Justice. I stepped back for a moment at our drop in and marveled at the 200+ guests that were visiting that day. In the midst of all the noise and clamour, I was amazed at what I saw: people in all directions, but without distinction between our volunteers and our street friends; people mixing and mingling with our guests, caring, listening, loving – it was a beautiful picture of a caring community. In the midst of all the bustle and busyness, there was a sense of the presence of God.
Why this sometimes overwhelming sense of God’s presence, I wondered? It must be because the people who come to us have been traumatized, abused and neglected. They are often innocent victims of abuse and violence that has made an indelible imprint on their lives. Rejection has been their bread throughout life, and their brokenness has never had opportunity to heal. For the most part, the damage that makes up their lives and their stories has not been something they could have done anything about. Abused and violated as children, they have no responsibility for their hurt, and many will live (and die) with these issues unresolved. Surely I thought, at least in part, this is why it seems that God has a special care for the ‘least of these’.
Some time after arriving at this understanding I was challenged in my thinking as I considered what the Bible says. God does not care for people experiencing poverty or homelessness any more than He cares for anyone: He loves all with a perfect love. Unbiased, impartial, fair and just, He cares for all equally.
So why is there often a definite and real sense of God at work among the poor? On more than one occasion I have experienced what Mother Theresa has described “Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor.”
It is not an issue of favoritism or partiality, but rather an issue with the character of God Himself. Over and over again in the Scriptures, we see that God’s justice is intrinsically fused together with his righteousness. In fact, these two aspects of God’s character are so bound together that there is often no distinction between the two. The words are commonly used interchangeably.
God who is just, is also righteous. This is part of the very fabric of the character of God.
God’s character is violated when people are mistreated, marginalized and abused. With no one to care for them, our street friends are moved along from one styrofoam cup to the next. People sleep in doorways and alleys, behind garbage bins and scrounge for food where ever they can. They are alone, lonely and isolated.
That this is true of thousands of people here in Ottawa, and in your city, is a cause for great alarm. This is injustice, and is an affront to the character of God, a shame to those of us who can make a difference and an opportunity for those of us who choose to do so.