Courage, Issue 18, Social Justice

Why Justice Matters – Giving Voice For The Voiceless

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Why Justice Matters – Giving Voice For The Voiceless

Is your faith a private one? Are you comfortable getting by with your regular quiet times at home, worshipping God in church, and obeying (most of) His commandments?

Do you cringe when you see a photo or an article about injustice in the world, ‘like’ or ‘share’ the post, feel bad for a moment, and then move on without thinking about what you can do about it?

When was the last time you stepped out of your comfortable bubble and allowed yourself to be confronted with the reality of the abused and vulnerable in your society?

If your answers are “Yes,” “Yes,” and “I can’t remember,” then perhaps you have gotten too comfortable within the four walls of church and have forgotten about two of the key things that are close to God’s heart — that there is justice for all, and that His people be a voice for the voiceless.

OUR HEART AND HANDS

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. — Proverbs 31:8

‘Social justice’ has been a buzzword among Christians lately, but what does it really mean? The second half of Micah 6:8 is commonly quoted regarding this issue, and it does give us a blueprint for how we should carry out justice in society. The verse says: “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” From the italicised words, we can see that what God demands of us requires both our heart and our actions. The Hebrew word for mercy is hesed, which also means loyalty and kindness. This places an emphasis on right attitude. The Hebrew word for justice is mishpat, which also means fair judgement. This places an emphasis on right action.

Clearly, when we speak of social justice, our heart and our hands are distinct but inseparable parts of carrying out God’s call. As we live out our personal faiths, have we forgotten that the God we serve has always given special importance to social issues?

So why should we care about social justice? Why should we care about those who are weak and vulnerable? There’s just one reason that might seem simplistic, but is the most basic and fundamental reason nonetheless — social justice is in God’s character.

THE HEART OF GOD

Have a look at Psalm 146:7–9:

[The Lord] upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

Within this short passage, we can see how God’s heart is for the oppressed, and that His desire is to protect and defend the poor, the hungry, the lowly, the foreigners, the orphans, and the widows.

This aspect of God’s character is consistent throughout both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, this is summarised in Deuteronomy 32:4: “He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” In the New Testament, God’s justice is embodied in the life lived out by Jesus, who exemplified His love, compassion, acceptance, and grace towards the poor, the marginalised, and the sinners, even when no one else thought he should (Matt 14:14; Mark 1:40–41, 2:13–17).

Throughout the Bible and all of history, God remains the same. He upholds the cause of the marginalised, and as His followers, we are tasked to do the same (Prov 31:8–9)! Truly, a concern for the poor and an involvement in social justice are fruits of our salvation, while a Christian disinterested in or indifferent to injustice in society shows that his or her heart is not in alignment with the Lord’s. Will we respond to His call to be a voice for the voiceless?

GOD'S HEART IS FOR THE OPPRESSED - HIS DESIRE IS TO PROTECT AND DEFEND THEM

HIS HANDS AND FEET

Saint Teresa of Ávila once said, Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.

As we have received God’s grace and mercy, so should we learn to extend that grace and mercy to others. Take some time to pray about the knowledge you now have about this issue close to God’s heart. May your heart not merely be burdened, but be moved with compassion and compelled to action.

BE A VOICE

Want to be involved in social justice but don’t know where to start? Find out about the voiceless groups in our society that need to be given their voice back. Here are just three groups that you can learn more about.

MULTI-STRESSED FAMILIES
The term ‘multi-stressed families’ covers a wide range of families. They could be struggling with a low-income, an abusive partner, or the stigma of being an unwed single mother, to name a few. Many of them lack access to basic services such as education or even housing. This can be further worsened by the perception that these families deserve what they go through because of the unwise decisions that they have made. However, the saying that “people are born into poverty” is indeed true, and while some have made unwise choices that have led to their current circumstances, a large number are simply stuck in a cycle that is difficult to escape.

MIGRANT LABOURERS
These people face the reality of being caught in a cycle of injustice. Like FDWs, they arrive in Singapore already in debt. They come to Singapore in hopes of building a better life for their families, but many suffer in order to do so. Some are forced to work more than 12 hours daily, some do not receive their wages for months, and others live in dangerous housing conditions. Companies may even work in cahoots with doctors to cheat injured workers in order to avoid incurring more costs. The majority of these workers do not know their rights as migrant labourers, and even if they did, there are loopholes within the Employment Act that employers can exploit. These labourers know they are facing injustice, but there is little they can do with the little power that they have.

FOREIGN DOMESTIC WORKERS
For many FDWs, the injustice they face begins the moment they leave their country to work in ours. Many enter Singapore in debt, as they are forced to pay an agent huge sums in order to secure a job here. We would surely complain if we were forced to work from the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep, yet many maids do that every day because they have no choice. Many maids also do not get a day off despite it being legislated by the government, nor do they get compensated for working an extra day a week. It’s easy to condemn employers who physically abuse their maids and wind up in the news, but it is the unreported daily ‘abuse’ of maids emotionally, psychologically, and verbally that we need to start talking about.

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