Just a few weeks ago, I found myself caught in an internal battle over how to feel about the rain.
Winter in Cape Town can be brutal on this Florida-native. No insulation or central heating produces a cold that feels like you can never get away from. So when the notorious rainy winters days come, I get in bed under six different blankets and binge-drink Peach Rooibos tea.
This particular time, I found myself laying under those six blankets with my favorite new tea cup in hand while I listened to the rain hit the window. I felt contentment and happiness.
But then I thought about what that rain meant for the people in the poor township across the street from where I live. This particular township runs along a major highway, and it has homes made of sheets of tin and rubbish. There are cylinder blocks placed on the roof to keep the houses together when the wind tries to tear them apart. The houses are crammed together. There is no running water, and the people who live there have communal restrooms to share. One of the many struggles people face when they live in the townships is flooding during winter. Cape Town is notorious for having rainy periods that last as long as three days, leaving people’s homes and lives in a flood of water.
And there I was, sitting under my blankets, dry and warm, feeling wonderful about something that meant absolute pain for others.
In that moment, a flood of other memories rushed through my mind: The people who sleep under the bridge. The endless faces I’ve seen standing at the corner of the streets begging for money or bread. Then I couldn’t help but think of the 13 million people who will die from starvation this year, or those who don’t have clean water, or the men, women and children who are trapped in the confines of human trafficking.
In a world where social justice has become a fashionable thing to engage in, many of us, to some degree, can still become more consumed with our desires rather than the needs of others. When complacency sneaks in, we can lose compassion, because we tend to be more consumed with our comfort. Yet there is something in us that is unsettling and unfulfilling when we live life for ourselves.
Living a life of justice doesn’t mean you have to feel bad about every comfort you have, or give everything up and jump on with every cause that comes your way. But there are a few things you can do to take on an attitude of compassion, which ultimately is what leads to seeking justice:
Fight Complacency with Compassion
Complacency is when we place our comfort, satisfaction and pride above everything else. We all know that internal struggle with self and self-satisfaction. Whether it is the newest iPhone or a love for doughnuts, more often than not, our desires tend to rule our actions and the way we spend our time and money. Complacency can be defined by a materialistic lifestyle, but it can also be about the way we waste our time, energy, money and talents on ourselves.
In 1 John 3, John warns people about the way they treat the poor and the marginalized. He warns them not to cut off the compassion that they have for them.
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
How true is that for us? How quickly do we see someone in lesser circumstances than us, feel bad for them, and immediately shut it down? How often do we rationalize why we shouldn’t give money to a specific organization or how we don’t have time to become an advocate for people? The solution John presents is to use our compassion for good. It is so important that we dwell in our compassion and allow it to influence our heart to act in a way that is beneficial for others.
Be Pro-Life Beyond Just Opposing Abortion
We all should be pro-life advocates. This extends beyond just opposing abortion.
As Christians, we believe that everyone has the right to life. Life for us includes the basic necessities that enable individuals to grow and thrive to become a responsible individual who has the capacity to contribute to their community. Some of those basic necessities are food, shelter, clean water, protection, family, healthcare, education, job opportunities and so on. Be pro-life. Do what it takes to enrich the lives of those around you. Support individuals in a way that enables them to grow and flourish.
Understand Eternity For Yourself and Others
One of the most powerful tools we have in fighting complacency is to truly understand that the life we live today is temporary and ultimately leading us to eternity with Jesus.
We can so easily get caught up in our possessions and living a certain lifestyle, that we forget that all of this is going to fade away soon enough. When we think about the prize we have in Jesus and the perfection Heaven will be, nothing else compares. Even Paul stated that all is considered rubbish in comparison to knowing Christ.
The desire to resolve the issues that the marginalized are facing is critical. But we must also remember that the purpose of life is to know God and to love Him wholly. In addition to meeting the immediate and physical needs of others, we should also be pointing them to Christ with our actions and our words.
The root of injustice is sin. The solution to sin is the grace of Jesus Christ and His just Father.
Set Small Goals and Challenge Yourself
Many times, our approach to justice is to dive right into some big issue—vowing to give something up for the benefit of others, spend our money more effectively or volunteer our time in a different way—and we end up falling flat on our faces because we didn’t start small.
I used to try to beat myself into obedience in big ways, and would always have a little pity party with myself when I wasn’t capable of reaching my big goals.
It is really important to sit and evaluate our lives. It isn’t necessarily smart to set huge, life-changing goals right away. You might not be able to quit your job and start volunteering full-time for a nonprofit, or entirely stop spending your money on that one hobby that you really like. I’ve found that it is more beneficial to deal with the issue of the heart slowly and to recognize behaviors in everyday actions and how you can change them.
Set small and achievable goals that set you up for success, and to continue to set your resolve on spending your life on behalf of others. It takes time and effort. You will fail, at times, so don’t beat yourself up when you do. Ultimately, you are not the one who will bring justice, God is.
Dwell in your compassion, fight complacency, understand the realities of eternity and deal with the issue of your heart—every day.
Though an American girl by birth, Corina is a South African at heart who is located and works as an intern at The A21 Campaign in Cape Town. You can follow her thoughts of social justice and adoption at her personal blog, corinaanne.blogspot.com.