Social Justice Bible Style
© 03.13.18 By D. Eric Williams
This article appeared in the March 15 edition of the Cottonwood Chronicle
How long, Yahweh, must I call for help and You do not listen or cry out to You about violence and You do not save? Why do You force me to look at injustice? Why do You tolerate wrongdoing? Oppression and violence are right in front of me. Strife is ongoing, and conflict escalates. This is why the law is ineffective and justice never emerges. For the wicked restrict the righteous; therefore, justice comes out perverted (Habakkuk 1:2-4, HCSB).
Social justice issues are "it" at the present. Indeed, "social justice" has been a matter of discussion and demonstration for over fifty years here in the United States. For liberal theologians, social justice - or just plain old justice - is primarily about "equitable" distribution of resources and (redistribution of) wealth. In the past, Leftist theologians touted Liberation Theology (Marxist Theology) as true "Jesus Theology" but these days the voice of Liberation Theology has been all but lost in the clamor of competing doctrines: Feminist, Black, Queer, Prosperity and Postmodern theologies (and etc.) are all considered legitimate ways to understand God and His kingdom. Liberation Theology is no longer the king of the mountain for leftist churchmen (oops - churchpersons). These days, every leftist or liberal theology claims the high ground on social justice issues. Nevertheless, it is good old biblical orthodoxy, Bible based, Bible generated, Bible honoring, Holy Spirit guided theology that provides the true picture of justice.
When we look to the Bible we find that justice simply has to do with how people treat each other. Biblical justice accents the recognition of people's rights as they occur in all facets of life. For instance, biblical justice speaks to the marketplace; just weights and measures are stressed as a standard used to gauge the level of justice in a society (Leviticus 19:35-36, Deuteronomy 25:13-16, Amos 8:5, Proverbs 11:1, 16:11, Ezekiel 45:9-10). And note, it is a matter of just weights and measures for every person.
The Bible also mandates justice in law. According to the Bible, the rights of the rich and poor, native born and foreigner, high and low, black, brown and white are to be considered equally. Biblical justice ignores social status, eschews bribery and disregards the opinion of the mob. Nothing but truth should influence legislator, judge, jury or witness (Deuteronomy 16:18-20, Exodus 23:1-9).
But justice is not merely allowing people their rights; it embraces making sure others can exercise their rights as well. Thus, learn to do what is good. Seek justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow's cause (Isaiah 1:17, see also Isaiah 11:4, Jeremiah 22:15-16, Psalms 82:2-4 and so on).
Nonetheless, God does not overcome the world by changing the social order. Victory over sin was realized at the cross. The death and resurrection of Jesus opened the way for sinful, unjust, mankind to be reconciled to God. The blood of Jesus washes us clean from sin and his empowering presence in our lives allows us to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose (Philippians 2:12-13). Therefore, this unjust world is reformed - changed - by changed people. Followers of Jesus Christ are part of the society in which they live, and they will help change society as they preach and live the Gospel of salvation in Jesus (Matthew 5:13-16, Ephesians 4:17-24, 5:8-21). True Christ-likeness includes the desire to right social injustice. This involves both condemning evil and doing good (Isaiah 1:17, Amos 5:15,24, Micah 6:8, Matthew 23:23, Luke 3:10-14, Colossians 4:1, James 1:27).
We will return to this subject next week.