Here’s a question related to the BETTER WAY series. What does Crossroads mean when we say we are, and want to be, a church about compassion and justice?
People and groups take the word “justice” to mean various things, and it comes up in the news media and talk radio a lot these days.
The term “social justice” is used in the fields of political philosophy and church history. Even in political philosophy, the term means different things in different theories and to different philosophers. (You don’t want me to put on my social studies teacher hat and start talking about utilitarianism, John Rawls Theory of Justice or Catholic social theory. Right?) Everyone has an opinion of what a just society should be like, and how it could be accomplished. That’s why there are so many theories; and the theories are mind-bendingly complicated for good reason: Human beings cannot do justice or fix injustice on our own. This is God’s work.
And thanks be to God. The Bible’s view of justice is not that complicated, but it’s fierce and costly, because it’s rooted in the radical love and mercy of Almighty God. (Listen to John’s message during week 2 of BETTER WAY, especially the last section about LOVE.)
When Crossroads teaches about “justice” we don’t mean…
- … social justice as a political philosophy or social theory.
- … social justice as a church activity that can transform societies or create heaven on earth through the good deeds of human beings.
- … justice as a legal term.
When Crossroads talks about justice we mean…
- “Justice” as a biblical word. Our use of the term during the series comes from the Bible. Micah 6:8 is a focus text that summarizes God’s expectations for the family of God, and it foreshadows the work of Jesus and his followers in the New Testament era. “Justice” is used this way over and over in the Bible.
- Justice is God’s work of making things right: God’s work is overcoming evil and sin in individuals and system in the whole world—restoring God’s goodness and peace for creation and the human family. See Jesus mission statement in Luke 4:18-19.
- Justice is also Christ-followers joining God in making things right. We are invited, and expected, to follow our savior, Jesus Christ, into situations of sin and suffering to extend compassion and mercy—serving people and communities with our bodies and resources— to relieve poverty, confront evil, teach God’s ways, model righteousness, help, care… and more. We do this in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ in us is both the model and the means for Christians to do justice. See Matthew 25:40b and Mark 12:29-31.
We did not use the term “social justice” in the series, nevertheless, the term has been used well and biblically in several Christian movements over time. Social justice is not a dirty word, but it does mean different things to different people.
This sketch blog post only scratches the surface of what the Bible teaches about the justice of God and the work of justice that Jesus Christ expects his followers to do.
A couple of questions, if you’re up for commenting…
- What, if anything, surprised you in the Better Way series or this post?
- How do these clarifications about biblical justice square work with your understanding of the term justice or the things you hear about social justice in the news or other places?
Our teaching team will post on more topics that relate to biblical justice, God’s concern for the poor, the hole in our gospel and more.
I have to go now because John Smith asked me to find and post over 200 Bible passages about God’s concern for the poor. I’m afraid if I don’t get it done, I’ll have to stay after work and write them out on the marker board.
Have a great day,