Sunday, September 6, 2015

Isaiah 58:6-7 (NIV): Advocating for the Mistreated

Isaiah 58:6-7 (NIV): Advocating for the Mistreated

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
   and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
   and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
   and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
   and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

When reading the above Old Testament passage, we cannot help but recall Christ’s words in Matthew 25: 35-36 (NIV):

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

The prophet Isaiah, in the above passage, communicates God’s expectation of true fasting and genuine sacrifice.  Denying ourselves food and forgoing chocolate or coffee tends to be our vision of sacrifice and happens quite often during Lent, but God through His prophet and Jesus in the Gospel are getting at something much greater: loving our neighbor as ourselves by advocating for the mistreated. We simply cannot sit in “sackcloth and ashes” or starve ourselves and expect miracles to happen.  God uses us in very real, tangible ways to reach out to each other, especially those in need.

Recently, I listened to a TED talk given by former president Jimmy Carter.  President Carter spoke about a topic that stirred my emotions, the mistreatment of women and girls throughout the world. As both a father and husband, my heart grew aflame at his message.  What he says is true not only in countries like Egypt and Africa, but in our own backyards. Women are unequally treated, victimized, and abused, more often in the name of male-dominated misinterpretation of religious texts. President carter states the following:

I can tell you without any equivocation that the number one abuse of human rights on Earth is, strangely, not addressed quite often, is the abuse of women and girls. . . There are a couple of reasons for this ... First of all is the misinterpretation of religious scriptures, holy scriptures, in the Bible, Old Testament, New Testament, Quran ..., and these have been misinterpreted by men who are now in the ascendant positions in the synagogues and the churches and in the mosques. And they interpret these rules to make sure that women are ordinarily relegated to a secondary position compared to men in the eyes of God.

President Carter, as a human rights activist, embodies what God demands through the prophet Isaiah, and what Christ calls for in the Gospel, to love others with a severe and devoted heart, especially those who are marginalized and unjustly treated. Let us follow God’s command and President Carter's example, for this is “the kind of fasting [God has] chosen.”

May you all be blessed and encouraged in the love and peace of Christ.  

Stan