We don’t willfully turn a blind eye to the world’s injustices. Usually, we have the best of intentions when it comes to compassion and world change—and yet, we become preoccupied.
We get caught up in the next deadline, the next work day, the next distraction blinking up on our phone. We get caught up in me-centered living. Even when faced with the world’s profound needs, our self-preoccupation can slip into complacency. The end result is apathy—somehow, we’ve just stopped caring.
Apathy is the easy road when the horrors of life-gone-wrong disconcert us. Before we realize it, it becomes our default habit because it requires so little change. Rejecting apathy, on the other hand, is a radical counteraction. It’s the about-face to the gravitational pull of self-centeredness.
We reject apathy because God calls us to embrace something far stronger: life. Because the God who made us in His image imprinted that same divine thumbprint on the soul of every human being, including the poor, the weak and powerless (Genesis 1:27). Because, as Christians, we follow the One who said: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
From the womb to the cradle to the wheelchair to the grave, human life is created by God and is precious to Him. Therefore, it is worth protecting, championing and celebrating.
After all, this is Christ’s self-professed mission: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). And not just spiritual life, but whole life. Resurrection life. The kind of life that will thrive spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally.
Following such a Savior, we answer God’s call for Kingdom justice not because we ought to, feel guilty or simply want to jump on the bandwagon of a trendy “cause.” No, we reject apathy because we believe all human life is sacred. In the following sections, you’ll find the five areas of injustice where life is most often threatened—and where God calls us to champion life once again.
Preventable disease is a physical threat to life everywhere—particularly for those without financial resources, who are left without access to basic health care.
But “preventable” is a word charged with hope. It means we have the ability—the technology, the knowledge, the medicine—to stop these diseases before they take more lives. The solutions are relatively simple: clean water, hand soap, vaccinations, HIV/AIDS testing and education, insecticide-treated mosquito nets.
Because of these simple solutions, the global mortality rate from malaria has dropped 60percent since 2000. In Africa, the malaria death rate has fallen 42 percent in the same time frame. Vaccination programs have resulted in a 74 percent decrease in measles deaths worldwide. And, due to Preventative care, incidents of polio are down by 99 percent—one percentage point away from total and global eradication. Kay Warren, founder of Saddleback Church’s HIV & AIDS Initiative, finds her model for combating disease in the healing ministry of Jesus.
“In the New Testament, leprosy was a stigmatizing illness. People assumed leprosy was associated with sin; they wanted nothing to do with lepers,” Warren says. “The modern-day equivalent of leprosy is HIV. There’s a toxic mix of stigma and judgment associated with it—and that’s the very reason Christians should care.”
Jesus’ compassionate example also drives Stacie Zellmer, the school and faith liaison for charity: water. “Christ Himself tended to physical hunger, thirst, illness and even death on a regular basis as a gateway to minister to people holistically,” Zellmer explains.
Ultimately, Zellmer says, preventing disease and caring for the afflicted arises out of Kingdom
theology: “When Jesus prayed in Matthew 6:10, ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done,’ it strikes me that in heaven, 4,100 children won’t die daily due to water-related illnesses.
We, the Church, have an opportunity to participate in God’s restoration of the world.”
Preventable Disease By the Numbers
- 1.5 million people die annually from diseases that are easily preventable through routine vaccination.
Solution: Provide immunizations.
- One million people die of malaria each year.
Solution: Supply treated mosquito nets to prevent transmission and basic medicine to treat infection.
- 3.5 million people die annually from illnesses caused by unclean drinking water. 90 percent of these deaths are children.
Solution: Engineer clean-water wells; provide hand soap, sanitation and hygiene education.
- 38 million people today are living with HIV. 690,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2019. 1.7 million died from AIDS, and 17 million kids were orphaned because of AIDS in 2011.
Solution: Provide HIV testing, education and medication; support adoption efforts.
If you trace most injustice in the world today to its source, you will find poverty.
