There’s no getting around it: Christians are called to love others. We may disagree on which Bible translation is best or how to interpret Old Testament law, but God’s call to love is abundantly clear.
So should a loving Christian be involved in advocacy? Doesn’t advocacy mean we have to shout a lot and cover our cars with political bumper stickers?
In the Bible, advocacy is inspired by God’s love for us and his love for justice. Christian advocacy, the kind that springs from God’s love, might not look like what we’re used to when we think of advocacy. But it’s an essential part of our witness to Jesus Christ — no bumper stickers required.
Here are 5 reasons Christians should care about advocacy:
1. Christian advocacy multiplies our ability to care for people in poverty
The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.— Proverbs 29:7
We can care for people without advocacy, but not nearly as effectively. If a child is involved in hazardous labor through injustice, we should help that individual child, but we should also advocate to remove the injustice that puts other children at risk of hazardous labor. Passing a law against child labor or providing ongoing funding to help children stay in school will be much more effective long-term than helping one child at a time.
By engaging with others and talking to our leaders, we can be a part of changing unfair systems that allow injustice to continue and have an impact for generations to come.
2. God calls us to advocate
The Bible talks a lot about justice. We’re supposed to seek justice (Isaiah 1:17), loose the chains of injustice (Isaiah 58:6) and “let justice roll on like a river” (Amos 5:24). Once again, there’s just no getting around it.
The goal of justice is to return things to a state of “rightness.” If someone steals something from you, that’s not right, and there needs to be a repayment in order for justice to be done. If a child can’t access education because of their gender, that’s not right, and in order for justice to be done they need the opportunity to go to school. Christian advocacy seeks to bring justice to those facing violence, poverty, and discrimination, and help more of God’s children experience life in all its fullness (John 10:10). Engaging in advocacy helps us answer God’s call to seek justice.
3. The Bible shows us what advocacy can do
Nowhere in the Bible does it say, “email your Senator,” but we do see some amazing biblical examples of advocacy. Think of God calling Moses to speak truth to power and tell Pharaoh, “Let my people go…” (Exodus 5:1). Or Esther risking her life to challenge an unjust law. In the book of Philemon, Paul speaks on behalf of a runaway slave who had few rights in his society, but who Paul knew deserved to be treated as a child of God.
Today, it’s easy to associate advocacy only with angry rants on social media and loud protests, but in the Bible we see a different story. God called all sorts of people to use their voices to lift up the cause of others. These advocates used what God had given them — whether little or much — to seek justice. Their stories demonstrate how God wants us to advocate — and they inspire us to get busy!
4. Christian advocacy has a long history of creating change
People of faith are by no means new to advocacy. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used scripture and Christian principles to speak out against racism and violence in the 1960s and helped lead the way for new anti-segregation laws to be passed. William Wilberforce, a British parliamentarian, was convicted by his faith to introduce a bill to abolish slavery in 1793. It didn’t pass, but he persevered until 1807 when he was finally successful. Florence Nightingale was born into a wealthy family, but instead of getting married as her family expected, she chose to follow what she felt was God’s call to be a nurse. She revolutionized hospital care and continued to advocate for safe nursing practices until her death.
Considering how God has powerfully used advocates to address injustice in the past, perhaps we should question how — and not whether — we should be involved.
5. We are ambassadors for Christ
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”— John 13:34-35
The way we live our lives can pull others toward Jesus’ redeeming love. If that love compels us to put our time and talent toward changing unjust systems and relieving oppression, our witness to Jesus will be powerful. Actions speak louder than words, and we want our actions to speak as loudly as possible about the great love our Father has for every one of us. We people see Christians fighting injustice even when it doesn’t affect us personally, they’ll see God’s love working through us.
The Bible says that Jesus is our Advocate (1 John 2:1), and so it’s an honor that he calls us to advocate for others. There are many ways to get involved, but we can all be advocates, driven and guided by God’s love.
Because we live in a country where our voices count, paying attention to policy and speaking truth to our leaders can be one of the most effective ways to advocate. When we lift our voices together with other people of faith, our voices are powerful, and we can create lasting change. One bill passed or one funding account protected can mean greater justice for generations to come.
How we get involved in advocacy is up to us, but there is more than enough room — and need — for all Christians to be involved.
Continue your advocacy journey! Right now, we’re advocating for the introduction of the Strengthening Efforts to End Violence Against Children Act, which will help improve and strengthen the U.S.’s current efforts to protect kids from violence. Take a moment to email your representatives and tell them to support this bill!
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Top photo: World Vision Volunteer Advocates and staff prepare to talk to Congress. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)