"'So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,' says the LORD Almighty" (Malachi 3:5).
I had intended to write an encouraging post about Labor Day for this weekend. I was searching the Internet, looking for a good story about Christians who had made a positive difference for people who were laboring under oppressive conditions. When I stumbled across the historical documents at http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/race/haymes41.html, I was disturbed by what I read.
I discovered the story of a white minister who had married a Hispanic woman in the 1960s. They were serving a community of Hispanic farm workers in south Texas when the young minister became aware of the injustices faced by his fellow Christians on the job. Trying to make a difference for the people he was seeing mistreated, he joined a labor union's march to increase wages for the farm workers. Leaders from a church that supported his outreach to the Spanish-speaking world were upset that he would participate in an event organized by a labor union. As a result, he was ordered to stop trying to help improve the living conditions of the Hispanic workers. He perceived it to be his duty as a human being to help the people who were struggling. Eventually, he lost the support of the large and influential congregation; his wife was driven to suicide; and he became a skeptic who rejected the miraculous accounts found in the Bible.
In my previous two posts, I called on Christians to respect the poor, the unhealthy, and the uneducated because it reflects the heart of God. In this story, I discovered a principle I did not expect to find: If we disrespect the poor and turn away from them when they are mistreated, we are harming people emotionally and spiritually. In significant ways, Christians (and especially Christian leaders) represent God to the world around them. When people are expecting God to be a God of compassion and justice, but they see uncaring Christians who either side with injustice or are blind to injustice, they can be devastated. Emotional barriers can be erected which may never come down.
If believers can be men and women of compassion and justice, God will be honored. Barriers to faith will not be built. Perhaps they will even be removed. Perhaps healing will begin in the lives of the oppressed, and in the lives of other decent people who have witnessed wrongdoing but who have never seen the people of God help in any meaningful way. Let's honor God by caring for people who are hurting and disrespected.