Many Christians are wary of participating in social justice issues because of a deep-rooted fear of being labeled: liberal, progressive, secular etc. We can become uncomfortable delving into issues that go beyond our cultural comfort zones. But the Bible tells us that Jesus cared deeply about the social issues around him. Jesus showed us that Samaritan, children, leper’s, and women’s lives mattered. And even though Jesus loves everyone, even to the point of dying for our sins, he went out of his way to intentionally point out the alienated, marginalized, and those facing injustice…those considered outsiders.
So participating in movements seeking justice, reform, and empowerment is one of the most Christ-like things we can do. It can’t be just about us. In Israel fig trees are planted for future generations. The planter may never see the tree bear fruit, yet they will tend it for their lifetime for others. Here in this country those in power tend to see only to the next quarter’s profits, making short term decisions with long term adverse effects to those at the margins and to our planet. Poverty, Climate Change, Equality, so many groups and communities are facing systemic oppression.
We must be willing to admit and address the complex realities within our world that create such problems, and avoid relying on generic excuses and solutions. We can do a disservice to the gospel message by removing the cultural context from Jesus’s ministry and watering down his message to one of generic one-size-fits-all models or cliché’s and platitudes. We also like to identify specific scripture passages which support our particular view on things. Throughout the New Testament Jesus was complicated and radical. He intentionally and passionately addressed the diverse and complicated conflicts of the time and shattered the status quo.
Jesus wasn’t just preaching a universal salvation message for the world, but he was also addressing specific political, social, and racial issues. He was helping those who were being abused, violated, and oppressed…he made visible those who society and the system made powerless and invisible.
Throughout the world there are millions of people who are suffering. We must fight apathy, ignorance, or the refusal to even think that any problems exist. Participating in social justice is a Christian tradition inspired by Jesus. It’s a deeply spiritual practice. Instead of being motivated by political affiliations, financial gain, power, pride, control, or our own secular motivations, we should be active disciples, following Jesus — for the purpose of glorifying God through acts of justice, empowerment, and love.
Because everyone is created in the image of God and loved by God, we are responsible for identifying with the victimized — not rejecting their existence. Now while God does love everyone and all believers are united in Christ, this doesn’t negate the fact that we have a unique cultural identity and upbringing and are called to recognize the marginalized, help the oppressed, and avoid rejecting their significance by denying their identity or ignoring their plight.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we do these things? …and Jesus will answer “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these you did for me.”
Your faithful servant,