In my conversations with other Christians, I hear different perspectives on justice.
Some Christians are very focused on justice. It is an important aspect of their faith to advocate for the equal rights of underprivileged groups, whether the focus is racial/ethnic minorities, women, LGBT individuals, or the poor.
For other Christians, a focus on justice misses the point. Working for justice is all well and good, but the most important thing is to help people develop a relationship with God, which includes the gift of salvation after death. Also, advocating for certain causes may not feel consistent with some individuals’ religious beliefs (e.g., advocating for gay marriage if one believes that gay sex is a sin).
Struggling to Support Justice
I think there are two main reasons why some Christians struggle to support justice. First, Christians differ in their perspectives about the importance of changing unjust social structures in this world. For some Christians, working to bring the kingdom of God to earth now involves a focus on changing unjust social structures. For other Christians, the focus is more on spending eternity with God in heaven later. These Christians might view a complete change of unjust social structures as aspirational but probably not realistic.
Second, Christians differ in their convictions on various issues closely tied to justice. When religious convictions conflict with motives toward justice, it may be difficult for Christians to work to support these initiatives. Historically, some Christians worked in the abolitionist movement to end slavery, whereas other Christians used the Bible to support slavery. In today’s society, some Christians view the empowerment of women as conflicting with their beliefs about gender roles. Also, some Christians view equal rights for gay and lesbian individuals as conflicting with their beliefs about ethics regarding human sexuality.
God’s Heart for Justice
I am passionate about encouraging Christians to work and fight for justice. Part of the reason is that I believe God has a huge heart for equality, the oppressed, and justice. In the Bible, this is a consistent theme—beginning with God’s covenant relationship with Israel and also expressed in the life and teachings of Jesus.
In what could be considered his mission statement, Jesus focused on helping the poor and marginalized:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor… Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. (Luke 4:18-19, 21)
During his life and ministry, Jesus consistently spent time with the outcasts of society, such as tax collectors and prostitutes. He broke racial barriers by engaging with Samaritans (John 4:1-26) and Gentiles (Matthew 8:5-13). He advocated for the poor (Luke 6:20). He honored and respected women in a male-dominated society (Mark 14:3-9, James 1:27).
The issue of justice can be complicated. But my hope and prayer is that as Christians, we would seriously consider the call throughout the Bible and especially by Jesus to be Just Christians.
How do you feel about working for justice? Is justice a core part of what you think it means to be a Christian? Why or why not? Are there things that hold you back from fully supporting certain causes?