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.
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.