by Emily Jones
Social Issues. These two little words evoke varied, and usually strong, opinions when discussed on any platform. Some see social issues as simply side discussions while others see them as core to human existence.
Significant social issues have been rampant over the last several years, affecting some of us more than others.
- The death of Eric Garner in 2014
- The refugee crisis of 2015
- A turbulent election in 2016
- Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations in 2017
- The implementation of a zero tolerance border policy in 2018, resulting in the separation of families
- Jeffrey Epstein arrest and death in 2019, resulting in an increase of sex trafficking awareness
- The novel Coronavirus in 2020
When looking at social issues it is easy to become quickly overwhelmed. There are many needs: worldwide, nationally, at state level, within our communities, churches, families and friend circles. Just as we each see social issues differently, we will see our responsibilities to them differently. Thankfully we have a clear guide from Scripture where Jesus addressed every social issue we will ever encounter. Scripture repeatedly reveals God’s heart for the poor, needy, orphan, widow, foreigner, those suffering injustice, and more. The church has a responsibility to respond to God’s heart for these areas.
James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
In Psalms 68:5 we read, “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.”
Deuteronomy 10:18 says, “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.”
Psalms 82: 3-4 says, “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
We are privileged to be at a point in time where we are able to look back at the rich history of church involvement in social reform; homes for unwed mothers, adoption and foster care agencies, racial justice advocacy, providing of medical care, caring for orphans and widows, and refugee aid. Many organizations throughout history had faults, some quite significant, but they are an important part of this history that paved the way for current organizations to be developed and improved over time. Today a vast array of organizations address these issues and more.
Organizations like Bethany Christian Services who provide adoption, foster care, pregnancy support, refugee aid and other services domestically and internationally. Samaritan’s Purse provides aid to disaster victims, both internationally and domestically.
World Vision provides refugee aid, disaster relief, and child sponsorship around the world. Catholic Charities USA provides essential services to refugees and immigrants, nutritional and housing assistance to vulnerable populations, programming aimed at reducing poverty, and international disaster aid.
The International Justice Mission works to free people trapped in labor and sexual slavery around the world, and additionally aids in the fight against land theft, police violence, sexual violence against children, and citizens rights abuses. These are just a few organizations actively addressing important social issues of our times.
These organizations have many different ways for YOU to get involved. First, consistently remember them and their work in prayer. Secondly, consider researching and then financially supporting the organization of your choice. Thirdly, consider employment or volunteer opportunities with one of these faith-based organizations addressing important social issues.
Regardless of your skill set, there is some way that you can be involved in short or long term opportunities. Examples of in-person support are partnering with local foster and adoptive organizations to volunteer at events, provide birthday and Christmas gifts for children, provide transportation for children to appointments, or provide respite care.
Opportunities to support refugee organizations may include, among others, providing transportation for new families to appointments, volunteering to show newcomers how to navigate public transportation or public facilities, or providing gifts and/or meals for holidays.
Opportunities with Samaritan’s Purse or World Vision may include volunteering to do short or long term domestic or international disaster work. Additionally they have field offices where they employ many different skill sets such as finance, construction, social work, teaching, nursing, etc.
Organizations such as the International Justice System employ all these and more, including legal and criminal justice specialties.
Regardless of our viewpoints on the many different social issues facing our world today, what an honor it is to be called to join Him in this work of loving, caring for and engaging with hurting people. Scripture admonishes the church to, “seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.” Let’s engage social issues boldly, as Jesus did, knowing that He who has called us will equip and send us. We need only make ourselves available.