Every morning on my way to work and in the evening on my way home, I pass a group of protesters. At the round-about in Thompson Square at the top of the hill above the unremarkable Windsor bridge, 50 kilometres north-west of Sydney, they have erected a makeshift tent and 24 hours a day seek to garner support for their cause. A large blackboard is re-chalked every morning announcing to the passing traffic the length of their occupation. Around the clock for 716 days straight—and counting—they have camped roadside to prevent what they believe would be a grave injustice. I am blown away by their determination. Who does that?
I know that the richest 85 people in the world collectively have more wealth than the poorest 3.5 billion. I know the big corporations that I continue to buy products from have grown more powerful than governments, seriously undermining democracy. I know that, on average, Australians have living standards among the highest in the world, yet we recently broke promises and cut aid to some of the world’s poorest people to less than 1 per cent of our budget. These things make me angry.
As a follower of Jesus, I passionately believe that God created every person in His image and that every one of us is deeply valued and deeply loved by Him. I believe that God set humanity the task of managing this awesome creation. That Jesus commanded—not suggested—that we love one another. That we free the oppressed. Feed the hungry. Shelter the homeless. That we seek justice.
I used to lie awake at night wondering what I could do to make a difference in this world. I read volumes, dreamed up grand plans. And I have studied and worked in community organisations for most of my life. In my spare time, I have run fundraisers, advocated in church, shared posts on Facebook, bought fair trade, signed petitions. My life is pretty comfortable, really. Not once have I considered erecting a tent in the middle of town, camping out day and night, waving at the passing traffic, to convince people to care enough to stand up and stand out to end dehumanising poverty, to truly address the systems and structures that are causing gross inequality, perpetuating greed and crippling environmental systems. Am I a slacktivist? Are you?
Toward the end of His ministry, Jesus advised His disciples that He would suffer, be rejected and be killed. He immediately followed this revelation with a clear directive: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23, 24).
I’m not sure if there is a clearer call to action in the Bible. Jesus doesn’t say to squeeze in a bit of volunteering on the weekend between assignments, or to like a post on Facebook, or sign an online petition, or donate some of your spare change to people who need it more. He says follow Me to the cross, lose your life for Me, deny yourself. This is what He did for us and He wants us to do the same for Him. And for others. And we shouldn’t expect glory or honour in return. Conversely, we should expect rejection and persecution. Wow.
So what are my friends in Windsor passionately protesting about? They want to save the old bridge, to prevent the construction of a road through Thompson Square and to preserve the history of this pretty little town. I think the emotion I am feeling is shame. Shame at the gross mismatch in their immense commitment to their small cause, and my small commitment to my immense cause. Jesus said, “Lose your life for Me.” He wants everything. Like the rich young ruler in Mark 10, nothing can matter more than following Jesus, than being a true all-in disciple, than giving Him what He gave us.
Can you give Jesus what He expects? Can I? Let’s not forget what awaits. Remember, Jesus said you will save your life if you do these things. In John 15:11, as He is urging His disciples to be fruitful and to love others, to live their God-given purpose, Jesus says, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Joy awaits! Complete joy!
So make the choice every day, in everything you do, to be all-in for Christ. To seek justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly with God (see Micah 6:8). And lean into His boundless grace in the times you disappoint Him. A wise leader has often reminded me that “it is direction, not perfection.”
It is the path we choose to follow each and every day.
Janelle Muller is Director of Public and Supporter Relations for ADRA Australia.