My friend, Peter, works among refugees and asylum seekers in Paris. The City of Light can be a very dark place if you find yourself in need. Despite the public impression, most refugees do not flee their homes by choice. War, famine, economic failure, and government corruption push people to take desperate measures for their own safety. The people who arrive on the streets of Europe often have nowhere else to turn.
Of course, it is not just refugees who are vulnerable in our Western societies. In any city, you will find people who lack the essentials and often go hungry while surrounded by abundance. Peter writes: “Who are the vulnerable? They are the many and they are people in need of special care, support, or protection because of age, disability, or risk of abuse or neglect. They truly are in need of our attention, our ‘cup of cold water’ or a sleeping bag and warm socks to protect them from the elements and so much more.”
Poverty, hunger, oppression and injustice are not new problems in the 21st Century. They have been around for a long time. Our reading in Psalm 82 today makes it clear that God takes these concerns seriously.
“How long will youdefend the unjust
and show partiality to the wicked?”
Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Psalm 82:2-4
Some people look at the problems of this world and ask God why he doesn’t do something about it. In this Psalm, God looks at the problems of this world and asks us why we aren’t doing something about it. He sees the situation of many needy people and asks us, “How long will you allow this to go on?”
Our duty as Christ-followers is made very clear in scripture. I am glad that we can support relief work in many parts of the world where the poor and oppressed need help. Let us not forget that we should do more than just make donations. We need to be aware that in our own city there are those who need help and support. We, the church of Christ, are called to be a voice in ensuring that justice can really be found for all.
Let us pray for those in need but let’s not stop at prayer alone. We need to make sure we act when we can. We need to speak out against the systems of oppression. We need to defend those who are unable to fight for themselves. A challenging Psalm for all of us today.