Missed Opportunity to Act Justly

Missed Opportunity to Act Justly

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

My Story

It was 1974. I was seventeen years old, a senior in high school. 

I never knew her name. Actually, I didn’t know anything about her. We attended the same high school but never the same classes. I would pass her in the hallway or see her in the common area into which students poured between classes. 

She wore the same green dress every day; probably the only garment she owned. She wore a pair of translucent rubber galoshes each day, rain or shine. Loops of elastic connected to buttons to tighten the top of each shoe. Nobody wore rubber galoshes. She did, because they were likely her only shoes. Her hair was unkept. She was significantly overweight…and she was always alone.

She was a nameless student on a crowded campus that everyone was aware of but nobody knew. 

In the common area a group of guys were busy gathering dollar bills for a wager of some sort. Students whispered. They laughed. There was an air of urgency. The challenge soon unfolded. One young man, a cocky and popular athlete, could keep all the money if he would walk up to this nameless young lady and kiss her squarely on the mouth. 

I knew how cruel and unjust this was. Yet I didn’t act.  

She appeared in her green dress and rubber galoshes. Surrounded by classmates she was still very alone. I needed to act quickly. I needed to step through the crowd, introduce myself, and shield her from the hurt. I needed to make sure she had a friend that day. Especially that day. 

But I did nothing.  

With dollar bills clutched in both hands, he approached her. They stood face-to-face for what seemed like an eternity. I’m sure it was only seconds. Tension-filled, anxiety-ridden, painfully-long seconds.  

Then he cried out in a booming voice, “My God, I just can’t do it!” Laughing, he scurried back to return the money. I watched her turn and head back the way she came. Now, however, she was crying. 

And still I did nothing.

I knew the guy. He was my teammate. I wasn’t the most athletic nor was I connected to the popular crowd. I knew him and feared a confrontation. That was my excuse. My selfish, lame, pitiful, indefensible, excuse. 

I was a Christian. Though relatively new in my faith, the same Holy Spirit who has empowered every generation of God’s people dwelt within me. Rather than act against injustice – the hurtful oppression of a struggling classmate – I withdrew into the familiar shell of my own carnal, self-centered immaturity. 

I could have made a difference In one person’s life that day. I could have been a friend to the friendless. An encouragement to the downtrodden. A bright light in a very dark day.   

I likely would have impacted others, too. Surely I was not alone in my shock and shame. Surely others knew just how hurtful the whole disgusting incident was. I could have inspired courage in others. I could have been the catalyst for a spiritual revival right there in my high school had I simply stepped up and “acted justly.”

As God’s people we are challenged act whenever we encounter any form of injustice. 

Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.

Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Psalm 82:3-4

To “act justly” is simply doing the right thing. To respond with confident obedience to the word of God regardless of the circumstance or the consequence. 

I am not responsible for changing “the world.” I am, however, along with you, given precious opportunities every day to change my little corner of the world. I can act justly” and change the world of one person or one family. I can “act justly” by standing against injustice of every kind.

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

Isaiah 1:17

I never saw that young lady again. I have no idea what happened to her. Maybe she simply withdrew even more. I hope she didn’t drop out of school or do something far worse. 

I think about her now and again, wondering if anyone ever told her about Jesus and his love. Did she ever discover her true value? Did anyone tell her she is an image-bearer of the King? I’m not sure, but I do know my failure to act justly haunts me to this day. If I could speak to the 17-year-old Scott Sharman, I would tell him to do the right thing; seek justice; and defend the girl in the green dress.