Social justice is a hot topic in today’s current events. Angry groups are in the streets demanding changes to our society’s public institutions and policies. They threaten violence and instability until their demands are satisfied.
Social justice has been an important subject in the Bible for many generations. God denounced social injustice through his prophets in the Old Testament. Amos is a good example. He lived at a time of relative prosperity in Israel. Despite their economic and political blessings, the people of God oppressed the poor and ignored the Lord. Their courts were corrupted. Their economy was rigged. Their worship was idolatrous.
“Let justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream,” Amos wrote (5:24, NIV). Through his prophet, the Lord insisted that the nation change course and live up to their calling, live up to his standards of justice and righteousness.
Notice the words “justice” and “righteousness.” Amos and the other prophets consistently presented more than a one-sided equation when promoting solutions to social injustices. Social justice cannot hang in midair. It requires a sure footing. Social justice requires spiritual righteousness. In order to be right with one another, we must be right with God.
The Bible includes a powerful expression of social justice that is still repeated today: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But when God gave his law to his people through his servant Moses, he said, “Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18, NIV). Those last four words are vital.
Loving one’s neighbor is not merely an abstract legal or social principle. It’s not just a good idea. It is God’s word. It carries the ultimate authority. Disobedience to God’s word comes with dire results, not just in society, but in eternity.
Jesus drew a close connection between these two important dynamics in human life. He insisted that we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and we must love our neighbor as ourselves (see Matthew 22:37-39).
Don’t miss the addition of the word “love.” Secular appeals for justice aim no higher than tolerance and equality. Spiritual maturity includes tolerance but does more than simply endure those who are different.
Jesus commands his followers to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them. God’s grace challenges us to go beyond what people deserve and to bless when blessings are unearned.
Godly solutions to injustice recognize the vital connection between the spiritual and physical realities of humanity. To be right with one another, we must be right with God.
Godly solutions to injustice go beyond tolerance and equality. We must find ways to reflect the grace of God. We must find ways to express the love of God. While aiming at God’s love and grace, we will be much more likely to hit justice.
Brother Richard Foster