Humans are created by God to have an innate response to true injustice. Some people have learned to suppress this reaction, but it’s there no matter how repressed. There’s no need to enumerate injustices that have taken place since the fall of man. We know them when we see them. But, there is one injustice that I believe Christians too easily allow.
Abandonment of our veterans, ethnic cleansing, and infanticide are all part of our everyday world today. The list would be very long that included the injustices of man to man, let alone the injustice of man to creation. But, it’s one injustice I would like to confess personally. I have been guilty of the injustice of not proclaiming the gospel to those who are lost. Allowing someone else to go through life and have that life end in eternal separation and darkness without showing them the truth of Jesus Christ is the greatest human injustice.
Without diving into the reasons why I haven’t been as active as I should be in proclaiming Christ, I will tell you that I don’t believe I’m alone in this failure. Notwithstanding how any single reader of this post may feel about their witness for Christ, I can point to the Apostle Peter as our exemplar and let us all off the hook long enough to read this post.
In Acts Chapter 10 we discover that Peter had his mind changed by God when it came to associating with, and overtly witnessing to, Gentiles. But, God’s working in Peter opened his heart for the lost Gentiles and proclaim Christ to them.
Students of the Bible know that it was wrong for a Jew to hang out with Gentiles. It would have made a Jew unclean and therefore unable to worship. Peter had a vision described by Luke in Acts 10 showing him a host of animal species that God commanded him to kill and eat. Peter objected as any Jew would. It took three times for Peter to see beyond the dietary laws of the Jews to see that God was offering salvation through Jesus Christ to the Gentile as much as to the Jew.
God was preparing Peter for his next task: visit and stay in the house of a Roman centurion and while there, open the door to reaching the Gentile world. We have a tendency to think of Paul as the Apostle to the Gentiles and Peter to the Jews. When, in fact, it was Peter who was first called to witness to an assembled Gentile audience. The same Peter who the day before initially refused to change his attitude about what he had considered unclean.
When it comes to racism, nationalism, even patriotism, we believers better be prepared to dispense with our man-made ideals about other people because we’re committing a massive injustice by not proclaiming the gospel to those who are not like us. We should feel that innate sense of revulsion by our own acts of injustice as we discount entire people groups we feel might not be responsive to the gospel.
Several disciples of Christ made the trip with Peter to see Cornelius, a Roman centurion. Though the Roman was a proselyte, he still represented the power that occupied Israel, the power that collaboratively crucified Christ. Cornelius asked for Peter to come speak. He assembled an audience for Peter comprised of his family and friends. Luke indicates that “many people were assembled.”
Peter described to them how it was unlawful for him to be there. But, it’s when he begins his sermon starting with verse 34, we see the change in the man. Luke starts the verse with a euphemism to help us understand that what is to follow is very important. He then quotes Peter, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him,” (emphasis mine).
An amazing statement. But, do we in today’s culture gasp the gravity of Peter’s mind being opened? Later in his sermon Peter gives the Gentiles he’s preaching to a parenthetical statement that Christ is Lord of all. This is the key to the entire Bible. Jesus is Lord of all. He is Lord of the Hindu, the Muslim, the atheist, the Catholic, the Jew, the Sikh, the black, the white, the brown. Withholding the gospel from anyone is an injustice that cannot be measured but by eternity.
Maybe we have the idea that it’s useless to witness to a radical Muslim or an angry urban youth or an old Buddhist. Maybe Peter might have felt that a gentile Roman centurion and his friends were not a receptive audience. But, Peter was obedient to God’s “order” to preach the gospel to anyone. Do we have those same orders from God? If you believe the words of the Bible, then you must come away from Matthew and Acts knowing that we have been “ordered … to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.”
The injustice we commit is standing on a river bank holding a rope in a coil in our hand as we watch someone swept downriver heading to the waterfall. We must throw the rope to the person heading to certain and eternal peril regardless of whether we think they will catch it or refuse it or ignore it.
In this time of tensions between races, nations, and ideologies, we must never forget that we carry with us that which we’ve been commanded by God to share. It is an injustice that should cause revulsion if we don’t.