The trend of social justice, which proclaims that each individual deserves equal access to economic prosperity and the rights of all humans in regards to the acceptance of diversity, was once only a political agenda, but has become a staple in churches in their missional statements. Almost to the point that it’s replacing the Gospel message it’s intended to support. It not only saddens me to some degree, but it troubles me when it is claimed to be from God.
There is no question that God repeatedly commands us throughout Scripture to love one another, not neglecting the care of widows, orphans, or aliens (no, not the E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind kind). The contradiction, for me anyhow, comes into play when those churches purport that God favors the oppressed overall. For example, in 2010, the Reformed Church in America adopted the Belhar Confession, adding to a list of historical creeds and confessions it recognizes. It is an admirable statement, originally crafted in the 1980s in the wake of apartheid, which aimed to narrow the ongoing racial divide. Then comes this under section four:
that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged;
God created this “world full of injustice and enmity,” and we’d do well to accept that fact no matter how it challenges our intellect in the face of all the injustice and adversity we see. In our faith, there is a peace in the trust that we have in Him, who creates and controls all things. A biblical understanding of His sovereignty, His providence, and His will blesses us as we walk through this life. A walk that isn’t to be laden with indifference to the injustices we witness; I wholeheartedly believe that working towards what God views as justice is commendable to others and pleasing to Him. Just because we’ll never achieve the utopia this work suggests, until the promises in Revelation are fulfilled, doesn’t give us license to ignore “the destitute, the poor, and the wronged.”
But, to lay claim that God is, in a special way, the God of this people is unsettling. As we read in Revelation 7:9, where God’s elect are gathered from “every nation, tribe, people and language” to worship the Lamb, the implication is that there will also be those from every nation, tribe, people and language that will be destined for Hell. So, naturally, one could assume people of all races, backgrounds, origins, and experiential histories will fall on one side or the other. So by what guidelines does God base His perfect justice? Not by the color of our skin, the origin of our ancestors, our gender, our positional history in slavery, or any other aspect of our humanity (Galatians 3:26-29). God’s justice rages against the wicked and unrepentant. Whether or not you’ve been destitute, poor, or wronged does not give you special standing with God. It is all dependent on His mercy in opening your heart and eyes (Romans 9:16-18) to the knowledge of Him, as our Redeemer, Savior, and Judge. This is His free gift of grace to those He’s chosen, regardless of their socioeconomic standing, or whether they have or haven’t been victims of abuse or inhumane treatment.
All people need to hear about the sacrifice of Christ, and to truly reach the equality that social justice advocates are seeking, everyone needs to be their target because everyone is God’s target (thankfully, He never misses). Peter humbly admits in Acts 10:34-35, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” He will respond to the prayer of the destitute (Psalm 102:17), He will exact justice (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10), He does command those who are rich in this world not to be arrogant, nor put their hope in wealth (1 Timothy 6:17), but we’re told that the people He loves, in a special way, is us.
Of course, I want every human being to be treated with dignity, respect, and fairness: to be fed and not malnourished, to have equal accessibility to healthcare, to be free from sexual, physical, or verbal abuse. I want to follow His command to love my neighbor as myself. I want to learn how to better represent Christ down here. However, when we attribute our relational understandings of social justice onto the God we worship, we are at risk of assuming that we deserve these things. We deserve nothing, apart from Christ. Injustices have been here since the dawn of creation, and we can see that they remain until the end of time. Go out, make the Great Commission your mission, but be mindful that Christ is all we need to be justified and that while man looks at the outward appearance, the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).