Sometimes I feel completely overwhelmed by the evil and suffering in the world. And when confronted by the reality that I can’t fix it, the uncertainty over what to do is often debilitating. How has God called me to respond? What does faithfulness look like considering my limitations? Where has God positioned me to act?
In order to respond faithfully, we must recognize that we are all called and equipped to demonstrate God’s mercy and justice in different ways. Holding this tension will stir us to respond faithfully and lift those burdens we were never meant to carry.
Children of God are called to reflect His mercy and justice to the poor and oppressed. Such work is the natural overflow of regenerated hearts, so entwined to our salvation that Scripture questions the genuineness of our faith if such fruit is absent. (These principles are scattered all throughout Scripture, but I’ve attached several examples at the end.)
In a broken and sinful world, the opportunities to demonstrate mercy and justice abound. It may be more comfortable to shut our eyes and shrug our shoulders and take the easy road of apathy, but we can’t.
The suffering of refugees, orphans, widows, and the impoverished signal our call to mercy. We must consider: how can we provide for the poor and comfort the afflicted? The sins of racism, abortion, exploitation, and abuse signal our call to justice. We must consider: how can we speak up for silenced voices and defend the rights of the mistreated?
Followers of God simply cannot be passive about earthly suffering. Scripture hasn’t left us that option.
Considering the expansive need, God has designed His people to be conduits of His goodness in varied ways. We are not all equipped for the same tasks. This is crucial to recognize, or else we’ll burn ourselves out trying to play God, or judge others for not doing the same works we are.
I used to serve in ways I don’t anymore. This shift wasn’t due to indifference about those needs, but rather, redirection to other ones. As God moved my heart (and subsequently, my energy) towards locally resettled refugees, I had to let other endeavors go. Even within this particular area of ministry, I’m discovering ways I’m equipped to do it well, along with ways I’m not.
To be honest, my limits frustrate me.
However, if we try to do everything, we won’t do anything well. Our responsibility is to faithfully steward the gifts God’s given us, enacting justice and mercy through the circumstances in which He’s placed us. The good news is, that’s all God expects us to do. He’s never been impressed by anyone who’s tried to take His place as the world’s Redeemer.
No matter how devoted we are to living as imitators of our Father, we are limited. Our knowledge, resources, energy, expertise, time, and money isn’t infinite.
No matter how purposeful we are to give to worthy organizations, we cannot contribute to every good cause. No matter how dedicated we are to prayer when tragic headlines catch our attention, we will remain unaware of most of the world’s atrocities. No matter how much we want to be fierce advocates for justice, we won’t always have the knowledge or ability to do so. No matter how much time we dedicate to serving our communities, we’ll run out of it.
At first glance, this reality is discouraging. But this is what makes the Body of Christ so beautiful! God intentionally designed us with different strengths, circumstances, experiences, and expertise to spread His love further than we ever could alone.
The more we stir one another towards the common goal of demonstrating God’s mercy and justice to a suffering world, the more faceted our good works will become, and the more brightly the Church will shine as a beacon of hope pointing to our Father in heaven.
Scriptures to consider:
“Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him;” Psalm 41:1
“Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.” Proverbs 21:13
“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9
“learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Isaiah 1:17
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does have works, is dead. James 2:14–17