Christian Social Justice

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
love and faithfulness go before you.
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
who walk in the light of your presence, LORD. (Psalm 89:14-15)

What is Christian social justice? Put simply, justice is making things right. When the psalm says that justice and righteousness are the foundation of God’s throne, it means that God brings justice by making things right. Are you hungry? Let me make it right by feeding you. Are you thirsty? Let me make it right by building you a well and bringing safe water to your family and community. Are you an orphan, with no home and no mom and dad? Let me help you to an orphanage. Are you a slave, working for no pay, not allowed to leave? Let me free you. Let me make things right for you, because I know that when I do it for you, I do it for Jesus.

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It can be pretty tough to respond to injustice without anger. While there are times when it’s appropriate, anger is not always the response of wisdom. When you respond to the hunger, thirst, homelessness, loneliness, and enslavement of fellow human beings, especially children, you need to use wisdom. Through wisdom, you can find lasting, sustainable solutions to the problems facing people in poverty-stricken areas. When you act with anger, you might alienate people. When you use wisdom, you can get them to listen to you.

One misconception people have is that Jesus went around making things right in anger, but I can only think of a couple of times when Jesus got angry. He got angry with the Pharisees, calling them “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27) and a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:33). He only did that because the Pharisees were the religious teachers of Jesus’ time, and teachers are held to a stricter standard (James 3:1). Jesus told the Pharisees, “You represent my Father, and yet you act like this, judging people and casting them out of society. That’s not okay. Do not claim to be guardians of the truth, and then turn around and judge people. When you do that, you misrepresent my Father.”

Of course, we don’t know that Jesus spoke to the Pharisees with rage in His voice. That’s not a conclusion I would leap to. I’m pretty sure that Jesus was fairly self-controlled. Think of the other time He got angry, when He drove the money changers out of the Temple (Matthew 21:12-13). He flipped the tables and drove them out, but when He did it, people listened to Him. That’s because they already knew who He was, and they trusted Him. They’d seen Him do miracles, signs, and wonders. They’d seen Him love on people. You see? Before He flipped a single table, Jesus had already earned the people’s trust. So when He got upset, people didn’t write Him off. They wanted to know why He was angry.

We can learn a lot from Jesus. If we talk to people about social justice with anger, then they won’t listen to us. Why would they? To make things right, we need to use wisdom, just like He did. Jesus served in love! There’s no other way to go.

To reflect the justice and righteousness of our Father, we need to ask for wisdom. We need to ask for calm. We need to ask to be loving and kind, peaceful and self-controlled, and full of mercy and grace. That’s how Jesus did it, and when we walk in the light of His presence, then those around us will feel nothing but love, and grace, and mercy. That is Christian social justice. That is making things right.

See you Monday.

The Holiness of Success

Sometimes people wonder what keeps me focused on social justice. They ask me, “What makes you do all this for other people?” Well, I do it because I care about other people. I love them, and I love the God that created them. It’s the same God that created me. He saved my life! So I want to help save others.

I’m focused on success for the same reason. I focus on success because I want to achieve something, not only for myself, but for those who do not have. I’m talking about those who do not have food, or clean water, or a mom and dad to love them, or even basic freedom.

I’d love to see that same approach to success take root in the world on a global scale. Continue reading

A Tough Habit to Break

Airlines basically try to re-create middle school society: a small clique of the privileged few envied by everyone on the outside. John Ortberg, Who Is This Man?

I wrote last time about the phenomenon of saving seats for the privileged few. In Rome, reserving special treatment for men of high status served to reinforce social class hierarchy. Jesus taught us not to do that. His brother, James, was very explicit in his instructions to treat everyone the same. But it’s a tough habit to break.

It even happens on airplanes! Continue reading

To Stir A Movement

The movement I have in mind begins with awareness.  It begins with the awareness that people all over the world, our neighbors and God’s children, are suffering, and we are called to help.

The awareness I’m talking about goes much further than knowing the world has problems.  I’m talking about awareness that you can help alleviate people’s suffering and pain.  You can take part in ending the hunger crisis, or the water crisis.  You can help free slaves and provide homes and families for orphans.

This awareness reaches even deeper than doing something to help. It goes deeper than donating or volunteering.  Continue reading

One Of Those Crazy Ideas

I play in a sport where we try to get kids to want to be like us.  But I’ve seen some of us.  And I’m not proud of some of us.  I am not proud at all.  Please, kids, do not be like some of us.

Of course there are other athletes that are great role models.  They are the ones you point out, and you turn to your kids and say, “If you want to be like a pro athlete, be like him.”

It’s not always easy to know which is which.  It can be really tough.  Do I want a kid to be like me?  In some ways, yes!  But in other ways, you know, no!  We change.  We learn, we grow, we mature.  I mean, I’ve sure learned!  But I’d rather see kids learn differently than the way I did, because I’ve learned the hard way.  I’ve done things I’m really not proud of.  In Kansas City, I attacked my bench coach, and it was on television.  Can you imagine?  If that’s all anyone knows about me, then I’d say to a kid, “Don’t be like me.  Not like that.”

But it would be really fulfilling to think that kids would want to be like me because I try to love others the way the King of Kings has loved me.  I would love for more pro athletes to embrace the love angle, the humanitarian angle, the justice angle.

Professional athletes have the ability to make a lot of money, just because people want to be entertained.  And this creates an incredible opportunity.  Because we can make a lot of money, we can do a lot of good.  Here’s an idea: what if more ballplayers got involved in humanitarian issues?  You know what that would do?  It would involve the fans! Continue reading

Tell Me What You’re Going To Do!

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I really don’t understand what it will take to move people to understand the love of Jesus appropriately.

I’m trying to do my best. I’m trying to help people see that we can make a difference. I’m trying to show them that we can love our neighbors as ourselves. We can smile on them with the smile of Jesus. We can let them feel the warmth and love that He shows us. We can do that. It’s going to take some time, but we can do that.

But it’s hard. Sometimes you think you’re reaching people. They’re like, “Hey man, preach it brother!” But then they go home. And you never hear from them again. Continue reading

Feed the Hunger

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I’ve been doing a lot of public speaking this off season, at schools (public and Christian) and churches. I tell young people how important it is to understand that when it comes to issues of social justice, it’s their generation that is largely under attack. And my message is always very simple. “You can make a difference.”

But you feel like you don’t ever really know if you reached them. Do they really truly believe that they can make a difference?

After what we experienced on Saturday, January 22nd, I would have to say yes, absolutely.

That was our first Feed the Hunger event in Spokane. We linked up with Youthfront of Kansas City, and Mike King and some of his assistants came to Spokane to walk us through the process and help us make sure everything went smoothly. Continue reading