ and allow them to experience the power of the gospel that brings salvation, repentance, and transformation to an individual so that, together with the body of Christ, we can propagate a different culture–the upside-down kingdom that Jesus Christ demonstrated through His life and ministry.
“. . . if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
2 Chronicles 7:14
Dear Filipino Christians,
God is looking for people who will stand in the gap on behalf of our nation; people who will take on the challenge of rebuilding the broken walls.
This nation is our inheritance. The Philippines is waiting for the children of God to bring hope, healing, and wholeness. It’s time for us to have a unified front.
More than our Filipino citizenship, we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. Our allegiance to any politician or ideology must not overtake our supreme allegiance to our King—Jesus Christ.
Let us not allow our political and ideological differences to divide us. Let us unite in prayer, cry out with one voice, and fight against our common enemy, the devil.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:10,11 (NIV)
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