Social Justice or the Gospel?
Abortion, human trafficking, immigration, orphan crisis, poverty, racial prejudice …
Daily, it seems, a new or heightened example of social injustice fills our news feed and leaves us echoing the words of Psalm 13, “How long, O Lord?”
And while most Christians would say they care about people in crisis, there has—for generations—been strong disagreement amongst Christians for how involved (or not) the Church should be in addressing these social issues.
Because of our current cultural climate, age-old questions are finding renewed energy among Christians today, namely: Should Christians care about social justice? Is social justice in conflict with the Gospel?
Here are 3 quick things to consider.
3 Thoughts on Social Justice
1. Definitions matter.
Unfortunately, there is no universal definition of social justice. One person hears the term and thinks about climate change, while another person hears it and thinks about having a deep commitment to demonstrating God’s character in a broken world.
While this doesn’t mean Christians should abandon using the term, it means we should recognize that it isn’t enough.
Note: Not every cultural movement waving the banner of “social justice” is compatible with God’s Word. Just because a group claims to be about justice doesn’t mean it’s God’s idea of justice. Marxism, for instance, claimed to be a movement of justice, and yet it systematically terminated society’s most vulnerable. Likewise, there are groups today that claim to promote freedom, yet continue to hold people in bondage.
The best strategy is to simply explain what you mean. Abandoning buzz words in favor of specifics is always a good idea.
2.The Gospel must be most important.
It is right to be defensive of the Gospel. And what is the Gospel?—
“Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day …” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).
It would be counterproductive and woefully incomplete to “right the wrongs” of culture or simply make people more comfortable on this earth while neglecting to care for their eternal relationship with Christ. Life is a vapor, and no suffering on this earth can compare to eternal suffering apart from Jesus.
Perhaps the greatest social injustice is that people are dying and going to Hell today, and we who know Christ have the Truth of the Gospel and aren’t sharing it like we should.
3. Truth changes everything.
Social activism is not part of the Gospel.
And yet advocating God’s justice for people made in His image is a natural result of believing what God says and doing what God commands. Throughout the Bible, God calls us to defend the rights of the afflicted and to overcome evil with good.
Many Bible verses link our responsibility to help people in need to our relationship with God:
- He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him (Proverbs 14:31).
- Indeed, if anyone gives you even a cup of water because you bear the name of Christ, truly I tell you, he will never lose his reward (Matthew 9:41).
- Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1:27).
Bottom line: Regardless of what you call it, advocating for God’s justice in a broken world should not simply be optional for the believer. Living Gospel-centered lives means we should naturally seek the good of others for the glory of God.
Fortunately (and unfortunately), our current cultural crises have created a clear opportunity for the Gospel to shine brightly.
Provide Gospel-centered daily care, education, and discipleship to a child in need.