The Power of a Movement

I once heard Jim Wallis, author and leader of the Sojourner’s community, make the comment that social change begins as a movement of the people. After years of living in Washington, he’d concluded that as much as we all think that Congress is the seat of power, the real power to change any situation rests in people like you and me. His observations led him to believe, it is not until ordinary people embrace a certain value, that those in Washington listen and are willing to vote for it. Wallis said, “When politics fails to resolve or even address the great issues, what often occurs is that social movements rise up to change politics, and the best ones have historically had spiritual foundations.”

A movement has power. It was a movement that led to the end of slavery. It was a movement which swept the nation which brought about civil rights legislation. Both of those were rooted in religious movements where people came to believe a grave injustice was being done. The Great Awakening, is remembered as a religious movement. But, did you know that in the second Great Awakening, when Charles Finney called people forward to faith in Jesus, the altar call which followed was to sign people up for the anti-slavery movement?

Followers of Jesus have been and will always be involved in social movements. How can it be otherwise, when Jesus told us the way we respond to the least among us, says more about our faith than any words can. He called us to be people who care about the physical and emotional needs of our neighbors. It’s hard to hear the words of Jesus and not feel compelled to write a letter, send some cash or pick up a soup ladle and simply do something, for those whom Jesus loves.

I’m challenged when I’m reminded that justice is more than compassion. Today we are seeing a movement in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. A movement demanding that every person, regardless of ethnic background is treated with respect and an   acknowledgment that every life has value and worth.  For some of us,   the movement  has  caused us to question our values and long held assumptions on race and how we live with each other.

In a few days we will be celebrating the birth of our nation. A nation founded on equality and the principle that all people, *“Are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The implementation of our founding vision was limited by the society it grew out of. But, God’s vision of a just nation carries through the pages of the Bible and centuries of prophets. It is an expansive vision, where all people are treated with respect, dignity, compassion and love.

Jesus said of those who are committed to works of justice, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:6-7)

*Declaration of Independence United States of America