Mercy without justice is cheap love.

I saw amazing social and economic change in Ethiopia but I have also seen a lot of pain and need and the easiest thing for me to do as a short-term missionary in Ethiopia is throw money at the problem and be a savior and not get my hands dirty in the process of helping others heal well.

The most important thing I was reminded of on this mission trip is a relationship that is built on need and not on SEEN the person doesn’t reduce the need, it creates co-dependency. In my experience, people want to be loved, not just given money to get rid of them. They want to be seen as human beings, not seen as a project or someone who needs to be fixed not loved.

Jesus saw people, not just their needs. He loved well.

You see this with Peter and John as well, they could have given the lame man money as He requested but he had a deeper need. Rather than giving him money, the disciples gave him something better, HEALING. See, compassion requires discernment and wisdom. What people ask for is not always what they need. I’m not saying relief is not important, I’m just saying mercy ministry without justice can sometimes feed our egos, not the person in need. It makes us look and feel good but it does no good in the long term to the next person we’re trying to help. Rather than lifting them out of the pit, we burry them in it.

We must learn how to help the poor holistically and not turn them into homeless entrepreneurs (orphans) who take but never learn how to give. As someone said, Africa doesn’t need handouts (charity) it needs hand-up (empowerment).

God requires us to love mercy but seek justice for those who live in poverty; for the widows, the fatherless and homeless. Compassion is more than a feeling. Compassion compels us to act justly.

I can’t wait to come back to Ethiopia, partner with mercy ministries (NGO’s) and impart what I have learned from my community development school about how to develop communities holistically.


(When helping hurts)

By Phinius Sebatsane (MD)