The Secret Socialist (Part 2)

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Social justice.

It’s the catchphrase that’s taking the American church by storm. Maybe it’s taking the entire nation by storm.

Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to define.

Clearly, it’s involved with social issues. Social justice is applied to social issues from poverty, hunger, homelessness, sexual exploitation, and lack of access to medical care.

And it’s somehow related to justice. At least, that’s what the name implies. It implies that it seeks to apply justice to these social issues.

The problem is, the name “social justice” is often misleading.

Sometimes the things that are lumped under “social justice” are truly justice issues. Sexual exploitation is the result of someone doing a wrong to another. Justice argues that the one who does the wrong be punished. Justice–wielding the sword to punish wrongdoers. In other cases, people are unjustly denied things they rightly deserve. Justice says that they should be given what they deserve. Justice–rewarding the one who does good.

But many of the things considered to be “social justice” are not justice at all. “Social justice” argues for feeding the hungry, giving homes to the homeless, providing money to those without money. Truly, some of the hungry, the homeless, and the impoverished are there because injustices have been done to them. Others are there because circumstances outside of their (and any others’) control has placed them there (medical conditions, children born into poverty, etc.) Others are there because they have placed themselves there via drug use, laziness, or lack of discipline.

Justice demands that we work to ameliorate the suffering of those who suffer unjustly–those in the first category. But justice does not argue that we make any effort to improve the conditions of those in the second and third categories.

Does this mean that we should not interest ourselves in the social concerns of the undeserving?

Absolutely not!

As Christians, we are called to live lives not of justice but of mercy.

“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”

Luke 6:27-36

Every Christian has received a great gift that he is completely unworthy of. While we were squandering our lives, abusing every gift that God had given us, God chose to give us grace upon grace–salvation of our souls, right standing before God. God poured out the judgment His justice demands on His own Son, while pouring out His mercy and grace on us.

We have been called to live in the same manner–absorbing the costs, pouring out the benefits. We have been called to live lives marked not by social justice, but by mercy.

Read my thoughts on justice and the purpose of government and continue checking back to hear me wrestle with how the issues of justice and mercy should inform a Christian’s political and non-political life.

Tags: , , , ,


Leave a Reply