Christians Have to Care About Injustice in the World

This is a Gospel issue.

BY AME FUHLBRUCK POLITICS / CURRENT August 02, 2016

Recently we have been reminded too much that we live in a broken world. Our hearts ache from the recent tragedies in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, Dallas … and too many more places to name. Empathy is a necessary start, but many of us are asking, “What can we, as the Church, do?” Change is desperately needed, but will only come when we, as Christ followers, rediscover the dynamic, biblical mandate for justice and identify how to ‘do justice’ in today’s world.

In the words of Micah 6:8:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, and to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?

Jesus proclaimed he had come to save the soul and rescue the suffering from institutionalized injustice. In his “inaugural address” recorded in Luke 4:18-20, he clearly identified that the good news he announced had implications, not only for the individual sinner to be saved, but the vulnerable to be rescued from their oppression.

The commentary for Luke 4:18 in the ESV Study Bible notes, “Jesus’ ministry included…forgiving sins and the ethical teachings that promote social justice.” Is that a message that is only about personal piety? Can a follower of Jesus be uncommitted to promoting justice in the world? Can authentic discipleship be reduced to having a morning devotional and avoiding illicit media? The answer to all those questions is a resounding, “No!”

But what is justice anyway? Again, the Micah 6:8 guides our understanding.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, and to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?

The Hebrew word translated into English as justice is “mishpat.” Pastor Timothy Keller notes about this word: “Mishpat is giving people what they are due, whether punishment or protection or care.”

In the Bible, this instruction to do justice was especially given in regards to the vulnerable. Similarly to how stronger children are prone to take the toys they want from weaker ones, socially dominant groups are prone to systematically take opportunities from sub-dominant, vulnerable groups in society. History has taught us that in the United States, race has been a major way that social injustice has occurred.

Jesus told the “Parable of the Persistent Widow” in Luke 18:1-8. In it a widow, someone who was powerless in first century Palestine, wanted justice but faced the indifference of the “unjust judge.” The widow fought (using the weapon of persistence and faith) to secure justice for herself. That scenario of injustice became systemic, social injustice in a wicked institution like slavery, in which the very opportunity of the enslaved to reflect the imago dei (image of God) was compromised by exploitation and violence.

This is why Christians like John Newton (who penned “Amazing Grace”), William Wilberforce, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and others considered it their Christian duty to fight to challenge the injustice of slavery. To do justice today is to follow the widow and the abolitionists’ example and work to undo the ways that we, in our fallen humanity, deny access and opportunities (economic, political, social, etc.) to the vulnerable. Whether it is the right to freedom that is taken in human trafficking or the right to due process in the criminal justice system, doing justice means securing these rights and opportunities “with liberty and justice for all.”

If we want to truly follow Jesus, we must be committed to justice, because He is. When we look at the Bible holistically, we see the mandate is for every citizen in the kingdom of God to eradicate injustice The command is there, hidden in plain sight like a plot twist in a movie that our eyes missed because they were looking for something else.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. Inner cities throughout the nation are saturated with despair and broken systems that tragically limit the human potential within them. Unaffordable housing, substandard education, unjust laws, crime and fatherlessness are all at epidemic levels. Our cities are full of people with valuable gifts and immeasurable worth, but we’ve allowed oppression to mask their talents and contributions. True justice finds ways to empower the marginalized, enhance their lives and offer them a safe place to thrive.

A biblical standard of justice must be a core value that we understand is essential to the work of announcing the kingdom of God. We can no longer hold up models of making disciples that focus on personal righteousness yet ignore the social dimension of righteousness—justice.

Followers of Christ must challenge the divide that exists along socioeconomic, racial and gender lines. This is not a secondary issue; it is a Gospel issue and therefore, a discipleship issue. We “must go through Samaria” (John 4:4) and choose to engage those who are marginalized, just like Jesus did! Then we must make sure those we disciple go there too.

Jesus taught His disciples that the way they treated the oppressed was not only a direct reflection of how they treated him, but also an indication of whether they were true followers (Matthew 25:31-46). He also taught his disciples that they should pray and act to bring God’s system of justice to bear wherever they lived—“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-11). If we ignore this mandate, we are failing to teach everything Jesus commanded.

AME FUHLBRUCK

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