Justice Awakening: Why the Church Must Lead

I just received copy edits back for my upcoming book (which I can’t wait to share with you)! When edits come back from the publisher, all other writing must cease so I didn’t get to post on the blog this week. In addition to editing, I am also preparing for a local human trafficking education and awareness event next week. So my thoughts are in the Word of God regarding his heart for justice and why he compels us, the church and body of Christ, to act.

I want to continue this month’s Justice Awakening conversation about being awakened justice, exposing the darkness, and now the church’s responsibility regarding the pursuit of justice. I’ve heard the arguments from Christians who are still nervous about the “justice” conversation in the church. Words of fear go from one extreme of attacking the social gospel or opposing liberation theology for some, to the other extreme of prioritizing and not losing sight of the church’s mission to evangelize or support global missions. Most of those arguments come from a limited view of the gospel, a limited view of the work of the church, and really a limited view of Christ. We don’t serve a god of limitations who can do either this or that. We serve the God who cares about both the salvation of people’s souls and whether or not they are hungry at night. He cares about both those who are poor in spirit and those who are financially poor.

One of the things that has strengthened my faith over the past few years is the reality of the greatness of God and his gospel. From me, this transition began in 2010 when I started seminary and studied the findings and teaching of the 2010 Lausanne Congress, where they focused on the slogan, “The Whole Church taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World.” The whole gospel is what sets people free and truly transforms lives. It is very clear to me that “pursuing justice is a central part of God’s heart for the world (80).” I write this with security and confidence because Jesus embodied and shared this good news of his kingdom being ushered the world. That’s exactly how his disciples understood it. Take a note for example from the apostle and half-brother of Jesus, James:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do…As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead (James 2:14-18 and 26 NIV).

In the same manner, the apostle John who was one of Jesus’ closest friends, wrote about the connection between the believer’s love for God and her response to other people:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves have been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love…Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:7-8, and 11).

James’ words reminds us that true faith compels us to right action. John lets us know that when we lack compassion or empathy, our lack of action is really an indicator that our love for the other, for our neighbor is deficient. We become more like God when we love as he does, and consider whether or not we truly love others.

We must take risks. In addition to the individualism of our culture (which stands against “The Whole Church taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World”), our own comfort prevents us from pursuing justice. Oftentimes, we don’t take action—even when we are aware of an injustice— simply because we are afraid and acting would be an inconvenience. Even as I wrestle with my own choices, I am thankful for those who remind me that from the beginning the church of God was shaped by a risk-taking people. Author and Pastor Eddie Byun writes:

True faith always involves risk.

The church has gotten too used to not taking risks.

For far too long we’ve let governments and NGOS [non-governmental organizations] do what God has called the church to do.

We are letting others take the role of church in our communities and forgetting that

Jesus was a great abolitionist (83).

So as the people of God, “yes” we must evangelize, send missionaries, and preach the good news. And we must also make disciples—men, women, and children—who will follow the teachings and the actions of Jesus. This is what it truly means to live as image bearers of God. This is what it means to live as redeemed people in a world that is broken because of sin and darkness. So let us not sit in apathy, watch in disgust, or be ignorant about the issues of injustice all around us. Let us ask God to open our eyes to see as he does. Educate ourselves on the issues, and prayerfully take action by responding rightly in our own communities.

Justice Awakening Part 1

We must arm ourselves for these spiritual battles and take a stand against the evil one. We serve the One who is victorious, and that is why we must lead in the pursuit of justice.

Justice Awakening Prayer Guide (101):

  • Ask God to give you a greater understanding and appreciation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • Pray that the church will rise up and lead the way toward justice as we live out the gospel in our lives.
  • Ask God to set you and your church on mission with him.

Have you thought about the responsibility to pursue justice? Why do you pursue justice? What hinders your response?

© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2015

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