Sitting at Heathrow Airport, eating bangers and mash and watching the world go by, there is a feeling of being very small and insignificant; what is there that one ordinary person can do to change the world?
The Biblical response to the demands of justice in our world has an inescapably individual dimension. The evangelical writer Ronald Sider’s ‘Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger’ published in the 1970s, stressed the role of individual choice and lifestyle in allowing a generous response to the needs of the poor. Sider’s perspective became unfashionable: prosperity theology asserted the bible verses from Deuteronomy that wealth was a sign of blessing , while liberation theology argued that change must come through addressing unjust structures. Aid and development agencies focussed upon issues of debt and trade and, in shifting the onus for change to the level of governments and institutions, perhaps deflected attention away from the requirement for us as individuals to respond with the generosity we expect from our governments.
“And what does the LORD require of you?” asks the prophet Micah, “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Justice and mercy are matters of individual choice and are exercised in a world where individual choices make a difference. Development projects are often about sums in thousands rather than in tens of thousands and are of a scale where individual contributions can determine whether or not they are possible. The sums of money spent in purchasing one model of a car rather than another, or in choosing a particular holiday, are sums that would correspond to a significant percentage of many roject budgets. It is not true to claim that there is nothing we as individuals can do to change the world; we have the capacity to change at least small parts of it; whether we do so, whether we respond to the Lord’s requirements, is our choice.