"Arbiter [Prince Charles' press secretary] recalls a strange, muted, mournful night after the Princess died when he encountered a group of wheelchair users on their way to lay flowers at Kensington Palace. 'They were saying, 'Who's going to speak for us, now?' They had a point. The disabled: who's going to speak for them? The AIDS patients: who's going to speak for them? The drug addicts, the down-and-outs, the homeless, the elderly? She was their voice and drew attention to their plight.'"
Immediately I was reminded of something so similar spoken by the poor and disabled during the funeral of the great English evangelical leader and social reformer of the 19th Century, Lord Shaftesbury. I can't find the exact quote, but it was almost identical. The poor of England said of Shaftesbury - "he was the man who spoke up for us."
This is such a challenging question. In the 19th century, the people who made all the difference were born-again Christians. They were filled with the compassion of Christ, moved by the Spirit of God. Here at the start of the 21st century, many are honouring another who was moved in compassion for different reasons. What Diana did in her public service was not wrong - on the contrary it was very good - but it is a challenge to us today: Where are the Shaftesbury's and the Wilberforces of today?
In my last post, I spoke about the filling the vacuum. This post is really a continuation of that. We need the cloud of glory to fall upon us, but the cloud of glory results in real hands and real feet getting to work, and real tongues speaking out and speaking words of healing.
So often in our society the poor, the disabled, the AIDS sufferers ask the question "who will speak up for us, who will help us" and the answer is left up to nice people from the world. Praise God for the common grace of non-Christians who commit themselves to serving their fellow human beings, but the challenge is surely to the church.
Who will speak up, who will help? Will it be us? We are to be the joy of the whole earth (Ps 48v2). Our Master set the example as He went about "doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil". We have the power and authority, and the call, to follow in His footsteps.