Zechariah 7:9-10 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the immigrant, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”
Psalms 10:17-18 O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
It is the character of our God to hear the desire of the afflicted. He inclines His ear and does justice for the fatherless and the oppressed. He is a helper and defender to those afflicted/oppressed, and the particular context is those who are afflicted/oppressed by those with greater strength, power, or authority. Apart from Christ, our nature is to ignore the cry of the oppressed, and Scripture warns us against the consequences of closing our ear to the cry of those in need.
Proverbs 21:13 Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.
One thing I noted in my study of Ephesians was all the ways the gospel and our inheritance in Christ equips us to become “imitators of God” (Eph. 5:1), reclaiming His image in us that was so marred by the fall of man. And our response to the poor and oppressed is most certainly one of those ways.
Tim Keller’s Generous Justice lays this out with Biblical clarity. I plan to write a review when I finish it completely. I was already coming to a strong conviction that a conservative reading of Scripture will lead to a liberal view of social justice, and Keller’s book has reinforced this conviction for me, maybe even solidified it. I had a moment reading it last night when I felt something that was previously shifting around in my mind finally settle in my psyche.
As God’s grace transforms us into His image, we WILL hear and respond to the cries of the widow, the orphan, the immigrant, the poor (though not necessarily politically). Keller’s book does a good job of giving the different arguments for what role secular government should play. However, if you are of the conviction that secular government should be legislating morality, Keller makes it clear from Scripture that the care of the poor and the immigrant is a moral issue, clearly talked of in terms of righteousness and sin in Scripture. If you’re a skeptic and think your gospel responsibility ends at calling someone to repentance, Keller writes out the Scripture again and again, overwhelmingly making his point. I get annoyed with books that just generally refer to Scriptural principles or only give endnote numbers that I have to look up at the back of the book to find the Scripture to which the author is referring. Keller does not do this. He writes it out right in the text and analyzes passage and passage. Keller doesn’t prove his point. THE BIBLE proves his point.
I have spent the last few years becoming increasingly aware of the cries of the oppressed. But sometimes I wonder if my ears are on a different frequency from my peers in the church. I now realize that, no, we aren’t on different frequencies. Yes, we hear the same cries. But many of us have been trained to close our ears when we hear the cry. The church has a bad history of siding with authorities in conflicts and ignoring the pleas of the ones without power. But this is not like Christ. When the salt and light in our culture ignores the afflicted, there is no surprise that the larger culture does as well. If we really want to reflect well the character of our God to our culture, our responses to the poor, immigrant, orphan, and widows of society are a central place to focus.
Do not close your ear to the cry of the oppressed. Do not close your ear to the cry within the church, and do not close your ear to the cry in your culture at large. As Keller’s subtitle suggests, God’s grace makes us pursuers of justice. This is core to reflecting the image of God.