Globally, nearly 1.9 billion people live in extreme poverty. Despite America’s “wealthy” GDP, one in six American kids live in poverty. In fact, one in six people worldwide has not gotten enough to eat today. This year, more than 6 million kids will die from malnutrition.
When we read statistics like these or see pictures of their effects in bloated, starving children, our instinctive reaction is often to look away or to make a quick donation and assuage any trace of guilt.
Though financial giving certainly helps, turning the tide on global poverty takes more than just throwing money at the problem. It takes recognition of the God-given dignity of each person.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God challenged His people to live out the worship He really wants: “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:7).
Rather than keeping poverty at a safe distance, we need to see the real people behind the “issue.” God calls us to empower our global neighbors with sustainable solutions that will break the cycles of poverty and help people live out their God-given potential.
Microlending initiatives and fair-trade programs give impoverished people the opportunity to make a living wage, feed their families, learn skills and take pride in their dignified work. Child sponsorship programs provide food and education that equips kids to break free from illiteracy and build a future in which to use their God-given abilities. Feeding programs and crisis response teams provide nutrition that saves lives. Beyond just handing out rations, the organizations that make a dent in global poverty are the ones that teach marketable skills, such as farming or sewing, to enable people to feed themselves.
“What gives me hope is that here, on the ground, I am witnessing change,” says Rudo Kwaramba, a former World Vision regional leader in Johannesburg, South Africa. “A child finishing school and joining the job market—that’s one person out of the poverty bracket. A child vaccinated—that’s one death before the age of five that’s been prevented. A woman starting a small business with a $100 loan—in a year’s time, she’s able to pay school fees and feed her family.”
The effort to change individual lives is also taking effect on a grander scale. Between 2000 and 2010, for example, the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day has been cut in half. 5 “We have a long way to go,” Kwaramba says, “but this is evidence that change is possible and [extreme] poverty can be eradicated.”
Loss of Innocents
“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matthew 2:18). Like the unutterable grief of the parents who lost their children in Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents, we feel left without words when we face horrifying violations of human life. And yet, God calls us to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” (Proverbs 31:8) and help reclaim the innocence that is stolen every day.
“The Chinese government recently reported that they have aborted 336 million babies in the last four decades—that is a massacre,” says Brian Lee, executive director of All Girls Allowed. And because these abortions—which are the result of China’s one-child policy—are mostly of females, it is also gendercide: “the systematic elimination of one gender group o“en by sex-selective abortion, infanticide, abandonment or trafficking.”
To elevate the human dignity of females in China, All Girls Allowed works with local Christians to host baby showers and provide financial assistance to impoverished families expecting girls. They also equip families to speak out against China’s one child policy.
“The Lord is moving through His Church to restore the value of women,” Lee says. “There are brothers and sisters all around China who are stepping out with great vigor and enthusiasm to end gendercide.”
HIV creates what Kay Warren calls “a terrible synergy” between the disease and the orphan crisis. “HIV creates orphans as parents die, and orphans are more likely to end up becoming HIV-positive because they’re more vulnerable,” Warren says.
There are 153 million orphans in the world, Warren says, which may seem staggering, but the 2.2 billion Christians in the world can absorb those orphans.
Warren is seeing steps toward this solution in Rwanda, where Christians are taking up the government’s goal of emptying their nation’s orphanages. “The churches in Rwanda have said, ‘We will adopt these children,’” Warren says. Saddleback’s Rwanda Orphan Care Initiative is just one of many organizations worldwide helping Christians welcome children into their families.
- Human Trafficking
“Human trafficking is one of the most extreme forms of injustice our world has ever known,” says Bethany Hoang, director of International Justice Mission’s Institute for Biblical Justice. It’s also an injustice that has been growing. There are more slaves today than any other point in history—nearly 25 million victims worldwide of sex trafficking, forced labor or child soldiering.
Even so, Hoang is seeing progress. “Just a decade ago, most Christians [didn’t] even know the term ‘human trafficking,’” Hoang says. “Today, Christians are taking front-line leadership in what will become known as the generation that saw a final end to the sale of human beings. Where slavery once thrived, lives will flourish instead.”
