by Rev. Christopher Lewis,
Nothing is Impossible Ministries
“I’m a Christian who is against social justice,” is what one Christian basically said in a discussion I once heard about Christians’ role in social justice. To be honest, the comment made me sad. It made me sad because I know that there are a number of church-people out there who would agree with this statement even though it is in direct opposition to the teachings of the Christ they seek to follow.
How could Christians be against social justice? Have they been so politicized that they have forgotten that caring for the orphans and widows, looking after the aliens among us, and standing against oppression are biblical ideals that are both encouraged and commanded in the Bible?
Jesus himself said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”—Luke 4:18-19
From a theological perspective, I think the big problem is something called dualism. Ancient Greek philosophers taught that there is a divide between the spiritual and the material. Plato, for example, taught that the soul is the real person and that true freedom means being released from the prison of the material body. Largely as a result of this kind of thinking, a lot of Christians have opted to focus on caring for the “soul” and decided that looking out for the needs of the body are irrelevant.
However, the Bible teaches the salvation of the whole person and the resurrection of the body. Ancient Hebrew thinking, which influenced biblical thought considerably more than Greek thought did, knew of no distinction between body and soul. And when Jesus ministered to people, he fed the hungry whilst also ministering to their eternal needs.
Jesus ministered to the whole person, and anybody who claims to follow Him is obligated to do the same.
Years ago, a number of Christians reacted against a dualistic faith that went to an extreme. Calling itself a “social gospel,” it sought only to minister to outward physical and social needs. Rightly recognizing that they were missing the heart of the Gospel, many Christians reacted by going to the opposite extreme and deciding that they would have nothing to do with social needs and simply minister to the “spiritual” needs of the people.
They were equally in the wrong, though. Either extreme misses the heart of Jesus, who was sent to bring good news to the poor and to release the oppressed—not just in a “spiritual” sense but in tangible, practical ways.
To stand against social justice is to deny the heart and mission of the God of justice, the same God who said these words in Holy Scripture so many years ago:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”—Isaiah 58:6-7
Many Christians in America have fallen into a unique problem with a political Christianity wherein they put the platforms of their political parties above their faith. As a result, depending on which political party they belong to, they tend to gravitate toward one unfortunate extreme or the other.
Some say that it’s all about personal morality, while others say it’s all about social justice. Both miss the heart of Jesus and condemn their expressions of Christianity to the realm of irrelevance. Those who say it’s all about personal morality present a Christianity that offers a “pie in the sky” but hardens its heart to the needs of hurting, hungry people all around the world. Those who say it’s all about social justice forget that true justice can’t happen in a world where sinful, selfish hearts are not changed.
May God bring Christ-followers together across America and around the world who are willing to let Jesus’ love shine through them in a holistic, realistic way. May we remember to tell people about the personal redemption and eternal life made available through the blood of Jesus Christ, while at the same time demonstrating the heart and compassion of Christ in the ways we respond to a broken world in need.