“Let justice role on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.”
I’ve been hearing a lot about social justice in the past few months. Between the elections, shootings, and other events, my Facebook and Twitter feeds have been blowing up with two different kinds of tweets and posts. One kind calls for action and change. These are the problems, say the posts, and if this thing was done, things would be better. The other kind of post usually starts with something like, “I don’t really think we should take sides on these things” or something about how we should all love each other and keep our opinions to ourselves.
What is the role of Christians in social justice? Do we withdraw ourselves from dialogue about problems in the world, or do we jump in and voice our thoughts?
At school recently, Ken Wystma, the founder of The Justice Conference, spoke about our obligation as Christians to serve others. C.S. Lewis claimed in A Severe Mercy that it “is a Christian duty, as you know, for everyone to be as happy as he can.” Again in Reflections on the Psalms, Lewis says, “When we carry out our “religious duties” we are like people digging channels in a waterless land, in order that when at last water comes, it may find them ready.” Wystma argued that we find our humanity when we do things that God created us to do in His image, that we become the people God wants us to be by “doing justice.” Jesus said that he came to earth to “testify to the truth,” so when we defend truth, speak truth, and advocate for truth and right-living in a Christlike manner, we are doing what we were created to do in God’s image.
Another point that Wystma made that stood out to me was in regards to Matthew 6:1. It reads, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” Wystma went back to the Greek to see where they got the translation for “righteousness” from. The word used was “dikaiosynē” Today, we use two English words to translate the one Greek word: righteousness and justice. While these two words have different meanings, I think it is interesting to note how “righteousness” and “justice” pair so well together. In the Spanish translation, the word for “righteousness” is actually “justicia.” How cool is that? Living in a morally right way and seeking for others to be treated in morally right ways go hand-in-hand.
The next verse in Matthew 6 makes a clear point. It starts by saying, “So when you give to the poor…” Not IF you give to the poor. Not if you somehow find it in your heart to give to the poor. It says “WHEN.”Later in the chapter, the same language is used in regards to prayer: “And when you are praying.” Then, when Jesus tells us how to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, He says, ” And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Woah, that’s intense. So we give, we pray, and we FORGIVE. There are three ways, just in that chapter, that talk about how we should be seeking to serve others.
We should definitely be talking about justice. We should definitely be serving others. We should definitely be loving others sacrificially. Sometimes we’ll be sacrificing time. Sometimes we’ll be sacrificing our money. And sometimes, as much as it may pain us to do so, we need to sacrifice our pride and pray for and forgive others. Let’s put away our “if I feel leds” and “if I feel like its”. If ifs and buts were candies and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas. I’m not saying our calling is necessarily to battle it out on Facebook by posting statuses and memes, or to get a hashtag trending worldwide. I’m not saying every cause that people can support is a good cause. My point is that we need to get out of our comfort zones, get into Scripture, and get to serving others. We’ve ALREADY been called to live righteously and justly. Let’s just do it already.