Monday, March 26, 2007

Making a Difference

So on Sunday night my wife and I want to see Amazing Grace movie (it opened here on Friday to coincide with the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade - not the end of Slavery in the British Empire - this took another 26 years). As a movie it was ok - but as a piece of inspiration it was incredible. It summed up exactly where I am right now. I have been dwelling on Isaiah 58 for a couple of months now:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
"If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

I cannot get out of my head the idea that to pour ourselves out on behalf of the opressed, enslaved, beaten down and hungry is the normal Christian life, and the surban-inspired excuses we give sound hollow and empty when compred with passages such as this. Can someone really be truly alive in a life spent paying the mortgage, booking the next vacation and saving for a new kitchen?

So many blogs art the moment are talking about how angry God is with various things - sin, the emerging church (give me a break!), various prominent preachers etc. However, I read this passage from Zechariah this morning:

And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah:

This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.'

But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. 12 They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry.

God was angry because they did not act on behalf of those who cannot act themselves. How much more offensive must our entire culture be in the west, where every buying decision we make for food, clothing, gifts and toys is a moral decision and we fail to make the right choice. Not only are we not acting on behalf of people, we are actively supporting their opporession by not forcing our western companies to stop exploiting people in other parts of the world.

I can hear the clamour of arguments about people needing jobs, that 'fair trade' is just too expensive (and what we mean by that is "If I don't pay the cheap prices and gain from the exploitation I cannot afford to buy that cool new DVD I wanted"!), that the issues are too complicated etc. but it still stands that our buying decisions are a moral decision and our consumerism is morally repugnant to God. Period.


  1. Thanks for your comment Ian. My wife & I talked after we saw the movie of how "evangelical" Christians abandoned the cause of social justice long ago; I think that's changing but it'll take time before God's people will be associated once again with freeing the oppressed. Maybe this movie will inspire some more change.

  2. I've been spending a lot of time with Isaiah 58 the last few months. My favorite bit is the last part you quoted: "if you do away with oppression, if you spend yourselves feeding the hungry, then your light will rise."

    Not, "if you have your quiet time 5 times a week, wear the right clothes to church, and read the right theology textbooks..."

    Sometimes I think God has a different set of priorities than we do. And I'm thinking mine are going to have to be the ones that change.


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