A friend needed to visit an African country fairly urgently, so I went with her to the high commission, quite a distance away, to obtain her visa. It was a long queue, and when she finally got to the attendant, she was quickly dismissed, and told it might get dealt with that day…or not. She could wait if she wanted…or not. There was no indication that anyone cared, or whether it would ever get dealt with…or not. I was shocked but she had dealt with them before. They were waiting for a bribe, and without it, little would be accomplished. Even in Europe there are countries where health care is free…but unless you ‘tip’ the nurses and doctors, you will not get attended to.
It was these sort of situations God would not tolerate in his kingdom. Exodus 23:1-9 demands trustworthy rulings and a culture of justice, where judgements are not based on wealth (v6) or poverty (v3) but on honest testimony. It required people to stand out from the crowd and stand up for righteousness. It meant people had to treat others with a sense of equality – no matter what their status, or where they came from, and without reference to how that person treated them. In short, it required people to love God, and to love their neighbour, including their enemy, as themselves. The Golden Rule as it is often called.
I’ve had dealings with establishments where there has been an endemic culture of favouritism, and couldn’t-care-less attitudes. One or two pushy folk, and it spreads like a rot through the whole place. Employees whose faces don’t fit look for another job as soon as they can get out. Before long, weaker characters find themselves behaving in ways that fit into the culture, and justifying it to themselves.
One thing you need in this situation, is a breastplate of righteousness (as well as the rest of the spiritual armour in Ephesians 6). You have to be impervious to the rot. You have to be so squeaky-clean that there is nothing the bullies can hold over you. And you have to prevail in the sort of prayer that brings down strongholds. One place I worked was rife. One evening, in our home, my husband and I prayed through every room in my workplace. One colleague who had been particularly difficult was off sick the next morning, and never returned. It improved things immensely.
It’s about being prepared to go anti-flow, for righteousness, wherever you are. And if you are not in a difficult situation in any area of you life, find someone who is and pray for them, pray with them, pray against the problems. Pray for righteousness in the government, in the nations. Pray for justice in our world. Through Christ, we have the power to bring change. It starts with loving God, and loving your neighbour – whoever they are – as yourself.