Justice Starts Here
The topic of social justice can quickly turn political and polarizing, and yet scripture calls us to act justly: "He has shown you O man what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8) As a collective that serves mainly young mothers, we at The Lois Project think this piece offers an important message of hope to those who may be wondering what they can do in the season of motherhood to promote justice, starting at home. It is in no way meant to minimize the evil of systematic injustice or the importance of the organizations, careers and other formal structures that many believers join in as ways to participate in the broader fight. We believe that this humble message is just that - one woman's reflection on finding that Christ calls us out of the feelings of despair and helplessness, to small acts of love and justice in the places he's placed us.
As I sat in my favorite coffee shop catching up with my friend, anger welled up inside me. Not at her, or at any one person really, but at the knowledge that our conversation had brought. She was telling me about a book she’d recently read; a book about racism within the United States Justice system. I couldn’t help feeling horrified as a million questions ran through my head. How can I sit here in the this coffee shop while racism runs rampant in my backyard? What can I do? I’m not a racist… am I? Why am I spending so much time thinking about my prayer time and how I can serve in my church when action against racism needs to be taken? (Yes, that thought went through my head). Why do I even care about what kind of food my kids eat when such a horrifying injustice is taking place around me? Not to mention all the other injustices and problems in the world, which I have made no effort to correct!
In the hours that followed my conversation with my friend, I was overwhelmed. Just thinking of all the injustice in the world in which I live made me feel disturbed and helpless. I had created a list in mind: racism, poverty, human trafficking, disease, climate change, women’s rights, and on and on. At some point I came to the realization that I was despairing of all these things because I had separated them from Christ. This made the problems huge and Christ small; useless. As I began to think about these things in light of Christ, I no longer felt despair and helplessness, but an inspiration to pray. I prayed that Christ would give me wisdom about my role in fighting injustice in my beloved country.
The next morning, I continued my prayer for wisdom about how to change the world. Within a half hour, my four children (ages 7, 5, 3, 2) came down to greet me and beg my attention. Although some of my kids are quite independent, others still need my help with the basics of getting ready for the day. Even the ones who are independent need me to be present to them, to greet them, to ask them how they slept; and care. In that moment, I was convicted. My involvement in bringing about social justice in my country, ending poverty and human trafficking, or anything else I might become passionate about, started right there in my own family. Meeting the needs of my family, whether great or small, was my first calling. If I had to sacrifice being present and loving to my husband and children in order to eradicate racism, then eradicating racism was not for me to do.
Within a few hours, my husband and I received an email from a very close friend announcing that he was losing his job - his entire career was falling apart. He had a wife and kids and no way to provide for them. He was asking for prayers and leads on jobs, but I was again convicted: poverty was within arms reach. The desperately poor were not only in some village in Africa, the sweatshops of China or even on the streets of Detroit. Not for me, anyways. They were just across town in a home I’ve visited many times and in the school my children attend. While I care desperately about fighting racism, poverty, global warming, and human trafficking, the call on my resources - financial, mental, physical - was just a few miles away.
Just a couple hours later, I learned of a neighbor who had been in the emergency room all night with an ongoing and unresolved physical ailment. She had kids who needed to be cared for and their family would need dinner that evening. And again I was convicted. Can I justify taking up arms in the fight against social injustice at the expense of my friends who had a need I could fill? It would be an injustice!
So what do I do? I pray. I start conversations with my family at the dinner table about the topics I’m passionate about. I educate myself. My husband and I talk with our kids about right and wrong. We do our best, with God’s grace, to model right. And we actively care for the needs of those God has placed in front of us.
Maybe someday I will find myself pouring more of my resources into the broader fight against injustice in my country; but today Christ is calling me to see it in my own little world and chip away at it here and now. He is also reminding me that every problem is insurmountable when separated from Him.
By Mary Flanagan
Mary Flanagan is, first and foremost, a wife and mother; she is also a Certified Personal Trainer. She is passionate about ecumenical, charismatic, Christian community, intentional parenting, and exercise. She also enjoys gardening, playing the guitar and mandolin, reading, and camping with her family. Mary lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan with her husband, Dave, and their four children.