When we introduced our beautiful new Do Justice, Love Mercy t-shirt on Covenant Mercies Sunday at our founding church, a great question was raised at the sales table. One person asked, “How is Covenant Mercies doing justice?”
There are many ways to answer this question. The phrase on the t-shirt is a reference to Micah 6:8, where the Lord summarizes what he requires of his people. They are to do justice (or “act justly”), to love mercy, and to walk humbly with their God. The first thing that stands out about this phrase “do justice” is that it is active. We are called not merely to avoid injustice (which is passive); we are called to actively pursue justice.
What does this mean? In the broadest sense, doing justice means doing right by others, treating them with the dignity and respect they deserve. By this definition, we do justice for our sponsored children simply by recognizing them as people made in the image and likeness of God, and treating them accordingly.
And how are we to treat our fellow image-bearers? According to the second great commandment, we are to love them just as we love ourselves (a high bar). Jesus communicated a similar burden when he charged us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us (Matthew 7:12). So those interested in doing justice will ask, “How would I wish to be treated if I were a fatherless child growing up in extreme poverty?” and then treat those children that way. To know how to act justly toward the children of Covenant Mercies, I need only think of how I would want my neighbor to act toward my own children if I was no longer in a position to care for them myself.
If we lived in a perfectly just world, this broader definition of “doing justice” might be sufficient. But as we know, that is not the world we live in. We live in a world where the strong exploit the weak, and where the small and powerless are vulnerable to oppression at the hands of those who have no regard for Jesus’ law of love. As a result, our calling to “do justice” also involves standing in the gap to prevent an injustice from occurring, or to correct an injustice that has already been done.
Indeed, fatherless children in the developing world are vulnerable to all manner of injustice. “Do not move an ancient landmark or enter the fields of the fatherless,” (Proverbs 23:10) has the ring of a bygone era to the Western ear, but this is a very present and literal issue for many of our sponsored children. In our rural Ugandan program areas, our staff teams regularly step in to protect our children’s land inheritance rights from others in the community who would take advantage of their helplessness. Not infrequently, our indigenous teams have intervened to prevent girls as young as 13 or 14 years old from being coerced into early marriage to an older man, as a presumed “way out” of her predicament. Because our children are powerless, we need to stand up and do justice on their behalf.
At times I have been asked whether Covenant Mercies is doing anything to address the issue of child trafficking. While we do not directly rescue children from the clutches of traffickers or wield the sword of justice in courts of law (we thank God for the great organizations that do!), there is another side to that issue. The reality is, the children we sponsor are the would-be victims of such crimes. Orphaned children growing up in extreme poverty are desperate; and the greater their desperation, the greater the enticement of the traps set to lure them in. If you’re a young orphaned girl living in the slums of Addis Ababa, an offer to work as a live-in maid for a rich family might sound alluring. An aunt or grandparent with no means of providing for her might also fall for the deception. But as a sponsored child receiving a quality education, nutrition, mentorship and medical care— this young girl has hope for a brighter future, and an opportunity to see the deceit behind the offer of an “easy way out.”
I have no doubt that together with our sponsors, donors, and partners, we have prevented many of our children from falling prey to the worst kinds of injustice imaginable. May the Lord give us grace to walk humbly with him, as we continue this great work of mercy and justice together for his glory.
This post originally appeared in an e-newsletter on November 30, 2018.