“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” —Matthew 25:40
Working for justice can seem frustrating, hopeless, and insignificant. Despite our work, volunteerism, financial donations, and advocacy, it’s easy to succumb to burnout. Most will never personally meet the people they’re trying to help or witness any obvious changes. They will face the constant cynicism of a seemingly uncaring and apathetic society. But here are five reasons why doing social justice work really matters:
1. It changes history.
When a society adjusts its morals and ethics, it allows for history to be made in ways previously impossible. This refinement is rarely neat and tidy. Resistance to positive social change is often violent, ugly, and demeaning. But sometimes strife creates space for historic events and actions to occur. Some are recorded, but most happen beyond the public eye — within the realm of everyday life.
A man makes a speech (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reads his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech at the Lincoln Memorial); a protest is organized (Ghandi organizes The Salt Satyagraha); an individual boldly acts (standing in front of tanks at Tiananmen Square); kids bravely walk into a school (Elizabeth Eckford enters Little Rock Central High School); and a woman refuses to give up her bus seat (Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Ala.).
A person stands up to their boss, a stranger defends a victim, a preacher delivers a sermon, conversations are spoken, letters are written, investigations are started, legislation is changed, and countless of other acts cause a ripple effect. History is made in countless ways. Individuals, communities, and entire people groups who were once oppressed, discriminated against, and alienated suddenly take advantage of the newfound opportunities available — and proactively create their own history.
2. It changes others … and you.
This is the most important reality of justice work: it gives food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, healing to the sick, protection to the vulnerable, freedom to the oppressed, justice to the victimized, and brings life-changing transformation. Through public awareness, boycotts, political activism, legislation, fundraising, publicity, acts of service, social media campaigns, education, or an endless array of other avenues, your work makes a direct difference for those who need it most: the victims of injustice.
Working for social justice also helps mold your relationships, beliefs, and emotions, helping you become more connected to the diverse world that exists beyond your own previously limited exposure. It forces you to meet new people, experience new events, learn new ideas, and go beyond your comfort zone. Inevitably, you’ll change. Consequently, yourpersonal change will affect those around you, and family, friends, coworkers, and strangers will hear your message, witness your actions, and become informed — possibly even join the cause.
3. It shapes cultural morals and ethics.
Once positive changes start happening and people recognize that genuine goodness is the end result, a society’s moral compass and communal attitude of what constitutes right and wrong shifts. People start to think differently: Slavery is wrong, people shouldn’t be segregated because of skin color, women should have the right to vote, children shouldn’t be forced to work in factories, laborers should receive fair pay, and all sorts of wrongs that were once considered the status quo are forever altered, fixed, or abandoned.
4. It adds purpose to your life.
Justice work isn’t a hobby that fills up time. It inspires passion about meaningful causes that are extremely important, significant, and vital to the well-being of humanity. Your work — however big or small — is profound. Working on human rights, civil liberties, and trying to literally save people’s lives adds a valuable sense of purpose to how you live. You may realize that sex-trafficking is rampant in your city, neighbors have relatives fleeing genocide back in their home country, coworkers may be living near poverty, laws unfairly target certain people groups, and the local government is involved in fraud. Working for social justice brings awareness to your everyday life — helping you realized that it’s filled with challenges, and also profound opportunities to cause positive social change.
5. We follow Christ’s example.
Jesus instructed us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and he lived out a life dedicated to sacrificing, forgiving, serving, teaching, empowering, healing, helping, protecting, and bringing love and justice to all of humanity. When we involve ourselves in the work of justice, we are glorifying God and pursuing God’s instruction to serve the world around us.
Never quit, and never underestimate your involvement in justice work, because it means passionately caring for humanity — people who are often the most vulnerable, persecuted, abused, helpless, and exploited. Which matters. Keep going. Stay inspired. Seek justice. Pursue God.