“We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside…but one day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that a system that produces beggars needs to be repaved. We are called to be the Good Samaritan, but after you lift so many people out of the ditch you start to ask, maybe the whole road to Jericho needs to be repaved.”
Those words, by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., were the focus of an ecumenical MO Faith Voices forum on poverty issues I attended yesterday. How appropriate, too, as Monday is MLK Jr – Day.
One of the most profound moments was a discussion of the “Two Feet of Social Justice” – Unfortunately, we live in a world where even the term “social justice” has become politicized, and so I like to think of it as not a Democrat or Republican thing, but as a “hands and feet of Christ” thing. The two feet of social justice represent my favorite part of being a Christian: ACTION.
One foot is for Justice and one foot is for Charity. This is a beautiful illustration of what we are called to do as God’s workmanship – created to do GOOD WORKS, prepared in advance for us to do, y’all! I’m referencing one of my favorite scriptures there, from Ephesians, but truly the Bible is full of references to Justice.
(I speak from a Christian tradition because this is my faith, but I truly feel this is applicable no matter what a person’s religious tradition is, what God they pray to, or whether they even believe in God. Anyone with a loving heart and a strong sense of right and wrong can get involved in this “hands and feet” business.)
We, most of us, are beautifully charitable. We support food pantries, and shelters, we hand some cash to the homeless man on the overpass. Charity is immediate and gives us the electric buzz of a job well done. Or, perhaps, of love well expressed.
Justice is taking this a step further – why do so many need food pantries or shelters? Why is that man homeless? Why are payday lenders allowed to prey on the most vulnerable in our society? Why is there no access to critical dental care for the working poor in our community? How can a single mom working full time for minimum wage get by?
And once we analyze those questions, we arrive back at the critical “step” – ACTION.
These forums on poverty issues are emotionally exhausting and overwhelming. The problems are overwhelming.
But at the end of yesterday’s forum, after we’d picked our five critical issues to try to tackle in 2013, we all went around and said one word to sum up our feelings for the day.
My word? INSPIRED.