The abortion rate in the U.S. may be falling, but globally, a child is aborted every two seconds. As Christ-followers, we lament the loss of vulnerable human life and we equally lament the factors that lead a pregnant woman to such a choice. But we don’t stop at lament. Our commitment to a whole-life ethic requires us to protect the unborn and to provide women with the practical and spiritual support in their choice to give their child life. The same commitment requires us to proclaim the healing love of Jesus to those suffering from the psychological wounds of choosing abortion.
- Child Victimization
The violation of childhood innocence is a devastating reminder of the reality of evil in the world. And yet, it happens more than we’d like to think. In America, #ve kids die daily as a result of abuse or neglect. One hundred forty million women and young girls today live as victims of female genital mutilation (FMG), often performed on them by force and without anesthesia. Today, there are 250,000 children who have been forced into armed conflict around the world.
Because we affirm the value of human life, we stand firmly against the victimization of children in any and all of its forms. We stand as witnesses to the loving character of Jesus, and we recognize that in these children made in His image, God has prepared a future and a hope.
- Support a child through a Christian child-sponsorship organization. Learn more at worldvision.org/foreverychild or compassion.com.
- Fast and pray for the world’s poor and hungry.
- Donate toward disease prevention at charitywater.org.
- Advocate against unjust war, genocide and gun violence. Lean more at ijm.org.
- Get your church involved in providing resources for HIV testing and care. Learn how ccih.org.
- Extend dignity through choosing fair-trade purchases and supporting microlending.
- Advocate for the unborn globally by championing the value of girls as well as boys; learn more at allgirlsallowed.org.
- Raise awareness of human trafficking in your community. Find a few creative ways to do this at ijm.org.
- Donate pantry items, toiletries, money and time to shelters for the homeless and victims of domestic violence.
- Love at-risk kids through tutoring, after-school programs or pursuing foster care or adoption.
- Support and take part in environmental conservation efforts on both a local and global scale. Learn about ways to get involved at arocha.org.</span
Armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, genocide, school shootings, drone strikes, racist violence, nuclear war—this is the ugly world we live in. And it’s the world in which the peace of Christ shines in bright contrast.
While Christians may draw different conclusions on violence, ranging from pacifism to military service, we can unite together against unjust war. We can choose to stand as advocates for the voiceless victims of violence—from the kids huddled together in a school lockdown to the civilian casualties of war.
As a result of violence, nearly 80 million worldwide have fled their homes. But fleeing the battlefield doesn’t necessarily secure safety. “Displaced people are among the most vulnerable people in the world,” reports Nathaniel Hurd, World Vision’s former policy adviser for conflicts and disasters, “because they have often left behind almost everything.”
In the name of Christ, we can render aid to those fleeing the devastation caused by violence—providing medical treatment, nutritious food, clean water, shelter and sanitation to refugees. Hurd says these simple resources give refugees life essentials and hope for the future. “All they want is to be able to make a life for themselves,” he says, “and ften all they need is a little help to do it.”
Ministering to those affected by violence is of vital importance to a Christian whole-life ethic. But in addition to this, we can work preemptively to stop violence from occurring in the first place.
Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, founder of the Two Futures Project and author of The World Is Not Ours to Save, is committed to just this. “Nuclear weapons are categorically the most dangerous technology that humanity has invented,” Wigg-Stevenson says. And while they should be a concern to everyone, Wigg-Stevenson says, “Christians should have a special concern that these weapons never be used because it would be a massive failure of love.” A nuclear attack strikes at the heart of the Christian life ethic, he explains, because it would sabotage the preservation of innocent life, environmental stewardship and compassion for the poor.
Concerns of violence are not easy to navigate, and Christians may disagree about the answers. But ultimately, peacemaking is our business. It is the business of anyone serving the One whose radical challenge still rings out today: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27). We follow the Christ who proclaimed, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). In our world riddled with violence, we fix our hope upon the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6-7) and pray for His Kingdom to come.
