Swat: The Honor of Fighting Injustice
by Lisa Toney
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing. --Edmund Burke
I had a fly outbreak in my house. No joke, I think they hatched in my house. I swatted down more than twenty-three flies in a couple of hours. I could not find where they were coming from. The invasion of the flies coincided tragically with having a shrieking two-year-old who was completely horrified by the buzzing little devils. No one messes with my baby, especially not a bug-eyed flying insect. Now I am pretty dang good with a fly swatter. Bring on the chopsticks.
We have bigger issues than flies, however. Swarms, hovering just out of reach. They create distractions. They bite. We meet the swarm daily: the buzz of the dark side of humanity, the shadow side.
These malicious insects do not play for team humanity; they play only for themselves. They buzz, sting, and bite. And they contain a dark side that pays homage only to self-gratification. They completely overlook the suffering and pain inflicted upon others for the sake of personal profit and pleasure. They chomp on other humans. They sting their hope.
The sting of injustices spans the globe, from poverty in the African Sudan to poor communities in the inner cities of the United States. But even in the midst of endless stinging wrongs both locally and internationally, there are individuals who stand up and fight to right the wrongs that victimize the poor and defenseless.
Murder. Rape. Drugs. Alcohol. Pornography. Prostitution. Fraud. Domestic violence. Child abuse. Kidnapping. Slavery. Robbery. Environmental exploitation. Greed. Profiteering. Identity theft. Terrorism. War. The “flies” seem to multiply and invade places and people at alarming rates. A whole swarm of attitudes and behaviors needs to be challenged and changed.1
As a person striving for righteousness, a person striving for right relationships with God and others, you have an opportunity to overflow beyond yourself, to wash out destructive attitudes and behaviors. Want to thrive? George Washington Carver offered these words of wisdom: “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.”2
A life that thrives involves fighting for righteousness--right relationships with God and others. “The righteous will thrive.”3 This is the essence of justice. The ideas of righteousness and justice are so closely aligned in the New Testament that the Greek word for “righteousness” (dikaio + syne, pronounced di-kay-o-su-nay) can also be translated as "justice."
Justice is the side of God that seeks to right the wrongs that we create.
There has to be something that makes you really mad when you hear about it or see it happen. God has planted deep within you a sense of justice because God is just. And you are created in the image of God. God has always had a heart for those who are taken advantage of.4
So what gets your blood boiling? What makes you mad? Righteous anger is not anger that belittles or lashes out to make you feel better by hurting someone else. It’s not anger that buzzes or makes you part of the swarm. Righteous anger goes back to our root meaning of righteousness: right relationships with others and with God. Righteous anger causes you to get riled up because you are involved in something or see something relationally that is not right. Either a relationship among people or a relationship with God is not right. A wrong needs to be righted.
It as if a big sting of evil is sweeping over our planet. How do we punch holes in this kind of prevalent darkness?
According to the Bible, Jesus fed five thousand people in one sitting.5 That was one big dinner party. The thing is, Jesus had no food for them. Five thousand hungry people packed around him, looking at him for help. That was an overwhelming situation. Jesus told his leadership team, the disciples, to feed the people. They came back to him saying there wasn’t anything they could do. There weren’t enough resources. No food. No money. Not enough help. They couldn’t do it.
Jesus asked them one question: What do you have? They had two fish and five loaves of bread. And five thousand people. No way was it enough. They could not even make a dent.
Jesus said, “Give me what you have.” And Jesus did the miraculous. He took responsibility for feeding the people. He asked the disciples only for their obedience and offering what they had. And that is what he asks of us. When we seek justice in overcoming the huge giants of injustice, we humbly offer our five loaves of bread and two fish. When we bring what we have to Jesus, give it all to him, and trust him, Jesus is able to move in ways beyond what we could ever imagine.
Jesus came with power for the powerless. I love that. I love that someone with power wants to help those who do not have any. Very few people use their power for good. Most swarm to get power. But the Bible tells us:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.6
Showing goodness does not have to be all the way around the globe. You can act justly and love mercy right where you are. That is using power for good to punch holes in the darkness. Even when it seems like such a small hole, a light makes all the difference.
Lisa Toney (M.Div, Fuller Theological Seminary), author of Thrive: Live Like You Matter (Abingdon Press) is the Associate Executive Pastor and a member of the preaching team at a 5,000+ member church in Pomona, California. Lisa leads their ministry in the area of Spiritual Formation and speaks regularly at other churches, universities, and gatherings around the country. Lisa and her husband are the parents of three children and make their home in Southern California. Visit her online at www.lisatoney.com.
1 A whole swarm of attitudes and behaviors . . . changed.
“Get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” (James 1:21)
2 George Washington Carver offered these words of wisdom: “How . . . you will have been all of these.”
George Washington Carver, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, George Washington Carver National Monument, at www.nps.gov/nr/travel/cultural_diversity/G_Washington_Carver_Historic_Site.html.
3 “The righteous will thrive.”
4 God has always had a heart . . . taken advantage of.
“The Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes .He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.” (Deuteronomy 10:17-18)
5 According to the Bible, Jesus fed five thousand . . . one sitting.
The Feeding the Five Thousand is one of the only miracles recorded in all four Gospels: Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14.
6 But the Bible tells us . . . “He has shown . . . humbly with your God.”