Some time ago I was having lunch with the leader of the Swedish Pentecostal movement. I had contacted him in order to share my vision of combining signs and wonders with peace and justice, and he offered to meet me. When we sat there I explained how important it was to eradicate poverty, fight climate change and work for peace, and then I remarked that I had to leave the lunch a bit early since I was going to participate in an act of civil disobedience in a detention center not far away, where the police would deport people to Iraq the same night. He looked at me and said “I really share your conviction that these issues are very important, but please reflect upon how much the ordinary believer is obliged to do.”
I got his point. Most Christians aren’t willing to lay so much time on activism as I do; in fact, for many of them “activist” is a quite alien term. And I agree with that there are different functions in the body of Christ – some focus on activism, others on preaching, others on evangelism and so on.
Still, just as the presence of preachers doesn’t mean that everyone else shouldn’t know any theology, every believer should care for peace and justice to some extent. The question is: what extent? Well, when we look at the Scriptures, it is striking that many of the commandments to all believers are very radical when it comes to peace and justice:
If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday. – Isaiah 58:9-10 NIV
But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you… Do to others as you would have them do to you. – Luke 6:27-28, 31
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. – Matthew 25:35-36
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves… Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality… Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse… If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. – Romans 12:10, 13-14, 18
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 that person? – 1 John 3:17
Thus, it’s pretty obvious that this peace and justice stuff concerns all of us. Everyone who can create a better world should create a better world. Some of you may think this is bad news; your callender is already full with work, kids, ministry or whatever, and now you’re supposed to force in some stupid activism there as well?
No worries. Here’s three easy steps to become an ordinary radical, changing the world in your daily life:
Stop doing bad stuff. The majority of Christians in the Western world destroy the environment and support human rights violations without thinking about it or, even worse, without caring about it. If we stop buying meat (which is extremely damaging for the climate), clothes and toys produced in sweatshops and other unfair and non-green products, we’ll save a lot of money and a lot of health and lives.
Stop doing unnecessary stuff. Most people don’t realize that for example the entertainment, tourist and beauty industries are very damaging fot the environment, since they are unnecessary. They also hinder global economic equality and waste a lot of money that should have been given to the poor. You can live perfectly fine without them, I promise you.
Start doing good stuff. Ta-daa, suddenly you got not only a lot of extra money but also a lot of extra time to spend on activism. Connect with local and national activist groups and start getting active. Not only is it fun to lobby for peace and justice, when you succeed with something and realize that someone’s life has been improved or even saved, it is amazingly satisfying.
So, don’t hesitate to start working for peace and justice. It’s just as natural in the Christian life as sharing your faith, praying or attending services. Even if it’s not your main focus, it should be a part of who you are. Your either a passivist or an activist, and we should choose the latter.
Activism goes all the way down to your every day choices and how you treat the people around you – even the conversations we have. Not everyone will be moved to the same level of activity, but all can be active.
I agree with you Micael, we should all be interested in all aspects of the good news. But of course we can’t do everything, and I think Ephesians 2:10 is helpful here:
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
We each need to pray and allow ourselves to be guided to the good works he has prepared for us to do.