“Social justice” is a term used today that has many definitions, leaving us with many different conclusions about what justice really looks like. Contemporary social justice is not about “where am I in relation to right,” but about “where am I in relation to YOU (or one group to another group).”
Social justice is a type of human/material idolatry. It makes other humans the standard against which to measure and material possessions the unit of measurement. Covetousness may be tolerated and even praised if it is cloaked in the language of “social justice,” but it is still covetousness.
Biblical justice is very different because it starts by seeing people as God sees them. Our job is to pursue physical and spiritual freedom for the oppressed so they can become what God created them to be. The key is to start by knowing yourself, then discover what it is you need to be fulfilled.
Political agitation for social justice focuses on making us more materially equal and encourages us to look not within ourselves to find fulfillment, but to look where we are relative to those around us — this distracts from our spiritual position with God. Jesus did not get involved in politics; rather, he urged obedience to Caesar.
Evil is pervasive throughout our world. Children are sold into sex slavery. The poor are forced to work without pay. Modern-day slavery, human trafficking, continues in every country, totaling as many as 40 million slaves in the world today. Using force or fraud to exploit the vulnerable is evil. God sets the standard for justice. We have an innate sense of right and wrong, knowing that oppressors should be punished and the weak protected.
Pursuing justice starts with a foundation of prayer because we know it is His battle, not our own. We know God is love, and God sets the standard for love and holiness. Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life, caring for the outcast and those who were often overlooked. Jesus pursued justice physically and spiritually. Healing the leper in Matthew 8 and caring for the adulterous woman in John 8 are just two examples.
Jesus makes it clear that Christ followers are called to do justice. From Isaiah 1:17: “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and please the widow’s cause.” And from Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you? but to act justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Using violence and aggressiveness is not justified or lawful to pursue justice. Love must come before justice, for without true love there cannot be true justice. Jesus put the feeding of spiritual needs first because teaching people to obey God’s laws would create the empathy and compassion needed to help others. Many of today’s protesters lack that true love ingredient for justice to be successful.
Jesus preached the coming of God’s government, which was yet to come: “Let your kingdom come, let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen.
The Rev. Ellin M. Dize is executive director of nonprofit NRS Inc. and facilitates A Course in Miracles spiritual discussion group at St. Paul’s UCC. She can be contacted at NRSsolutions@yahoo.com.