“When people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.” — Dr. MLK Jr.
Eight years ago, when I first became a mom, I knew immediately that I wanted my daughter to grow up with a deep understanding of justice rooted in God’s word.
I had read plenty of books, listened to many sermons and learned from experts while working in the faith and justice space for the past ten years. I thought I had a good understanding of where to start and how to guide my children. But as any parent will attest, our children always teach us more than we expect. One of the best lessons I encountered about how to live a life of justice, I learned from my eight-year-old daughter.
At World Relief, we believe living justly is a mandate from God. Living out God’s call to live justly is how we put our faith into action, and I’m eager to share with you how my daughter encouraged me to always keep learning.
Pursuing a lifestyle of justice begins by looking up.
Last summer, I was driving home from work thinking about all the items on my to-do list. My daughter, Elena, sat in the back seat. Traffic was horrible, and I just wanted to be home. We stopped at a red light, and Elena noticed a man on the opposite side of the intersection holding a sign that read, “Need money for food. Please help.”
“Mami,” her voice interrupted my own thoughts. “Can you please go by that man over there? I have some of my birthday money with me and I want to give it to him.”
I hadn’t even noticed the man asking for help.
It is so easy to be consumed with our day-to-day lives that we forget to notice the people God puts in our path. This is where living a life of justice begins — by paying attention and looking up.
Galatians 5:13 says, “But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”
Jesus noticed the people that went unnoticed all the time. The Samaritan woman was shocked at Jesus’ acknowledgment of her. The bleeding woman, considered too unclean and cast away, was seen and healed. Since birth, Jesus himself faced persecution and was dependent on the goodwill of others.
In the same way that Elena looked up and noticed the man on the corner, we’re invited to look up from our phones, from our laptops, from our self-imposed commitments and see a world that is craving love.
I wish I could say I responded to Elena’s request with an enthusiastic “Yes!”
But I have to admit that I let myself be led by my desire for convenience. You see, in order to get close to the man, I’d have to cross three lanes of traffic, make a sharp U-turn and then cross into the opposite side of the intersection. Helping the man and answering the call of my daughter’s heart would be disruptive.
“Not today, mija,” I said. “Maybe we can stop another day if we see him again.”
As the light turned green and I drove away from the man, a quiet voice told me to look up at my rear view mirror. I lifted my eyes and saw my daughter’s face covered in heartbreak. The very leading of the Holy Spirit that I had spent the past eight years nurturing within her had been crushed by me.
I wanted to keep going with my day, but my daughter was ready, prompted by the Holy Spirit to act. She saw a need and felt compelled to move.
Be Willing to Learn
Though mere seconds passed, a whole lifetime of thoughts and questions passed through my mind.
I knew enough to understand that homelessness is caused by a ton of factors and none of those factors would be solved by my daughter giving her birthday money away. My desire is for my daughter to be generous, but do I want her to give at every opportunity? I want to teach her to do the right thing, but is it realistic to do that every time?
In that moment, God used Elena’s heartfelt expression to convict and remind me — that’s not my call to make.
As a follower of Jesus, I am mandated to love my neighbor. And as a mother, I am called to raise my daughter to do the same. The only way she will learn that, as all kids do, is through the example I show her.
I swiftly changed lanes and made the sharp U-turn in the opposite direction. My daughter looked up with delight as she realized we were heading back. I patiently waited to cross the double intersection and merged into the closest lane next to the man with the sign.
Elena lowered her window, extended a hand out with her change and offered it to the man experiencing homelessness.
“God bless you, sir. My mom and I will be praying for you.”
I don’t want to assume how this made the man feel but my hope is that he at least felt seen.
That day, Elena showed me how simple it is to live justly. In a culture consumed with “success” or making big demonstrations, living justly can be as simple as holding compassion— a compassion that does more than stir. It moves you to act.
Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
We are required to respond to injustices with action, love and humility. Nowhere does God say to be filled with questions or let ourselves be stopped by the what-ifs. If we trust him, a God who loves justice, then we do our part and he will complete it.
The drive with my daughter that day reminded me that a life centered on justice can be inconvenient, abrupt and disorienting at times. For others, it can be filled with fear of what people will think or filled with doubt that our work will have any real impact. Psalm 89:14 tells us, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.” We must not let those worries keep us from always doing the right thing and modeling the very character of God. While living justly will look different for every person, don’t let the fear or inconvenience hold you back.
So how do we live justly? Simply remember to look up, be ready and surrender to learning from even the smallest moments.
Jessica Galván is a Content Writer at World Relief. She is passionate about storytelling and amplifying diverse voices to reveal the beauty of God’s creation. She is also the Editorial Director for Chasing Justice and prior to World Relief, she was a freelance writer and editor for a variety of clients in publishing, most recently Penguin Random House. When she isn’t wordsmithing for the pursuit of faith and justice, she is spending time with her husband and their 3 children in the Houston, TX area.