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by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

September, 2013

As I write this, our country has just observed the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. There are some statements that embody what our country is all about, that document the history of civil rights in America. Among these are the Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and of course Dr. King’s speech.

But, as anyone knows, the struggle for equal rights is far from over. Recently, a popular entertainer was challenged to do more for the cause of civil rights. His angry response was, “. . . this is going to sound arrogant, but my presence is charity. Just who I am, Just like [president] Obama’s is. Obama provides hope. Whether he does anything, the hope that he provides for a nation, and outside of America is enough.” I’m certainly glad he knows it sounds arrogant. Frankly, it sounds arrogant because it is. You make the world a better place by existing? Really? Sorry but I beg to differ.

There is only one man who might be said to have made the world a better place by merely existing, and that man is Jesus. When he spoke in the temple in Nazareth, Jesus read these words from Isaiah: “‘“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, / Because He has anointed Me / To preach the gospel to the poor; / He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, / To proclaim liberty to the captives / And recovery of sight to the blind, / To set at liberty those who are oppressed; / To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”’” (Luke 4:18-19 NKJV).

Afterward, “. . . He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” (vs. 21 NKJV). But if he had done nothing else, there would have been no good news for the poor, no liberty for the captives, no sight for the blind, no liberty for the oppressed, and no Scripture fulfilled. Instead, he preached good news to the poor, comforted the brokenhearted, stood against the forces of oppression, gave sight to the blind, and forgave sins. And ultimately, he died on a cross and rose again for all of us.

In the book of Isaiah, God commands us to “Learn to do good; / Seek justice, / Rebuke the oppressor; / Defend the fatherless, / Plead for the widow.” (Isa. 1:17 NKJV). There is more than enough good to be done, justice to seek, oppression to rebuke, and helpless people to defend. Jesus told the Jews, “‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. . . . Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.’” (John 8:31b-32, 36 NKJV). If we abide in his word, we will be free and we will proclaim freedom for all in his name.

Paul reminded the Christians in Ephesus that “. . . we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12 NKJV). Oppression doesn’t just mean being in chains, it means being excluded, restricted, marginalized. And it will last as long as the principalities and powers that promote it are allowed to exist.

James wrote, “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” (Jas. 2:15-16 NKJV). It’s not enough for that entertainer to say, “I’m successful. Look at me and be inspired.” He has to actually do something for the cause of civil rights. He has to use his success and position to lift up others. I don’t go to the doctor to see how healthy he is, I go because he can make and keep me healthy. This is our commission as well, to proclaim—and to work for—freedom, deliverance, healing and wholeness in Christ. If we expect others to see us being Christians, we have to give them something to see. Baseball great Jackie Robinson observed, “Life is not a spectator sport.” Neither is Christianity. It’s time for all of us to get in the game.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; / And what does the Lord require of you / But to do justly, / To love mercy, / And to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:8 NKJV.)

Copyright © 2013 by David Phelps