Social Work: Is it a responsibility of a believer?
Recently, I have started to get a bit of time to visit social media. I have become quite active on Facebook. I have observed a recent trend in which I noticed that instead of sharing just photographs, comic-clips etc, people have started to participate in the socio-religious and socio-political discussions. People have started raising voice against or in favour of the incidents happening in the society.
People across the world have started to use social media to express their views. We have started to expect a change in our society and country and I feel that the next revolution for the positive change in the country may come due to social media. While mainstream media may hide or highlight certain specific news, social media has become more open platform for spreading the news. The positive side of this new trend is that now citizens are able to express their concerns which are taken into consideration whereas earlier we could only hear the news but not react. I get many socio-political-religious posts from many friends and friends of friends from India and Nepal and I too contribute wherever possible.
Many of my believer and non-believer friends have suggested that I may be a fit voice in the active politics. While politics is not my goal but if God wills so, I would not hesitate to do so in the future. However, at the moment, I do not have any such vision but in all this conversation, my attention was caught by the fact that not many Christians involve themselves in some specific professions such as politics, police and defence. Reason being, there is a lot of abuse of power in the politics, lot of corruption in the police and lot of blood-shed in the military whereas Christians find themselves peaceful, honest and non-voilent end due to certain teachings derived from the Bible. I do not see any good practising Christian in the active politics or even keen to do so in near future.
While I do not want to focus on all above mentioned professions, I wish to talk about social work activism – if this is godly, if it is in the will of God and if Christians should actively participate in this.
I have been meditating on this subject for quite some time, prayed about it and have heard messages from other prominent speakers like Rick Warren and John Piper. What we need to understand right now is – what is the will and purpose of God about social work (activism).
The first book of the Bible, Genesis in chapter 1 and verse 26 tells us that God created the mankind in his own image and likeness. What is the image and likeness of God – God is holy, which means there is no sin in the thoughts, attitude, words or actions of God; God is love, God is just and God cannot inflict pain or injustice upon anyone. God is kind. God has been interested in a living relationship with us and so created us holy. By misusing the free-will given to us by God, mankind chose to do his own will and not the will of God. We separated from God and became unholy, unjust, unloving and unkind. Mankind lives selfishly now and inflicts pain, suffering, injustice and hatred towards other human beings. Our current society is not the will of God.
Acts 10:35 – but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.
This means that every person who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and receives forgiveness of sins becomes recipient of eternal life. Faith in Jesus restores our relationship with God and reconciles us back to him. A person who fears God, respects God and so does good which are acceptable (and desirable) to God. Please note that our works cannot buy forgiveness of sins and salvation but after receiving salvation, we must do good works.
1 Corinthians 2:16 – We have the mind of Christ.
What is the mind of Christ? Christ loves all. Christ suffers for others. Christ feel sad for other’s pain. An old widow lost her son and Jesus sympathised with her as he saw the people carrying his dead body. He shed tears while nothing was difficult for him to do. Do we empathise in other’s pain? Do we suffer for others? Do we weep for those who are downtrodden and lost.
Ephesians 2:10 – For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
God created us to do ‘good’. Righteous acts are our obligation, kindness is imperative on our part. Since we are created to do good, what is the extra virtue of our good works (karma) by which we will impress God. In fact, when we do not do good, we become guilty before God.
Luke 4:18 – The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…if we have the mind of Christ, then should we not set the oppressed free.
James 2:13 – because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. We are called to be merciful and kind. If we do not show kindness, we shall also not be shown kindness. If we do not forgive sins of others, our sins shall also not be forgiven. Same measure (scale) shall be used to measure us which we use to measure others. Kindness is not an option for us. If we have the mind of Christ, we must show mercy to others.
Galatians 6:2 – Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. The law of Christ is the law of mercy and grace, very different from the law of old. Under this law, we must carry each other’s burden. Like a female is physically weaker than a man and so her burden need to be supported by a male. In the same way, we need to bless others through the blessings bestowed upon us. Whether it be our talent, quality, ability, social or financial status, we must use it to carry the burden of others.
1 Timothy 5:8 – Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. God wants us to have concern and provide for our near and dear ones. Unless we carry the burden of our neighbours we are worse than a believer. Who is your neighbour – you must take your own decision in line with the parable told by Jesus in Luke 10:30-37. This portions explains the meaning of a true neighbour and in the last it says, “Go and do likewise”. We must take it literally and fulfil the responsibility of a good neighbour.
