Authored by Jeremy Resmer, Projects Manager Increasingly, we hear stories about marginalization and social exclusion that result from physical, material, and social disadvantages of individuals, people groups, and sometimes, entire communities. The alienation and disenfranchisement is often caused or influenced by factors such as gender, education, religion, politics, economics, appearance, sexual orientation, personal habits, the list goes on.
The word “marginalize” means to relegate to the fringes, out of the mainstream; make to seem unimportant, to place in a position of lower importance, influence, or power. But what does that really look like?
In the Old Testament, the “orphan” and “fatherless” are mentioned 41 times, often in association with widows and aliens because of their vulnerability and oppression. These three classes of people were virtually powerless in ancient society. Orphaned children were particularly vulnerable as they lacked protection, provision, and parental love which included direction and discipline. While orphans could work, they were not allowed to inherit property or learn a skill as an apprentice unless they were adopted.
War, famine, natural disaster, disease, and trafficking have destroyed businesses, broken apart families, and insured that enormous numbers of orphans continue to exist today. Current estimates suggest there are 153 million orphans globally! These children are marginalized every day by a lack of shelter and protection, food, education, employment, and basic health services. Forget tomorrow, they lack hope for today…and food. They are especially susceptible to living on the streets, prostitution, trafficking, and HIV/AIDS. Their lives are compounding the cycles of brokenness.
Now is the time for the poor church, the wealthy church, the small church, the mega church, and, most importantly, the local church to actually follow Jesus to the hard places in the community and throughout the world and seek out marginalized people where the gospel rubber hits the earthly road. To visit places like the slums, ghettos, refugee camps, jails, mental institutions, hospitals, orphanages, and bars, and listen to the cries and the stories of the voiceless (without judgment). To feel compassion and share our own broken experiences, losses, and hope in Christ.
Easier said than done, I know. However, it is the very thing that God commands us to do time and again. Jesus’ ministry revolved around visiting the poor, outcast, and lonely. Surely there is no better reason to seek out and visit those in need than the attitude and action of Jesus Christ.
I wonder how many people would truly experience Jesus and be drawn to Him if more Christians intentionally lived and worked in the margins and did as Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
“God so loved the world” – how dare we say we identify with Him in that love if we don't go there…if we don't choose the margins?