by Natalie LaValley

As we’ve seen in the previous posts, the Christian walk is a personal relationship with God (the contemplative stream). It also means imitating Christ’s virtues (the holiness stream) and using our spiritual gifts for the ministry God has called us to (the charismatic stream). The fourth part is the social justice stream, which focuses on using God’s power for compassionately transforming of the world around us. This stream recognizes that social injustices such as human trafficking, domestic violence, poverty, child abuse, and others grieve and anger God. By helping to restore justice, we point people to the existence of a good and just God. 

Before we consider how to make a difference in the world, let’s examine ourselves. Whether or not we realize it, each of us has a position of influence. Some of us may be parents, teachers, managers, church leaders, or ministry volunteers. We must be sure to exercise our power in just and compassionate ways, looking to God as our example. As an omnipotent being, God could do anything He wanted, yet He always acts with justice and compassion.

God’s most powerful display of justice and compassion is the redemption of humankind. When Adam sinned and condemned all of humanity with corruption, God sent His Son to take on our sin and punishment so that everyone who believes in Him can receive His righteousness and eternal life. God did not offer redemption out of loving feelings that overrode His justice. He didn’t let humanity “get away” with sinning without a price. Rather, through sacrificing His Son, God’s love and justice acted in perfect unity.

God’s passion for justice emerges as a prominent theme throughout both the Old and New Testament. One of the most frequent complaints He brings against the Israelites again and again is that they oppress the widow and the orphan (the two most vulnerable members of Israelite society). This corruption is so serious that God sends other unjust societies to oppress the Israelites again and again to make them realize their error and repent. God cared this deeply about His people refraining from corruption because only as a just and righteous society could Israel point other nations to Him. Even today, one of (if not the most) common reasons people reject Christianity is the injustice in the world. “How can there be a good God when so much evil exists?” people wonder. As Christians, we must partner with God’s redemptive work in the world to show people that, though we have have brought sin into God’s creation, His power and goodness will restore it. Be alert to God’s leading. When you sense Him calling you to show His redemptive love in a situation that cries out for justice, no matter how small or large, respond in obedience.

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

Jesus and the Social Justice Stream

Jesus commenced His ministry by standing in the synagogue and declaring, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).

The Old Testament prophetic vision of the year of the Lord’s favor was a special year (called Jubilee) when the land rested from producing crops, debts were forgiven, and those imprisoned because of debts were freed. Other social justices were also corrected during this year.

In effect, Jesus was announcing that, because of Him, all future time would be an ongoing “year of the Lord’s favor.” John the Baptist also pointed to this when he declared, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matt. 3:2). Jesus ushered in the kingdom of heaven with a ministry of compassion for those oppressed by society: the lepers, the prostitutes, the demonized, the poor, the chronically ill, and the grieving. He even had compassion for the religious leaders who wielded often corrupt power over the rest of society. He wanted them to experience the freedom of becoming humble like a child and entering His kingdom.

The Beatitudes encapsulate the radical kind of kingdom Jesus calls His followers to establish:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:3-12

 Example in History

 After his conversion to Christianity, William Wilberforce wondered if he needed to withdraw from his political position in the British Parliament. During that time, the upper class generally viewed religious enthusiasm as a social transgression in polite society and treated it with scorn. However, John Newton advised Wilberforce to remain in politics, and from then on, Wilberforce allowed his new convictions to guide him in his position of influence. 

 Inspired by his faith, and at the urging of several abolitionists, Wilberforce brought the issue of the slave trade to Parliament. He campaigned for its abolition for many years and through many setbacks until finally, in 1807, the Slave Trade Act received a majority vote of 283 to 16. In this way, Wilberforce combined his faith with his influence to bring his nation a major step forward in reforming its injustice. This step led to the Slavery Abolition Act seven years later.

 A Compassionate Life Today

 Even if you don’t hold a powerful position in politics, you can practice the social justice stream. It simply comes down to obeying the two greatest commandments – to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:37-40). Whether or not you are called to be an activist, living out these commandments will result in a just and compassionate life, touching all the downtrodden you encounter and pointing them toward Christ.

 If you’d like some more practical ways to apply the social justice stream, download these free “training tips.”

 This blog series draws from the Christ Habits curriculum. If you or your small group could benefit from studying these disciplines more in-depth, you can find the Christ Habits Collection here at our store


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