It’s hard these days not to be inundated with reports of violence and death. On social media, the news scrolls past your eyes as much as you allow it. If you watch cable news, the top of the hour is filled with fresh scenes of tragedy. Even if you’re disciplined enough to avoid these outlets, friends are probably telling you what they’ve seen and heard.
In the past few years, we’ve witnessed executives, doctors, and politicians inside the abortion industrial complex Planned Parenthood negotiating the infanticide of hundreds of thousands of unborn lives. We’ve watched, almost helplessly, a civil war in Syria lead to the largest displacement of humans in recorded history. We’ve seen terrorists savagely overwhelm entire cities. We’ve seen racism emerge from concealed shadows into mainstream conversation.
Sociologists actually tell us that 2016 was a pretty good year for humanity. Poverty and preventable disease are way down. There is, believe it or not, less war than in previous ages. And life expectancy around the world is more than 70 years.
And yet more than ever we’re exposed to the bad in the world because of our unprecedented access to breaking news. So what should those of us with resources, agency, and a platform do with what we know?
We could put down our smartphones, ignore what we see, and remain sheltered in the confines of our comfortable American lives. Or we could think we’re doing something by simply venting our frustrations, convincing ourselves that hashtag activism will dismantle the darkness.
But Scripture tells us we cannot be silent. I’m regularly haunted by Jesus’s words: “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48). Nor can I ignore the command to “speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves” (Prov. 31:8).
We work for justice, the unborn, the immigrant, the refugee, and the forgotten—not because it will catapult us to greatness or out of some misguided sense of guilt, but because we’re bringing the good news of God’s kingdom to bear on the world. Scripture tells us that every human has dignity and worth since God created every life in his image. Christ, who reversed the curse through his death and resurrection, restores us to our image-bearing purpose (2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). And one way we reflect and represent him is by communicating the good news in both word and deed.
So what does faithful action look like? How can God’s people be voices for life in their communities and around the world? I’d like to suggest five things.
1. Pray Humbly
Jesus told his disciples to “always pray and not faint” (Luke 18:1). The temptation, especially for younger activists, is to adopt a messiah complex. We tell ourselves we’re the ones we’ve been waiting for. But the scope of injustice around the world quickly reminds us we are powerless in the face of evil.
Before we roll up our sleeves, we must get on our knees.
International Justice Mission (IJM), an organization on the frontlines of rescuing human trafficking victims, invests an enormous amount of resources on what seems, to the human mind, passive: prayer. They require every employee to stop, once a day, and spend time praying. They have prayer retreats each quarter and a global prayer gathering each year. This is a remarkable acknowledgement of spiritual dependence. Every Christian organization and follower of Christ will do spiritual disciplines a bit differently, but before we roll up our sleeves, we must all get on our knees.
2. Get Educated
To love our neighbors well, especially those in distress, we must first learn about their plight. We need to get beyond the headlines and soundbites and get educated about the places God might be summong us to serve. This is the benefit of a conference like this month’s Evangelicals for Life 2017. This small investment can expose you to a wide variety of causes and organizations. The ERLC will have experts on child poverty, abortion, the elderly, preventable diseases, immigration issues, and refugee care. None of us can know everything, but we can all know something. We can read, ask questions, and do some research. This not only helps overcome myths and misinformation, but also equips us to speak in the public square.
3. Commit Locally
We often think the loudest voices on social media are doing the most work, but the truth is much more relief is being done in local communities by people without a Twitter account. Think of the thousands who’ve left comfortable homes to serve as medical and vocational missionaries with the IMB. Think of the many who work for relief agencies like World Vision and World Relief in some of the most troubled parts of the globe. Think of the doctors fighting diseases in developing countries.
Right now I’m thinking of the lay couple in my church who’ve started a ministry among Egyptian immigrants in our town. Nobody outside their immediate circle and local body of believers knows what they’re doing. But it’s faithfully present kingdom work.
Your work will involve more than what you do inside your church, but it will never involve less.
Some are tempted to think beyond the local church. But the local body of Christ is where the Spirit of God is specially present; it’s where weekly liturgies form in us a heart bent toward kingdom priorities. Your work will involve more than what you do inside the walls of your church, but it will never involve less.
4. Use Gifts and Opportunities
We should all ask ourselves where we can do the most good for the most people with the limited time, resources, and energy we have. For some, that will mean moving overseas. For others blessed with financial means, it will mean investing large amounts of money to worthwhile groups. For many ordinary folks, it will mean a combination of giving and time. The mission of God consists of ordinary and imperfect people sacrificially loving their neighbors by applying the gifts of his Spirit. Your inability to do everything allows you to do something and rely on a sovereign God of justice who misses nothing.
Your inability to do everything allows you to do something and rely on a sovereign God of justice who misses nothing.
Sometimes it’s important to launch new non-profit organizations, but most of the time good work is already occuring where God is stirring your heart. Organizations have done the extensive research, developed experience in the field, and possess the training mechanisms necessary to plug you in. Prayerfully consider where God is calling you, and then get involved. Not only will you be sure your time and resources are being maximized, you’ll also meet and befriend new brothers and sisters working for the kingdom of God.
Editors’ note: Join Russell Moore, Matt Chandler, Albert Mohler, and more at Evangelicals for Life 2017 in Washington, D.C., January 26 to 28. Register now with the exclusive code TGC30 to receive a 30 percent discount.