Social Justice and Gospel Justice, Part II

The fact that the world “does justice” motivated by different ideals is no reason for the body of Christ to fail to do justice motivated by the grace and love of Christ.

Imprisoned afro-american man looking at barbed wire, refugee camp, hopelessness

Jesus came to proclaim the gospel, which he described as “good news to the poor”, and he came to set the oppressed free. If we are to follow Jesus, the Gospel and justice go hand in hand. I wrote about the way Gospel and justice go together right from the start of the ministry of Jesus in Social Justice and Gospel Justice, Part I.

Among some evangelicals, though, we tend to see these things as almost diametrically opposed. Gospel and “justice” are almost viewed as the difference between orthodoxy and heresy, conservatism and liberalism. We have allowed a separation to creep in between the Gospel and Justice. And I dare say we have become unbalanced.

Of course, the same thing has happened in reverse. A “social justice” has developed that denies the gospel and is disassociated from the gospel. This, perhaps, explains the reaction of the orthodox church to the term “social justice”. 

I will try to make sense of this divorce of Justice from the Gospel in evangelical circles, and the divorce of the Gospel from Justice among non-evangelicals, in this blog post.

Continue reading “Social Justice and Gospel Justice, Part II”

Social Justice and Gospel Justice, Part I

Jesus and the early church focused on preaching the Gospel and doing justice

alone sad child on a street

I am involved in a faith-based, legal aid organization that provides legal services and holistic help to people who live on the margins of our society. We call it “Gospel justice”, which is the title of a book written by Bruce Strom, the founder of the organization, Administer Justice. (See Gospel Justice)

I am aware of the skepticism with which Christians, and conservatives, generally, view “social justice”. While many Christians of the more liberal stripe (and liberals generally) embrace social justice, more conservative and orthodox Christians have learned to disassociate from social justice.

Labels, however, aren’t ultimately we are very helpful when it comes to nuanced understanding. We also have to be careful here that we don’t mix politics and the faith to the determent of the Gospel. This is true on both sides of the political aisle. Our politics shouldn’t define our faith.

We follow Jesus on what turns out to be a rather narrow road that doesn’t often follow the paths the world has beaten. Thus, I have been thinking for months about writing on the topic of social justice. I guess it’s time I do.

Continue reading “Social Justice and Gospel Justice, Part I”

On Working to Establish a Biblical Orientation on Issues of Race

Christianity transcends all the natural barriers to human relationships.

Although the dust has settled (somewhat) on racial tensions since the maelstrom that was kicked up in the wake of the George Floyd killing in Minnesota, no one should think that the issue has been settled or will go away without some resolution. The country, including the church community, is divided on the facts, and issues, and measures that should be employed to resolve the racial tension. Even people of good will are uncertain on how to move forward.

A predominant worldview has emerged in academia that is filtering down into local communities that frames the issue and potential resolution in terms of oppression. This worldview divides the world into the oppressed and their oppressors. The people who hold to that narrative are aggressively pushing for change.

They push the people they are define as the oppressors in the racial tension. The people defined as the oppressors are white and predominantly “Christian” in name (at least). As with the laws of nature, so with the laws of natural human tendencies: when someone pushes, people being pushed naturally push back.

So it is today that the predominantly white, Evangelical Church in the United States is feeling the pressure of the desire and demand for change to address the racial disparities and tensions in our world, and we are tempted to reflexively push back against that pressure.

But how should we respond?

I have written on the differences between Critical Race Theory and biblical justice. We should recognize that the worldview based on the CRT framework is not biblical, though many of our brethren of color and more progressive white Christians have embraced it.

I submit, though, that CRT has come to prominence in the African American churches and among progressive white churches because the Church, generally, has left a vacuum, and “nature abhors a vacuum”. We have failed to recognize and address in a biblical way the deep and lasting pain of racism that continues to exist in a society that only recognized equal rights for African Americans in my lifetime.

