I wish I could tell you that I’ve always properly cared about the wider world. I wish my life had been one that fought poverty, got beside the homeless and attacked prostitution’s power to break lives. But, until recently, I hadn’t even thought about fighting for social issues. I mean, intellectually I knew this world wasn’t fair, and I’d read passages like Proverbs 31 8-9;
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy. (NIV)
But my role in this commission hadn’t connected to my actual life. I’ve been blessed to grow up in the UK, which in itself puts me in one of the most privileged positions in the world. I’ve never really had to worry about food, my water is clean. My clothes came ready made and, because I never saw it, I never thought about the conditions in which they were made. It was so easy to disassociate my life and faith from ‘the rights of all who are destitute’, and limit my Christian duty to loving that difficult person in my class. All the things I saw on the news felt so far away.
I am so grateful to say that the scale of Proverbs 31 has now hit home! I’ve started the (ongoing) adventure of understanding and living out God’s plans for a fairer world. But this change didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it’s an example of God coming to get me exactly where I was.
Last summer, I watched a TV series called ‘Glasgow Girls’. It’s based on the true story of school children in Drumchapel, as one of them is terrifyingly deported in the middle of the night and moved to a dangerous internment camp. This program hit me like a tonne of bricks – Drumchapel is on a road sign outside my flat. The question of immigration now had a face and a location, and it was closer than I’d thought. However, the disappointing but understandable truth is that you have to be trained and DBS’d to volunteer with school kids, and they need a lot of hours. It’s simply not feasible for a student. Yet, my anger didn’t subside because I couldn’t see what to do with it. Instead it got bigger and I started to see the unfairness all around. I couldn’t ignore homeless people anymore and even if I didn’t have food, I’d stop to chat and find out their name. I’ve always been a feminist, but the issue of rape and rape culture seemed more urgent than ever before as its effects were starkly shown in the lives of friends. When a friend announced that she was going to get a group together to start a Just Love in Glasgow, it seemed like the natural response to say yes.
So, because He knows that I am very good at ignoring everything I can’t see, God gave `the rights of the poor and needy’ a face in my life. He took social justice out of the abstract and showed me that I just have to love people, all people. What that looks like is constantly evolving – I eat a lot less meat, buy most of my clothes from charity shops (so hard – I love Asos) and am spending a big chunk of my summer volunteering with women who’ve been trafficked. It’s all very unexpected, perplexing, and really really exciting. I cannot wait to see what Just Love will do!