Before I came to Uganda, I knew that God is a God of justice. I knew lots of Bible verses (Isaiah 58, anyone?) that talked about loosing the chains of oppression and setting the captives free. During my senior year at Taylor, child sex trafficking was the big crusade, and “social justice” rolled off everyone’s tongue with great ease and eager passion.
But I was relatively clueless to the brutal injustice of property grabbing that IJM Uganda specifically deals with.
It’s true that our casework focus, succession-related property grabbing, is a relatively hard issue for American audiences to understand. Violating a young girl by forcing her to sell her body to a stranger countless times a day – we see the injustice of that situation easily, and become outraged, rightly so.
Understanding why a poor, grieving widow and her freshly orphaned children would be kicked out of their home, crops burned, lives threatened, not just by a evil stranger, but often by members of their own family, and understanding how this loss of land and property could really reduce their existence to the point of despair and beyond- well, that’s a lot more complicated idea to grasp.
And so this injustice that ravages the lives of countless widows and orphans in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere in the world (Papua New Guinea, too), was mostly unknown and unspoken about, at least in the “social justice” circles I came from in college. My attempts to explain and educate people back home about the truly destructive nature of this injustice have often been, at best, time-consuming, and at worst, ineffective and frustrating.
Over the course of the last eight months, I’ve been surprised, humbled, and challenged as I’ve come to slowly realize that this issue of property-grabbing is neither a new thing, nor is it an injustice that has ever gone unnoticed by God. Time and time again in the Old Testament, God specifically speakes of His love for the widows and the fatherless who depend on their land for survival. The very passion we’re fighting for here in Uganda in 2011, God was fighting for way back in 2000 B.C.
“The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice” (Proverbs 13:23).
“You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.” (Exodus 22:22)
“Woe to those who… turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!” (Isaiah 10: 1 -2)
“Do not move an ancient landmark or enter the fields of the fatherless, for their Redeemer is strong; he will plead their cause against you.” (Proverbs 23:10)
“The Lord tears down the house of the proud but maintains the widow’s boundaries.” (Proverbs 15:25)
“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” (Psalm 68:5)
“Leave your fatherless children; I will keep them alive; and let your widows trust in me.” (Jeremiah 49:11)
So I realized – this isn’t “my” passion to petition for, or “my” injustice to fight against. It was God’s passion first, thousands of years before IJM would ever exist, before we’d ever begin our casework in Uganda to restore widows and orphans to their rightful land.
God is their Redeemer and their Rescue. He has just chosen to send rescue and relief through his Body on earth – us, the church, as broken and fragmented and unobservant as we are. And daily in our work, we are amazed by His goodness, His passion, His justice – His righteous anger matched with His unending compassion.
A God like that is certainly a fearsome God to behold, and an incredible God to serve.