The failure of the Church to address racial issues left room for a completely secular and unbiblical approach to sweep in. So, other than acknowledge our failure, what do we do now?

Continue reading “On Working to Establish a Biblical Orientation on Issues of Race”

The Need for the Church to Address Racial Injustice

Everyone agrees there is a racial disparity problem. Only people on the fringes deny the problem.

I believe the Bible teaches that Christians who seek to follow Jesus as he followed the Father should be as earnest in doing justice as they are in preaching the Gospel. The Gospel and justice go hand in hand. The evangelical church, however, has fallen short on the justice side of the equation.

I believe the evangelical church has left a void in the area of justice that has allowed new, competing philosophies to take over the cultural space. Critical race theory has become the loudest voice in that arena.

Many Christians who are justice-minded have gravitated toward critical race theory to give a voice to the injustice they see because the church is not speaking to it. Without realizing that critical race theory may be another gospel that runs antithetical to the true Gospel, they may be embracing ways of thinking that could be harmful.

Critical race theory defines the problem and the solution in terms that do not align with the Gospel and to biblical truth. That is not to say there is no redeeming value to critical race theory, that it is inherently evil, or that people who espouse CRT are wicked or evil.

CRT is a man-made construct, and it’s not the Gospel. Inevitably it’s a solution that doesn’t get to the heart of the problem and doesn’t bring about true justice.

The Gospel offers true justice.

The Gospel says that all humans are made in the image of a holy God. All human beings, therefore, have intrinsic value that cannot be denied. We honor God and do right be each other by recognizing that in our thoughts and actions.

Love God and love your neighbor is the simple formula for recognizing the reality of human value in our thoughts and actions. This simple phrase is the summation of the Law of God boiled down to its essence. If we actually did that, there would be no injustice.

The problem with men is sin (missing the mark), transgression (breaking trust with God and people) and iniquity (brokenness). We often don’t do the right things we know we ought to do. W often want to go our own ways and to please ourselves rather than love God and love our neighbors.

The Gospel teaches that we have all fallen short (missed the mark). We have all broken trust with God and people. We are broken in our own ways, and we need help we cannot provide for ourselves.

Jesus offers the solution to the sin problem by taking on the sin of all people (of all races) on himself and setting us free (ultimately) from the consequences of sin. Jesus does that so we can have relationship with God who, then, begins to work within us to will and to act according to His good purpose.

That reality is borne out in the process of personal sanctification (vertically) and in just relationships with our fellow man (horizontally).

We do not achieve salvation by anything that we do. It’s a free gift available to all of us by grace. We simply need to embrace it. Salvation takes away the shame and the ultimate consequence of sin, which is death (physically and spiritually).

Salvation also frees us up to live as God intended by the help of the Holy Spirit who takes up residence within people who yield to Him. We demonstrate that by our love for God and our love for people. We no longer live for ourselves; we now live for God and others if we have truly been born again and received God’s gift of salvation and His Spirit.

Racism is the sin of partiality. (James 2) In Christ, there is no Jew nor Gentile; no male nor female; and no black, nor white or brown. We are all one in Christ, and the ultimate goal of the Gospel is to unite all humanity in Christ with God the Father. The picture of that ultimate goal was given to the Apostle John in a vision:

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb….” (Rev. 7:9)

Most people can see there is a racial disparity problem in the United States. We might not agree on all the causes or what to do about it. Only people on the fringes deny the problem of racial injustice.

The evangelical church, unfortunately, has had a very spotty track record on the issue of racism. A large segment of the evangelical church supported slavery in our more distant past. It was also a segment of the evangelical church who championed abolition and freedom.

Many Christians with a heart for justice are (rightfully) responding to the voices speaking to the issue of racial disparity, but many of those voices are using CRT as their guide. We have, to some extent, failed to develop a robust, biblical response to racial injustice, so people even in the church use the language that is available.

Continue reading “The Need for the Church to Address Racial Injustice”