Last week I wrote what turned out to be a passion invoking post about feminism. In response, yesterday I delved more deeply into the topic of hatred in Christianity and today I intend to discuss more thoroughly the overall topic of social injustice.
Feminism, at its root and core, seeks to advocate equality for women politically, economically, socially and culturally. The movement, although vast in goals, has resulted in women’s rights for voting, contract laws, education rights, suffrage, autonomy and reproductive rights. As with any social movement, there are extremes and broad generalizations that characterize some feminists but not all, and there are those radicals of whom the rest are ashamed. It is because of those who misunderstand the foundation of feminism, slandering men and true equality (looking for excess and special treatment) that feminism has now culturally become considered the opposite of male chauvinism.
There is a social history one could spend a lifetime studying and evaluating here, of which I am not a scholar.
But my intention is not to discuss the intricacies or favorable outcomes that the feminist movement has had. My intention is to consider the heart of God on such a topic. So, laying the radicals aside, I ask the simple question: Is God concerned with social justice and equality? And if so, to what extent?
“Thus has the Lord of hosts said, ‘Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.’”
– Zech 7.9-10
In short the answer is yes. God is concerned about justice. His commandment is clear, that we are to dispense justice, practice kindness and compassion, to not oppress the weak and poor, and to not devise evil in our hearts against one another. We also see in the New Testament that God does not show partiality to gender, wealth or social status when it comes to the gift of salvation:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
– Gal 3.28
Scripture does teach that there are gender roles which are to not be confused or altered, but that is another topic for another time.
Where we run into problems is when we get caught up in the goal of social justice and divorce God and His will from the equation. As Christians, we are to do all things for His glory, and unto Him alone. An audience of one.
Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
– Col 3.17
Why do we seek justice? Because God is just:
For the Lord is a God of justice;
How blessed are all those who long for Him.
– Is 30.18b
He loves justice:
For I, the Lord, love justice,
I hate robbery in the burnt offering…
– Is 61.8a
And He commands us to act justly, to exemplify Him in our lives. We seek justice for His glory:
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
– Micah 6.8
The same principle stands true for God’s compassion and righteousness. God is a compassionate God (Deut 10.18, Jer 22.3). Jesus was compassionate:
Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.
– Matt 9.36
But in this passage we see the need for which Jesus truly felt compassion: the people did not have a shepherd; they did not know God. Yes, we see in the verse preceding that Jesus “went into all the towns and villages, teaching in the synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness” (Matt 9.35). Jesus did physically heal and care for people. He fed thousands. He gave sight to the blind and restored withered hands and feet. He raised the dead. Jesus had compassion for physical ailments.
But one thing we never see is Jesus healing apart from the Gospel.
Jesus came to the world to die. He came to live a perfect life, to preach the Kingdom, and pay the punishment for the sins of the world.
“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
– Luke 19.10
Never does Jesus say, “I have come to bring social justice” or “I have come to give you physical comfort”. No. Jesus came to eternally save sinners. And He teaches us to love one another, to put one another’s needs above our own, and to care for those who are incapable of caring for themselves.
This is all personal instruction. But what about the governing powers in authority over us? In this arena we see less pointed teaching. We learn that God has placed all rulers and authorities in place:
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
– Rom 13.1-2
Paul was not writing from a Utopia that makes our democracy look pitiful. Paul himself was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, whipped, left for dead and charged not to preach the Gospel. He ultimately gave his life for preaching the name of Jesus. He also was writing to Christians who had been scattered because of persecution. They were slaves. They were hated. They were mistreated. And yet Paul exhorted them to subject themselves to the government. Jesus Himself taught the same thing:
Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”
– Matt 22.21
And we all know the fate Jesus suffered.
Scripture promises us that we will suffer, if we desire to follow Christ (2 Tim 3.12). Not only that, but the mark of the end of the ages is the fact that Christians will flee to the hills (Matt 24). We will be unable to buy or sell in the market because we will have not taken the mark of the beast (Rev 13.17). We will be hated, persecuted, hunted and killed. And our response is to be love.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
– Rom 12.14
So what is the conclusion? If God is just, compassionate and righteous and demands of us the same, if He instructs us to care for the poor, but also to submit to the governing authorities who persecute and harm us, what does this look like?
It ultimately looks like trusting, obeying and serving God. Jesus said that when we feed a hungry man, we have fed Him (Matt 25). But filling one’s belly serves no eternal purpose in and of itself. A fat man will die and go to Hell if he has not been saved by the grace of God. We are to care for the widows and orphans and visit the sick. But providing housing and clothes does not save souls. All men will leave the world naked and will face the judgment seat of Christ (Job 1.21, Heb 9.27), whether we die at 10 years or 100 years. And we are to fight for justice. But social justice, equality in the work place and freedom from slavery do not provide eternal security in Christ. They simply make the path to Hell more comfortable, when provided devoid of the Gospel. And whatever level of social justice we attain now will fade away when the end times come.
Fighting for social justice is a good deed. But unless it is performed in faith it is sin:
Whatever is not from faith is sin.
– Rom 14.23
How can that be? It is because God is primarily and foundationally concerned about His glory and honor. To fight for justice without giving God the praise, without offering the hope of salvation, without faith, it is for our own glory, or comfort, or happiness. And while it may make our existence on Earth more comfortable, we must remember that this earth is passing away. Soon all of our governments, jobs and lifestyles will be just a distant memory because God will destroy this world and create a new Heaven and a new Earth on which a theocracy will reign under which is no corruption, injustice or sin.
A good deed never saved anybody. And it never will.
As Christians, we are commanded to preach a holistic Gospel. We must put other’s needs above our own, care for the poor and the oppressed and feed the hungry. But to truly love someone, and to meet one’s greatest need is to offer to him the free gift of salvation. Every person who has ever walked the face of this Earth has had that need; even if he has had more money and physical provision than all others.
If you have the ability, the passion and the position to fight for social justice and implement changes that lead to social reform, then do so! And that to the glory and honor of God! Otherwise it is futile. But be cautious to not get caught up in a social movement that forgets the greatest and only eternal need of all of humanity: forgiveness of sins. Because some day it will pass away. But forgiveness of sins, eternal salvation, is the only need that ultimately matters.
And it is on that foundation that I concluded: getting caught up in a social movement, however noble it may be, is at best a distraction when divorced from the Gospel. Satan uses mortal sins to distract some, and he uses “good deeds” to distract the rest. Anything done apart from faith is sin. Therefore, live by faith.