Now what is the connecting verse between social work and the gospel work?
1 Peter 2:12 – Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
In India, due to misconceptions, the prevalent religious casteist notion as well as the unbiblical conduct of orthodox and catholic Christians, Christianity is not seen in good light. We see that image in the films. Christians are even seen as the lower than the lowest class in the Indian hindu society by few. Now therefore, we are all eligible to be a ‘good samaritan’ who belonged to the excluded society, downtrodden class which was untouchable for Jews.
In contrast of the above said worldview, we all know according to 1 Peter 2:9 that our status is much higher comparitively. We are called the royal priesthood. Society may think whatever of us but God looks at us highly and we all are precious in the sight of God. Being the social workers, we can assist the gospel work by uplifting our society by bringing education, health and justice to the downtrodden class. We see in the book of Acts, chapter 6 and verse 1-7, Stephen was chosen to carry out a social work responsibility in the capacity of taking care of food arrangement and distribution; yet his good conduct as well as testimony brought glory to God. Therefore, social work is no excuse for us to keep ourselves away from the gospel work.
I am reading the Constitution of India these days. I have learnt a lot about the Right to Information act which seems to be the only right to the Indian citizens which can help us overcome the problem of corruption and bring justice to the society. I wish to educate people about it and help them actively. However, that does not mean I should stop the gospel work. I feel that social work activism is a good way to change our society. Making our society better is equally our responsibility as much as building the kingdom of God through gospel work is. Social work will make a conducive environment through our good works for the society to receive the gospel from us.
In the book of Acts, chapter 13, we see Paul raising his voice against ‘wrong’ and restricting a person who was stopping few others from hearing the gospel. At times, as followers of Christ, we feel that we ought to bear every atrocity and must not raise our voice to say ‘wrong’ to the wrong. We have been conditioned to think that being soft-spoken and sweetly is what is expected from a Christian, as if we need not to raise our voice against any wrong – this is a wrong teaching. Lord Jesus raised his voice against the business going on the temple premises. Paul resisted the magic-vendor.
Bible gives us the right to follow the example of Jesus and the apostles. It does not restrict us from resisting the wrong. We may be required to bear for ourselves not for others. For others, we are required to show kindness as well as help them.
We cannot bear for others. When some other person is beaten up, we do not feel the pain. We can only empathise with them. In the same way, we cannot sympathise with ourselves. However, we are guilty of doing it other way round – sympathising (or at least expecting sympathy) for self and bearing for others. We should feel proud of doing good to others – we are the people who are taught to turn our other cheek when slapped on one.
You might say, brother, you always teach that we must bear each other, we have to suffer for kingdom work and consider it pure joy when persecuted for Christ; whereas, today you say that we need not bear but fight for the rights. Yes. Yes we have to fight for other’s rights but will have to be prepared to give up our own rights. This is not easy but this is what is needed. We must pray about it.
Neither our objectives or goals, nor our ways of social work activism be unspiritual. Our goals and actions must be directed as per the word of God.
What I am trying to say is we have to be prepared to give up all our rights and be Christ-like. Christ gave up all his rights. However, at the same time, we have to learn to be compassionate for others. We need to become the voice of the uneducated downtrodden class who do not know their rights and are socially exploited. We can involve ourselves in any morally right social cause which does not interfere with our biblical faith. We need to do the things which are biblical, Spirit-led and spiritual. For the right causes, with the right ways, we must stand up in constitutional ways against every injustice. Lets see some verses from the old and new testament for more clarity:
Proverbs 14:21 – It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.
Proverbs 31:8-9 – Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Isaiah 1:17 – Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
Mathew 5:7 – Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
1 Thessalonians 5:15 – Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
Now, with the last verse, I wish to conclude this message.
James 4:17 – If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
I am sure by all the said verses, you know by all means what does Bible say and what does God want as far as social work is concerned. You know your own ability and your duty to help others. We cannot keep ourselves aloof from the social work of justice to the needy. We need to become a good samaritan, we need to help those who cannot help themselves, we need to become the voice of the mutes and have to fight case of the weaker ones. We have to be prepared to give up our rights as well as fight for the rights of others. This is the will of God which we are required to fulfil in this world.
God bless you.