• Looking Forward With Perseverance

    Posted by Steve

    24 May, 2012

    This is an Olympics year, hence the following athletic metaphor. The campaign to increase Australia’s official development assistance to a more reasonable and compassionate level is always going to be more of a marathon than a sprint.

    We have just experienced a major disappointment in our campaign to raise Australia’s official aid to 0.5% of Gross National Income by 2015. It doesn’t even seem a particularly ambitious target, and yet, in the name of fiscal discipline, the Federal Government has reneged on its promised timetable for achieving it. As a consequence there will be $2.9 billion less spent on programs to benefit the global poor over the next four years than was earlier promised. Many, many people will continue in their suffering as a result of this decision.

    Campaigning is more like a marathon than a sprintCampaigning is more like a marathon than a sprintCampaigning is more like a marathon than a sprintIt also means that Australia will not be doing its fair share in pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals. Unless, of course, either the ALP can be persuaded to renege on its reneging, or the Coalition can be persuaded to stick to its promise of delivering 0.5% by 2015 should it be successful in the next federal election.  As it stands at the moment, its prospects look very promising and its aid promise very shaky.

    Returning to our athletic metaphor for a moment – I am currently reading William Hague’s biography of William Wilberforce, and at 515 pages it’s also a bit of a marathon. But it’s a magnificent read, and reveals a man of deep faith and consummate political skill who, despite constant setbacks and massive disappointments, could not be dissuaded from his mission to end British involvement in the slave trade. It was a goal that took over 20 years to achieve, even though initially there was good reason to believe that it could be done in a year or two.

    What might the examples of Wilberforce and other Christians who have campaigned for justice teach us about how not to be easily discouraged, and how to hang in for as long as it takes?

    Here are a few thoughts to start with, and hopefully others can contribute a whole lot more.

    1. A deeply embedded conviction that the cause is in alignment with the biblically-revealed character and values of God is vital. In other words this is serious business, worthy of life-long commitment, and not just a fad or brief flirtation.

    2. The recognition that our yearnings for justice are but a faint echo of God’s yearnings, but they are God-given.

    3. An absolute belief that each and every person, regardless of ability, ethnicity, gender, religion or economic status, bears the image of God. Therefore, any violation of any person is a violation of God.

    4. A powerful gratitude. This may seem a strange expression, but it is our constantly renewed awareness of God’s love that sustains us. Lesslie Newbigin expresses this thought perfectly: “The Christian congregation meets as a community that acknowledges that it lives by the amazing grace of a boundless kindness….A Christian congregation is thus a body of people with gratitude to spare, a gratitude that can spill over into care for the neighbour.”

    5. We are also sustained by the confidence that far from giving up on his creation God will renew it, that history is moving inexorably towards a future in which the will of God will be done on earth, and that that one day justice will triumph. In other words, when we fight for justice we are fighting on the winning side. This is not a naïve belief in some kind of utopia created by our own hands, but a biblically-shaped eschatological vision.

    6. We need the close support and solidarity of others whose faith in Christ compels them to be active in campaigning for justice.  They are God’s gifts to us – necessary companions for the journey, a worshiping community of companions who will help us to stay true.

    7. On-going personal transformation in Christ is essential, so we need to be vigilant in making room for the Holy Spirit to work within us. I know this sounds old-fashioned, but in this matter there is no substitute for the regular discipline of prayer and bible study.

    Finally, it is good to remind ourselves that he who claimed for himself the words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor,” has also promised us that same Spirit to aid and support us as we faithfully follow in his footsteps.

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    Steve Bradbury is the Director of Tabor College's Micah 6.8 Centre and Chair of Micah Challenge International.

    Steve's blog forms part of this week's 'Looking Forward' blog series which aims to wrap up our reflections on the Federal Budget, and plant the seeds for what comes next as we continue with perseverance, hope, passion and courage to change the hearts and minds of our nation's leaders.