Very often in the life of faith, we spend a great deal of time and effort attending to the immediate needs of those around us. This is absolutely necessary since the demands of charity are the highest obligations that we need to fulfill in discipleship. However, this week I would like to explore the obligation to address the societal factors and systems that create the circumstances that foster poverty, discrimination, inequality, and persecution among God’s children. While an immediate need is to alleviate human suffering, we also have an equally important obligation to root out the causes in our world that create much of this suffering in the first place.
Work that alleviates suffering and addresses real human needs is the work of charity. Both the commitment and efforts to address the causes that create such poverty and suffering is the work of justice. And as the old song reminds us, “you can’t have one without the other.”
The prophets of the Old Testament exercised this sacred duty in two key ways: (1) they were not afraid to highlight the failures of God’s people in this regard and (2) they preached the reform of those structures and attitudes that caused the failures in the first place. Since people very often dislike change, it is not surprising that the prophets were not popular, even among their own people.
As Christians who live in our contemporary age, we cannot escape the obligation to work on behalf of justice. If our ministry is to help usher the Kingdom of God further into our midst, then the work of justice is constituent of our work as disciples of Christ. I realize that it is work that can easily be misunderstood, hijacked by political forces, seen as unconventional or dismissed as unrelated to the work of the Gospel. These are pitfalls that every Christian who is serious about justice must avoid at all costs. However, we cannot forget that the Kingship of Christ will rule over all nations, economic systems, and political parties. For every knee will bow before the Lord, even those of kings, parliaments, rulers, and presidents.
So if we wish to be members of the Kingdom of Christ, to whom will we owe our eternal allegiance? Justice will show us the way.
The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos!