Do Christians have to be proactively engaged in matters of “social justice”?
The reason why this is an important question is because a lot of people see the alarming trend of Churches pushing aside matters of doctrine in favor of social justice concerns as very concerning and have reacted by decreasing their involvement in the community, some have even begun downplaying or out-right opposing social justice matters!
So we need to start by defining our terms: “social justice” here refers to Christ-minded care and involvement in the community. It does not refer to any mindset or movement whereby other concerns of God’s word, like doctrine, worship, holiness, or prophecy, are diminished and/or replaced.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
Historically matters of charity have been almost entirely handled by the Church. Movements like the Methodist movement were heavily involved in building orphanages and hospitals, but today the Church has all but completely abdicated that role to government, and, as the government has taken over, the Church is now being restricted from serving the poor.
So we’re not only asking whether or not the Church should be proactively involved in such community matters, but, whether or not the Western Church has actually sinned by abdicating this role to other entities such as the government.
PURE & UNDEFILED RELIGION REQUIRED?
James 1:27 “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
Even though the word “religion” has a bad reputation these days, let’s look at it through God’s eyes: James teaches that true religion, the kind that is pure in God’s sight, is to be holy and look after the helpless. This teaching sets Biblical “social justice” apart from other worldview’s because it is not only concerned with meeting the needs of the helpless, but also with personal holiness; indeed, matters concerning social justice were not isolated from personal holiness, nor did they come before our personal devotion to God.
There is a genuine concern over much of what is called “mission work” in the Church today because it has no regard for personal holiness, communion with Christ, or glorifying God. But, we must be careful not to allow the disobedient to direct our beliefs by reacting to their disobedience, for surely this will end in our disobedience too!
What James said is simple enough: true religion is to keep ourselves unstained from the world while helping others; if we have either one of these elements, but not the other, we do not have pure religion in God’s sight!
Micah 6:8 “Mankind, He has told you what is good and what the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (HCSB)
God requires that we act justly and love mercy. This is not an option, and it follows that He expects us to show His justice and His mercy, not world’s “justice” and “mercy”.
Therefore, when we consider Christ, who “became for us righteousness, sanctification, and redemption” “while we were yet still helpless sinners“, we must consider that the justice and mercy of God is proactive towards those who are unworthy; namely, that God considered it “just” to seek that which was lost, and “merciful” to show kindness to those who were unworthy- but not only this, that He also considered it “just” and “merciful” to take those who were unclean and make them clean and spotless!
ISAIAH 58:1-7 “Cry out loudly, don’t hold back! Raise your voice like a trumpet. Tell My people their transgression and the house of Jacob their sins. They seek Me day after day and delight to know My ways, like a nation that does what is right and does not abandon the justice of their God. They ask Me for righteous judgments; they delight in the nearness of God. ‘Why have we fasted, but You have not seen? We have denied ourselves, but You haven’t noticed!’ Look, you do as you please on the day of your fast, and oppress all your workers. You fast with contention and strife to strike viciously with your fist. You cannot fast as you do today, hoping to make your voice heard on high.
Will the fast I choose be like this: a day for a person to deny himself, to bow his head like a reed, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast and a day acceptable to the Lord?
Isn’t the fast I choose to break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and not to ignore your own flesh and blood?”
Breaking the chains of wickedness is intermingled with sharing our bread! God wants our housing the poor and homeless to be coupled with setting free the oppressed!
Jesus is our perfect example in this; He broke the bonds of iniquity and led free a host of captives, but He also fed with bread the empty stomachs of those who were hungry!
Israel’s sin was that they sought God daily but abandoned His justice! Are not many of our churches guilty of the same sin today? Let us stop our sinning and take up the pure religion of Jesus Christ!