Image by david_shankbone via Flickr
Originally written for Shepherd of the Ridge Lutheran Church, apply these ideas to your local context.
Glenn Beck told his listeners to check their church websites for the words, “Social Justice,” and if they find them, to run away. Well, for the first time, they now appear on our site, as of this post, the words now appear here, so you have a choice. You can run away, or you can think for yourself.
I know some of our members are Glenn Beck fans. Fine. I’m not going to tell you where you should stand politically. As I listened to the clip, I think a lot of people have been taking it out of the context. It doesn’t sound to me like he’s telling people not to help the poor, or even that the government shouldn’t. Giving him the benefit of the doubt as the 8th Commandment dictates, it sounds to me like he’s more concerned that this concept is being used to promote political programs and, according to him, socialism. That may or may not be. I’m a theologian, not a political scientist.
I would be concerned, however, with churches promoting this terminology, though, because good idea or not, it’s a political idea. Justice falls firmly into the realm of the “Kingdom of the Left,” the government. When the church talks about justice, we point to the cross, where God’s justice was carried out against Jesus as our substitute. Jesus said (John 18:36) His kingdom is not of this world, so when churches speak out on justice issues, that is, the realm of the government, they’re stepping outside their realm of authority. Individual citizens can and should speak out on these issues, but not when it comes across as, “Thus says the Lord.” We should all speak out for the poor, but the Bible doesn’t address which government program is the best solution to help them. Christian citizens should use their reason to determine which they believe to be best, then work to make that happen through appropriate means. If your pastor pushes a specific political agenda, talk to him, and ask him to remain focused on the Gospel instead.
That said, churches are called on to perform acts of social mercy. The entire Christian faith revolves around the mercy God has shown us, and He calls us to extend that mercy to all people. (Isaiah 1:23) Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, Communist, or Anarchist, those struggling with life in a fallen world need help. Some need financial help. Others just need a listening ear. Whatever peoples’ needs, how can we keep God’s mercy to ourselves? Be assured that God will take care of you, so don’t worry about your needs, and go help your neighbor, not because you must, but because that’s who you are: a new creation in Christ, forgiven and empowered to love. (Ephesians 2:8-10)