God created—and continually creates and sustains—a world He called “very good” (Genesis 1:31; Colossians 1:15-17). Through the beauty of this natural world, God reveals His character to all of humankind (Romans 1:19-20) and provides the natural resources we need for life. And because we are made in the image of our Creator God, we are called to care for His creation in a manner that reflects His character—with love, faithfulness, mercy, service and integrity.
So, as God’s people, we decry the violence waged against all of God’s creation. We bemoan the ravages of pollution, environmental disasters, waste, consumerism, climate change, species endangerment and habitat destruction upon the earth and its creatures. And we lament not just the damages to the earth itself, but especially their effect on human life.
“It’s very clear that the least among us—the elderly, children, the poor—are being hurt first by environmental degradation,” says Nancy Sleeth, co-founder of Blessed Earth, a Christian nonprofit committed to environmental care. “One extremely important way we can love our global neighbors is by making sure they have access to clean water, clean air and healthy soil in which to grow food.”
Tom Rowley, former executive director of A Rocha, agrees. In his conservation work in 19 countries he has observed: “People who are dependent upon subsistence farming, forestry and fishing have much less margin for protection. While a drought might hit us in the pocketbook, for them, it’s a matter of life and death.”
Likewise, the poor in urban slums are poisoned by pollution run-off in their water. Indigenous coastal communities are threatened by rising ocean waters. Those breathing polluted air are suffering from preventable, life-threatening diseases like asthma, cardiovascular disease, cancer and more.
“I firmly believe that all Christians need to be pro-life,” Sleeth says, “but pro-life means every aspect of life. Having a viable planet for humans and all of God’s creatures to thrive on is a first order of business.”
“The Earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). As Christians, we believe this is true—from the soil under our feet to towering redwoods to every single human life on this planet. And so, as stewards, we strive to protect God’s created world through daily choices like recycling, reducing energy consumption and resisting consumerism. We aim to treasure God’s creation—not only for its God-infused beauty, but for its provision for human life.
Creation care, at its core, is far more than “going green.” It’s learning to “live as agents of shalom to the place that God has put us,” Rowley says. “We do that by living the abundant life right where we are,” he says, “by reaching out to our neighbors, … by getting involved in conservation efforts, by becoming proactive in bringing Christ’s reconciliation.”
Rejecting Apathy, Championing Life
Poverty, preventable disease, loss of innocents, violence, environmental decay—these are no small problems. So as we answer God’s call to defend human life, let’s remember this: God isn’t calling us to hoist all the world’s needs upon our shoulders. Rather, “We need to recognize that we’re part of a story,” Wigg-Stevenson says. “Our actions are significant, but we’re part of a story which ends aren’t ours to bring about. As we orient ourselves toward God’s Kingdom, we will do our part—but it will be activism out of a spirit of service.”
We can’t do it all on our own. But we can, with God’s leading, zero in on one area where we feel called to champion the sanctity of human life. As pastor and author Frederick Buechner famously wrote, “The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” We’re each uniquely gifted and impassioned. We can each discern God’s calling as we respond to global injustice.
When we reject apathy, we make room for something else. We align ourselves with the life-giving mission of Christ. We pair our unique passions with the work God is already doing through His Church.
“Proverbs 14:31 says it so clearly: ‘Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God,’” says IJM’s Hoang, “Justice is at the very heart of God. Some of the deepest heartaches and highest joys we will know in this world will come from simply joining in the work of our God who loves justice.”
“Ultimately, we’re not going to save the world. That’s Jesus’ job, and he’s already done that,” says A Rocha’s Rowley. “We’re living in the already-but-not-yet Kingdom. And so our hope isn’t in what our efforts will bring about, but in being faithful, relying on God and looking to His Kingdom. He is in charge of the results—and our hope is in Him.”
Key passages on God’s heart for justice:
- Matthew 25:31-46
- Isaiah 58
- Psalm 146:6-10