Too Little or Too Much?

“To get to my truest desires I have to be courageous enough to dive into the darkness, through the pain, and find myself on the other side in the bright sun, in the place where my false desires are exposed for what they are: fear, selfishness, comfort at the cost of others.

Rich, miraculous love exists on the other side of pain.

And to get there, I must first walk boldly into the wilderness, where God met Moses in a burning bush, where the people of God wandered for forty years, where Jesus fasted and was tempted. The wilderness is the space between the promises and the promised land. The wilderness is the pain between our shallow desires and our deeper, more real desires. We move from loving our own comfort to loving the things God loves.” -Micah Boyette

It seems I’m always starting my writing with another author’s words. But really, who can say it much better than that?? When it comes to stuff this good, the motto “reduce, reuse, recycle” seems just as applicable.

Seriously, though, these last few weeks have felt like the beginning of a little wilderness for me. I have found myself “on the other side of the bright sun,” keenly aware of my selfishness, short-sightedness, and inability to produce anything of lasting worth on my own.

A news article floats by about child labor in South America. I don’t read it. I pick up a pair of shoes at an outlet store, knowing that “Made in the DRC” probably means the working conditions for whoever made them are atrocious. I buy them anyways, because they’re cheap. Here at home, I have the opportunity to serve someone in my family or church congregation, and I let it pass me by.

When I get exhausted or overwhelmed by justice, it’s usually not that I’ve overcommitted. When I scroll past a church member’s need without seriously considering it, it’s usually not that I have literally nothing to give. It’s laziness. It’s apathy. I’m simply not willing to inconvenience myself to benefit someone I don’t know, or sometimes even those I do. 

“Our fundamental problem is not ignorance of what is right. Our problem is selfishness of heart that causes us to care more about what we want than about what is right.” –Paul David Tripp

I think for me, I find it hard to live a lifestyle of that honors the justice and love of God for two main reasons:

  1. I don’t care enough.
  2. I’m afraid of caring too much.

Now, to be clear, what I’m not trying to say is that each of us should be actively involved in every single kind of justice work that exists in the world. I think part of what I’ve had to grapple with in the past year is simply recognizing my limitations, and entrusting those to God. But when confronted with an issue of injustice, I have the responsibility to truly care. To examine whether this is something I can make a difference in. To ask myself if any of my words or actions are contributing to it, in any way. Honestly, I don’t even think it should wait until I am unavoidably confronted by it. As a student of Jesus, I have the responsibility to be proactive in love and righteousness.

There’s another reason I let those articles pass me by, and neglect researching labor practices in the DRC. Sometimes, I don’t initiate towards justice because I’m afraid of caring too much.

Have you ever felt this way before? A news story features the raping and killing of hundreds of women somewhere in Asia, or the plight of refugees fleeing Syria and you tell yourself, “I just can’t take one more story like this.” So you change the channel, or close your browser, or just plain walk away.

Even just last week, I really struggled with this. If I let myself deeply care about everything, whether or not I feel that I am part of the solution, the weight of it can feel crushing. It’s so much easier just to adopt one “cause” and focus entirely on that–whether it be abortion, trafficking, foster care, poverty, racism, you name it. Then, when I hear about other injustice happening in the world, or even right down my street, I don’t have to care deeply–because it’s not “my cause” and therefore not my problem.

Maybe I’m the only one, but that was the story of my life until this past year. What I’m slowly learning is this: I do have the responsibility to care about all injustice, but if I truly understand the Gospel, caring should not lead me to despair.

The answer to injustice and pain is not me–it is Christ.

The answer to racism and poverty is not my efforts–it is the Gospel.

God is for justice, and the most important thing I can do is bring each area of injustice to Him in prayer. From there, He will guide me into whether or not this is something I can be involved in. Maybe I can’t say yes to every opportunity to serve my church, but I can treat each person I talk to today with dignity and love, and send a note of encouragement to someone in need. Maybe I can’t donate my money to both the refugee crisis center and my local homeless shelter, but I can look honestly at the way I’m spending my money as a steward and give as much as I truly can. Maybe I really can’t do anything about the exploitation of women and children halfway across the globe–but I can faithfully remember them in prayer.

Ultimately, the answer to injustice isn’t just doing more or giving more. The answer is Christ. When we take the burden off of ourselves and spend more time worshipping the God who holds all things in his hands, we participate in the work of redemption and remember what we were truly created for. Becoming more like Jesus Christ–this, above all, is righteousness.

If justice is going to happen in this world–if it’s going to happen in you–it will start in the little things. (Luke 16:10) Start small. Value others. Focus more on your responsibilities, and less on your rights.

When justice becomes a duty, it will weigh you down. When justice is the place where you are closest to God, giving your life away becomes your greatest delight.

…God does not call us to create our own goodness out of thin air, as if justice were something we could accomplish with a checklist and a bit of hard work.

Instead, God calls us to listen. The source of all goodness will surely have something to say about injustice. Then he calls us to obey. This is what it means to give our lives away…on behalf of others and for the glory of God.”

–Ken Wytsma

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