by Linda Moore
“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it.”
“Well, why don’t you ask Him?”
“Because I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.” – Anonymous
I recently read these words in Richard Stern’s book The Hole in our Gospel and they continued to gnaw at my heart. When I heard that World Relief was sponsoring a webinar of the Justice Conference at Grace Chapel in Lexington, MA, I was determined to go. I wanted to know more about what is being done to come to the aid of vulnerable and burdened people both locally and globally. I wanted to understand what is happening and to explore ways I might become involved in ministering to those in need.
The speakers were passionate and inspiring; several recounted God’s life-changing call on their lives that resulted from an encounter with a single person in need. Moved by these individual’s stories and situations, they committed their lives to helping others like them. Some of the speakers narrated personally challenging and traumatic life experiences that translated into national and worldwide ministries. If we yield our difficult circumstances to God, then he will provide a way to work through that difficulty to minister to others facing similar challenges and heartaches. God is able to turn horrific and painful experiences into a channel of blessing and redemption for others. Donald Miller, founder of the Mentoring Project, stated, “God is in the business of holding our pain in his hands and saying, ‘Now watch what I do with this!’” Praise God, nothing is beyond or below his care and mercy!
Rev. Eugene Cho of Seattle, WA, reminded us that we ought not to separate the Gospel message from justice. Making things right, the true meaning of justice, has always been an issue on God’s heart. Scripture is replete with God’s concern for the disenfranchised and exploited. However, he cautioned us not to elevate the “cause” above the power and scope of the Gospel, which always points people to Jesus.
We must also be careful not to merely view people in crisis as a project, nor to make quick assumptions or judgments regarding their current condition. The preeminent need in our world is for the church to embrace the heart of God for those in peril, both spiritually and physically and to work out their salvation in word and deed.
Dr. John Perkins, president of John M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation and Development, noted that there is a growing interest in today’s high school and college age youth to live out their faith in a dynamic and life-changing way. In light of his observation about this new generation, it was interesting to observe that of the 150 men and women present at the Justice Conference, a significant number were in that age bracket. As I spoke with several of them during the breaks, I was impressed with their concern for the poor, the oppressed, and the hungry. To a person, they expressed a desire to become global change agents. Dr. Perkins challenged us to come alongside these young people and become actively involved with them in making a difference, one person at a time. Indeed, he stated, “The church should be the eyes and ears of God for the world out there. We all need to be listening carefully to God who is always asking, ‘Who will go for us?’”
Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers you did it to me’ (Matthew 25:34b-40 ESV).
For more information about the Justice Conference, go to thejusticeconference.com.