Growing in concern for others.
by Jordan Van Dyke (B.A. '17)
Justice can be a hard concept to grasp.
Injustice however, is fairly easy to spot. I can clearly remember the ways that I witnessed injustice first hand when I was just fourteen. I traveled with my church to Chimaltenango, Guatemala, on a missions trip. My eyes and heart were not prepared for what I would see and feel that week. I was even more unprepared for the injustice that would hit me like a bullet when I arrived home and walked into my house.
I went down to my room, sat on my bed and looked around. "I have so many...things," I thought. Tears welled in my eyes. I couldn't explain it, but it just didn't feel right. It didn't feel right to have so much when others had so little. It felt unjust.
And it wasn't only my things that felt suddenly out of place; it was my lifestyle. I'd go to school and join in my friends in complaining about homework, while I knew that many children were longing for an education. I'd put on my Sunday best for church and enter a bright sanctuary, but I knew that there were others being persecuted for their faith and holding church in dark rooms behind closed doors. I'd fall asleep at night in a quiet house on a quiet street with nothing to worry about...and that's what troubled me.
I've had that feeling many times since then. I've now traveled to Guatemala three times and to Honduras once for short-term missions trips. I can't count the number of times that I've sat on my bed thinking—Why are there others who are suffering and I get to have this life? Could my small efforts really make a big impact? I felt guilty, scared, and confused. I felt like my hands were tied.
And I think that's what Esther must have felt like when she was queen. Her own people were suffering and she was eating banquet dinners in the palace. It was anything but just.
Haman was plotting to kill her own cousin Mordecai. Mordecai and all of the jews were suffering. He asked for Esther to beg the king for mercy. Esther knew that if she did this she could be killed. Her hands were tied—she felt guilty, scared, and confused. Mordecai told her this:
"For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14)
And who knows if I was born in the United States for such a time as this?
Who knows if I was privileged to get an education for such a time as this?
Who knows if I was raised in the faith for such a time as this?
What Mordecai asked of Esther is what God asks of all of us. When we see injustice, we cannot remain silent. He brought us to where we are for a reason. Yes, I could have been born on the streets of Guatemala and my life would have been radically different. But I am where I am for a reason.
Justice matters because it is what God calls us to—to share his love with the poor and with those who face injustice. Justice is the reason that Esther spoke up for the Jews when they were suffering, even though she knew that she could be killed for doing so. Justice is the reason that we are called to travel across the nation, across the world or across the street to seek out the lost and the brokenhearted and share with them a message of hope.
I'll never understand why certain injustices occur. But one thing I do understand is that God has not called us to remain silent.