“After this, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. ‘The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown his favour and taken away my disgrace among the people.’” [Luke 1:24-25]
Hooray for Elizabeth! (who, remember, had lived a righteous life in spite of her disappointment) However, the idea that a woman should have to consider herself a disgrace when she was unable to have children is itself a disgrace. As if the heartache of being unable to carry out a fundamental part of womanhood, through no fault of her own, were not difficult enough. “Oh it was part of a woman’s position in society – a cultural thing of the day”, I hear a voice pipe up. Maybe, but when Jesus walked the Earth, He went out of his way to start the process of rebalancing the role of men and women. This was radical stuff and, as followers of Jesus, surely we should be continuing to identify and challenge injustices that have become cultural norms.
The Lord has done this for me
An example for today? How do we react to people sleeping rough or begging on the pavement? Do we look straight ahead and walk past, pretending not to have seen the person? Do we rationalise our lack of engagement by saying to ourselves that it might be a con or that the person would spend any money we might give on booze … and make a difficult situation worse? Surely a better alternative, even if we choose not to offer direct help or engage in conversation, is to look the person in the eye and at least say “No thank you” or “Sorry, not today”. A bit of a cop out? Maybe. In which case, stop to chat or decide on a practical form of help and how many times a day you will engage. (We can’t solve all the challenges before us). I reckon a person on the pavement probably suffers as much from invisibility, where everyone ignores them, as from material shortage. Maybe I should find out if I’m right, by stopping to chat more often. One thing I am sure of – Jesus wouldn’t have walked past. He called us to love our neighbour, and made it clear that our neighbour was not just the person next door, but anyone in need we came across, who we were in a position to help – however inconvenient, whatever the cost. You will have your own examples. If you are irked by Elizabeth’s “disgrace”, can I recommend you work out a way to make a difference.
Father God, open my eyes to see injustice wherever it occurs. Challenge me to respond with action and help me work out practical ways of making a difference to people’s lives. For that is what Jesus did and how I can bring glory to His name and hope to a needy world. Amen.