“Erm … hi, do you need help to cross the road?” I asked the uncle wearing sunglasses and holding a cane. He smiled, “Yes, I need to get to the bus stop behind Somerset MRT.” I was going to be late for my dinner appointment, but decided to help him first. I introduced myself, and found out his name was Uncle Kasim.
He held onto my arm as I led him through 313@Somerset and cleared the path to prevent people from bumping into him. When we reached the bus stop, I waited with him until he boarded his bus home.
Even though the encounter with Uncle Kasim was brief, it left a deep impression on me. This seemingly small act of helping him cross the road opened my eyes to the needs of people with disabilities, and to be more intentional about extending justice and compassion to Those who may be forgotten, marginalised, and oppressed in our society. Growing up in Singapore, it’s been a blessing to enjoy the prosperity and peace of our nation.
But in the midst of growing affluence, cries for help remain. I think of the streetwalkers in Geylang who have been tricked or forced into the sex trade, the one-room rental flat dwellers in Toa Payoh who may not have enough to eat three meals a day, the foreign construction workers who labour in the hot sun and are housed in unsafe and overcrowded dormitories, and the domestic helpers who work all week, yet may be denied a weekly day off by abusive employers. I also think of the ex-offenders who cannot find work or a home because of society’s rejection of their past.
As followers of Christ, how should we respond? The book of Amos has a timely message for us — not only will He judge the nations for the things they have done wrong, He will also judge His own people, Israel, for their lack of justice and compassion in the midst of the suffering of others. While God had freed the people of Israel from oppressive slave masters in Egypt and called them to extend justice and compassion to others, the Israelites oppressed the poor, cheated in business transactions, and got rich at the expense of others. On the outside, the people of Israel appeared to love God by giving offerings and worshipping Him with songs, but God was enraged by the true state of their hearts filled with injustice and apathy. This is why God spoke through the prophet Amos to proclaim judgement on Israel, “Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:23–24).
Because justice and compassion are part of God’s character, as His people, we are to reflect these attributes of His nature as a testimony to the watching world. Having received the mercy of God through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we cannot go on living our life of ease, or to turn a deaf ear to the cry of the weak and needy. Having been blessed with plenty in Singapore, may we seek opportunities to extend justice and compassion to those around us. Remember the forgotten. Reach the marginalised. Speak for the voiceless. Release the oppressed.
Yes, this can be uncomfortable, and it can also require us to go the extra mile. But every little bit counts, no matter how insignificant it seems. As we fight for justice and compassion, we contribute to building God’s kingdom here on earth. Lives will be touched, and communities can be transformed. Never underestimate the power of what God can do through you!