Callings: Acts of Compassion AND Acts of Justice


Often in these posts, I'm more tentative and less preachy. Well, at least I think so. Your mileage may vary.

This one is not tentative and it is preachy. I hope it's a good kind of preachy, though.

Haiti is a wake-up call to the world.

And it better be a wake-up call to the church.

And if missional means anything to us, it better be a wake-up call to those of us in the church who identify ourselves by the moniker "missional."

Wake up!

Yes, there is a worldwide human call and obligation to offer as much compassionate aid to the injured and grieving and honor for the dead as we can. Yes, there is a huge need to feed the hungry and house the hundreds of thousands of newly homeless. We cannot but do all of those things if we have hearts of flesh and not of stone. And no doubt millions of people around the world, whatever their religious or humanitarian persuasions, will do just that. I know I will-- probably through the United Methodist Committee on Relief among others.

But that's not nearly enough.

Do that, and think we've done enough to go back to sleep, and all we've done is restore a status quo and send ourselves into a Lethean bliss. All we've done is see a need to "help" long enough to become blind to the real issues that will drive Haiti's people only deeper into the abyss. And those issues are issues of justice.

The people of Haiti, indeed the entire island of Hispaniola (as Christopher Columbus's crew called it), have been suffering at the hands of "good Christians" (and not so good Christians and others) for well over five centuries now. And Haiti's gotten the brunt of it. (And no, not because of any alleged "deal with the devil!")

First it was European diseases that decimated the population.

Then it was ensnaring these folks into debt and slavery.

Yes, Haiti "won" its independence from France in the early 19th century, but it still had debts to repay from that until well into the 20th century-- debts that other nations, including the US, took advantage of to rape the land for agribusiness that gave cheap food to us at their expense and continues to decimate both land and people there.

The US and other nations have continued to play a huge role in keeping "friendly" (to us, hardly to the people!) governments in place in Haiti, despite the terrible toll those governments took on the Haitian people.

Results: corrupt governments, terrible infrastructure, and an economy in which 80% of the GDP is "foreign aid." Oh, and the slave trade continues there-- at the highest level of any nation on the planet (any wonder why given the poverty everything else generates and multiplies?).

Let rebuilding come, yes. But more, far more, let justice roll down like waters, righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

That is, justice that represents justice (both Mishpat and Tzedekah) for the people of Haiti-- not primarily "cheap goods" or "national interests" for other nations.

Let the rich be sent away, empty!

But there's another wake-up call here not to be missed. What we see in this earthquake, the leveling of buildings and the deaths of tens of thousands in cities near a coast, not to mention all the destruction of buildings and infrastructure-- this is but foretaste in one small place of the devastation that the rise in sea levels caused by global warming will cause in the coming years unless we get serious about that, too. And maybe, in some places, even if we do.

Wake up!

Justice isn't just about national interests. It's about human interests, wherever we live on this planet, and that means it's about HOW we live while on this planet as well.

Love your neighbor as yourself. Love God with all your being. Feed the hungry. Visit prisoners (and declare their release!). Be compassionate to the sick (and heal them!). Treat the blind as fully human (and end blindness!) Forgive sinners (and debts!). Pray for the people of Haiti (and help them!).

But help doesn't just mean fix the things that got broken. It means help them achieve justice and true Shalom that works for them on their terms in their land.

God does have mercy. God is just. God's reign overflows with both compassion and justice.

And we?