I had just finished hosting a conference session for Christian modern-day abolitionists and the questions were all about the frustrations of believing passionately about an issue which your local church (or Christian Union or cell group or whatever) just doesn’t get. I was surrounded by people who were very committed to ending modern-day slavery and very bemused, frustrated and angry with their local christian communities who just seemed not to care.
I meet a lot of people like these- angry and frustrated and consumed with a sense of Godly purpose and drive for justice. I have also been one of these people and probably will be again. I have felt the anger with other christians who seem to have more passion about the church decor than the injustice suffered by people made in God’s image. I have usually thought that my anger is righteous. God has usually thought my emotions are more mixed. We are told to be angry- but not sin. To feel the frustration and the desperation but not turn it into the destruction of other people made in God’s image. Not only does it hurt others, dishonour God and isolate ourselves, it also doesn’t succeed in moving other people onto God’s agenda for justice.
So having got angry on my own (and with a few close friends) and then got over myself I try to practice three steps to move a group onto God’s agenda for justice. Thinking about it they are good steps for any process of challenge and change!
1. Don’t despise the day of small things
We can get so caught up in the final picture of what might be, could be, should be that we end up resenting the present. Celebrate every small step of the journey. What starts as a welfare orientated ‘being kind to people’ is the foundation of a serious commitment to empowerment, justice and service. The impetus to do something can be encouraged as the beginning of the journey or it can be squashed by the proud sneering of those who think they are a bit further ahead.
2. Dream the next step not just the final outcome
And we can help that journey by helping people to imagine the next step. Every journey is made up of the next step, but if the next step is too big a leap then we get daunted and discouraged. We need to find the ways in which we can keep people moving deeper and deeper into God’s purposes.
3. Pray like mad
I really believe that prayer is the most powerful development intervention that we can make. It is also the deepest investment that we can make in the lives of others and in our churches and communities. The commitment to pray is the way that our anger and frustration are redeemed. When we are bringing people before our Father we begin to see them from His perspective and from His heart. And He is more kind, gracious, committed and inspiring than we are!