Introduction Part 2. Purpose of This Blog: To Praise Jesus for His Love and His Call to Justice, and to Seek His Understanding

Praise be to our Father, God, and King, and to His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ! He alone can save–and has saved–the world. He saved my life–literally and spiritually. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). For reasons only He knows, He put in me a desire to question the nature of justice in the world, before I ever knew Him. By the Holy Spirit, “I will sing of your love and justice; to you, Lord, I will sing praise” (Psalm 101:1). We should praise Him for His love, but we should also praise Him for His call for us to do justice. And seeking to do His justice in the world is a way to glorify Him.

What Is Social Justice? – Some Personal Explorations

Helping People In Need?

Unfortunately, I myself have been slow to find out more about the deeper meanings of social justice, even though I have been interested in social justice and anti-poverty efforts for over 10 years. Early on, I thought of the two in very simple terms, based on the well-known passage, Matthew 25:31-46: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat . . . .”

So, I tried to learn how to help people in need: the poor and elderly using government-run health insurance, the homeless, victims of human trafficking, children and parents who live in housing projects, and disadvantaged people in communities of color.

But “helping people in need,” while good, seemed to be a somewhat weak concept of social justice, especially in the terms of changing the causes of injustice. In many cases, these are unjust social structures—roughly speaking, these are the institutionalized power dynamics that allow some people to frequently take advantage of those weaker than them.

Changing Unjust Social Structures?

I thought studying public policy and learning how to work with it would help me understand how changing social structures relates to social justice. But I have not found very satisfying answers to how policy, politics, government, nonprofits, and businesses promote social justice, even when we say we are talking about “social justice.” We go through countless political debates, endlessly analyze issues, and spend millions of dollars, and volunteer and work hundreds of hours. But in many cities across America, like Baltimore, progress on problems–such as poverty, violence, and racism–seems painfully slow.

Public policy practice, as a field, seems to assume what is good, rather than critiquing itself and leading debates on what “good” truly means. Attempts to analyze and debate the moral dimensions of public policy are quickly shot down. Instead, it is usually considered good to “play the game”—run the analysis according to prevailing ideologies, and generally accept the establishment’s norms. Among other causes, this might have contributed to the failure of most mainstream political analysts and the media to accurately predict the rise of President Trump, whose election was in part fueled by the anger and mistrust of the American people. Public policy practice is largely a mental exercise that lacks heart and soul, and it is probably designed that way.

Jesus Brought the Good News About Love and Justice; Do American Christians Bring No News or Bad News?

If the institutions of public policy practice tend to lack heart and soul, then where might we find them? Perhaps the Christian Church?

Jesus brought the good news of salvation—the gospel. It is wonderful news!

[Jesus] stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

(Luke 4:17-19)

Part of the gospel is Jesus’s authoritative command to love others and do justice (cf. Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42). As I’ve walked with Jesus through the years, I have been inspired by this.

However, in the American Church, we seem to overshadow Jesus’ command to do justice with his completed work of saving grace and mercy. We preach an incomplete gospel.

Jesus preached both parts, and did both parts. He scolded hypocritical religious leaders and peacefully defied the political powers. And He welcomed outcasts, healed the sick, and fed the poor. And He died on the cross for everyone’s sins, and rose again! That’s the good news!

Sadly, most of the time when I hear Christians talk about social and political problems, it sounds too much like the world: blame of the poor, fear of being too generous, a narrow focus on certain social issues, nationalism, complaints about taxes, being selfish and angry, etc. That’s bad news.

And as American society has once again ebbed into violent hatefulness and selfish individualism, the general silence or incoherence of the Church and Christians on such issues is sometimes deafening. No news is bad news, too.

Christians have additional concerns, both theologically and with regard to practical ministry, such as the following:

  • Whether political involvement is too worldly
  • Faith vs. works
  • Judging others vs. mercy
  • Faith in waiting for Jesus to return and bring complete justice

While we do live in a fallen world, one where people will inevitably commit injustices until Christ returns, how much are we being the “salt” and the “light” (as Jesus said in Matthew 5:13-16) to our neighbors who are struggling to survive—neighbors down the street or on the other side of the city, not to mention across our nation and world? We pray the Our Father prayer do we not?

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.Matthew 6:9-10 (emphasis added)

We can do justice on earth, it seems!

Is Christianity Irrelevant? What is Our Role?

Many people in our society today believe that Christianity is irrelevant in social and political issues. But now more than ever, we can surely use some good news—the Good News!

Throughout history, Christians and the Church have been far from perfect, and we never will be until Jesus returns.

However, I believe there are basic ways we can understand our role with regard to doing justice:

  1. Jesus told us to both love others and do justice (Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42)
  2. The fight is fundamentally spiritual—we are born again of the Spirit (John 3) and we are to fight the spiritual fight “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms “ (Ephesians 6:12)
  3. For our faith in Christ to be alive, we need faith with works (cf. James 2:14-26, John 14:15)
  4. Jesus gave us the Great Commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20, emphasis added)

With the Holy Spirit’s help, we can do this!

Who is Supposed to Teach Us How to Do Justice?

Following from the above, part of the Great Commission is to teach people how to do justice. We probably do not lack teachings, but perhaps we lack teachers and students. Are we letting the secular world teach us about justice, when we should (also) be teaching about it? Are we mostly letting the secular world define social justice without seeking God’s understanding ourselves?

Methodology of This Blog: Seeking Understanding by Asking Questions Based on Christ’s Inspiration

Instead of disengaging from the world, we Christians should be seeking to understand God’s heart for engaging the world. And part of seeking understanding is to ask questions.

If we want to be like Christ, why not let His words inspire us to seek understanding from the Holy Spirit, so that we can act boldly in faith in Christ, for God’s glory?

The questions I have asked above have been inspired by God’s Word. May we continue to seek Him for understanding. Amen.

Introduction Part 1. Primer on Some of God’s Answers About Injustice and Watchfulness

Conversations With God About Justice

Job

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:

“Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?
[. . .]

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.

(Job 38:1-4)

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm:

“Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.

“Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?

(Job 40:6-8)

Habakkuk

Habakkuk’s Complaint

How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? . . .
Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.

(Habakkuk 1:2-4)

The Lord’s Answer

“. . . I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.
I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own.
They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor.
[. . .]
. . . guilty people, whose own strength is their god.”

(Habakkuk 1:5-11)

Habakkuk’s Second Complaint

You, Lord, have appointed them to execute judgment; . . .
Your eyes are too pure to look on evil . . .
Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? . . .
I will stand at my watch . . .
I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.

(Habakkuk 1:12-2:1, emphasis added)

Then the Lord replied:

“Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.

[ . . . ]
Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.

“See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness—

(Habakkuk 2:1-4)

Genesis of Injustice

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

(Genesis 4:9-10)

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

(Genesis 3:9-13)

Jesus the Light of All Mankind and the World

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

(John 1:1-5, emphasis added)

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

(John 9:1-5, , emphasis added)

Jesus’ Call to Be the Light the World

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

(Matthew 5:14-16, emphasis added)

Jesus’ Call to Keep Watch

Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning . . . You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

[. . .]

“. . . But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants . . . The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

“The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. . . . From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded . . .

(Luke 12:35-48, emphasis added)

I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night.

You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest . . .

(Isaiah 62:6-7, emphasis added)

Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.

(Ezekiel 3:17; 33:7, emphasis added)