• Biblical power

    Posted by Marissa

    12 January, 2012

    Towards the end of last year, Andrew Sloane, a great friend of Micah Challenge and Chair of our Theology Working Group, presented a paper he wrote called ‘Justifying Advocacy’.

    Some Christians might wonder, “What does this ‘advocacy business’ have to do with my faith?” Or at the other end of the spectrum some of you might exclaim, “Why do we even have to justify advocacy?? Let’s get out there and do it!” The question of what the mission of the gospel looks like for Christians is well worth pondering, and I Breaking down the walls of injusticeBreaking down the walls of injusticeBreaking down the walls of injusticefound Andrew’s paper really helpful in unpacking biblical advocacy and the pattern of justice that God has set out for us.

    One of the main aspects of understanding advocacy is to wrestle with concept of power. When we look in the bible, there are power structures evident in every narrative. But theologically, God gives political power and authority to individuals for the good of those without power. The Old Testament contains many examples of how God intended power to be used in the society of Israel, such as the principals of gleaning and Jubilee intended to look after the poor.

    The implication of these biblical illustrations is that we, as God’s people, are also called to use our power to speak and advocate for and with poor and marginalised people.

    In Psalm 72, we are reminded that power and kingship can be abused or it can be used on behalf of the poor and needy. God used kingship as a reflection of his rule over his people. Kingship involves God’s blessing, not just for self but also for justice and equality for the whole of society. A king holds the power to free the oppressed, to use power as opportunity to serve. The beautiful thing is that the New Testament echoes these patterns of justice and advocacy through the ministry of Jesus, the servant-king, and through the action of the early church. The church today should still be using our power for good: for equality and building up community. Using power for the benefit of the weakest is the very reason power is given in the first place.

    Similarly, James chapter 5 is a passage that scolds hoarding, selfishness and holding back generosity. When we use our position of fortune and power for only our own self-interest, we are abusing the privileges and blessings that God has given us. When we hold onto things for ourselves and do not share with those in need, it is directly against the way God set out his community to live. James is warning of God’s coming wrath against injustice. God acts for the poor and we are to play a part in that through our lives.

    So what does power actually look like? The power of the voice is the clearest form of advocacy. As his people, God wants us to use the power of our voice in line with his own heart for justice. There is a reason we use Micah 6:8 as the foundation for the work of Micah Challenge. Micah 6:8 is not a random verse but it fits with God’s big picture of power and advocacy that runs throughout the entire bible narrative.There's a video on the Justice Hub that explores this:

    I was greatly challenged in response to Sloane’s paper to consider how I might be a more committed advocate for the world’s poorest people. Christians today are extremely fortunate with the countless opportunities we have to speak on behalf of the world’s poor, something that would be unthinkable for disciples in the earth church. It is part of the biblical call to justice and advocacy; our job is to live, proclaim and call for God’s kingdom.  This is seen when people come to Christ, but it is also seen just as evidently when the hungry are fed. It is seen when disciples of Jesus are pursuing justice in their daily lives through fair-trade, sustainable food and good stewardship of money and other resources. The church needs to develop a more authentic voice, one that oozes with love and justice and the light of God’s kingdom. If you're interested in exploring more about this topic, I invite you to check out the Micah Challenge theological resource, 'Is Poverty a Problem for God?'

    Just and mighty Father God,
    We thank you for your faithfulness and constant hand in the world.
    We acknowledge that you are present in every village and city and desire to use all your people in bringing Your Kingdom.
    We pray that you will shape our hearts to be bold advocates for the poor and oppressed in our world. Grant us the strength to use our voice and our power to stand up for the rights of the needy, as you have commanded us through your Prophet Isaiah.
    Help us to follow Jesus in the way he treated the poor and was an instrument of justice.
    Amen.

    _________________________

    Marissa Flynn was the 2011 Spiritual Formation and Church Engagment Intern.