Solidarity and the Gospel
Since sin entered the world, struggle and pain have been integral parts of everyday life. Since that fateful day in the garden, God’s good creation has been a ripe field for hurt and hopelessness. Disaster, war, and destruction occur on a daily basis. They leave men helpless and fearful.
In response to these types of events, a trend has appeared in popular culture that we can gain insight from. “Solidarity” has become a buzzword during troubling times. It is an expression of togetherness and support with someone who has gone through a tragedy. Even though solidarity does well to encourage, Christians must go further.
solidarity is good
In many ways, solidarity is a good way to support and encourage those who are hurting. In the wake of the terrorist attack on Paris this year, for example, many different countries, organizations, and individuals came out in support of the French people. Countries lit up national monuments with the colors of the French flag, organizations sent aid, and people reached out on social media.
In fact, any time there is a natural disaster or major loss of life, solidarity is the most immediate, accessible response from those outside the situation. People hold prayer vigils during times of tragedy; organize peaceful protests to fight injustice; and engage on social media when unfortunate events happen abroad. These provide clear pictures of togetherness. More importantly, they serve as a comfort to the afflicted during their time of hopelessness.
solidarity is not enough
Even though solidarity can be a source of encouragement to the hurting, it doesn’t do much beyond that. When a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, there were many people who expressed their solidarity with the Haitian people. Humanitarian aid flooded into the country and relieved the islanders.
In this scenario, solidarity created awareness which produced humanitarian aid. But imagine if no one had actually sent help. If everyone had only written social media posts in support of Haiti, the Haitian people would not have recovered like they have. The island nation would still be rubble. The actual physical help is as important, if not more important, than the emotional and verbal support.
Christians not only have a biblical mandate to show solidarity, but also to join in the sufferings of the afflicted and provide for their physical needs. James says it this way:
“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
— James 1:27 (NASB)
When we visit widows and orphans, we are going beyond solidarity. In the early church, caring for people’s physical needs was essential to their communal living:
“And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.”
— Acts 2:44-45 (NASB)
In fact, the church office of deacon was instituted to ensure that all the church’s widows were taken care of properly. We are also given a direct command to not stop at solidarity:
“But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”
— 1 John 3:17-18 (NASB)
John goes so far as to question the salvation of a person who expresses solidarity with a brother but doesn’t go any further.
I do not mean that every Christian must travel to every place that goes through a tragedy. In fact, not every Christian even needs to give money to causes overseas. There are some who feel a passion and desire to help those in foreign countries, while others may have a more vested interest in their own country.
The point is that we must get our hands dirty somewhere. Someone in our community needs help. Somebody in your church probably needs your help. They need more than solidarity; they need you to bear their burden with them.
The landscape beyond solidarity is not flat. It is messy, muddy, and mountainous. It is that way because when we go beyond solidarity to fulfilling real needs, we stumble into the affliction of our brethren. We feel what they feel, hurt how they hurt, and bear the burdens they bear. When we sacrifice for them, we are suffering their loss with them.
Maybe that is why so many people would rather only be supportive from afar. Loving people in deed and in truth requires sacrifice on our part. But it’s necessary for faithfulness to our Lord. However high the cost or uncomfortable the affliction, expressing the love of Christ in this way should come before any pain or burden we may have to carry in the process.