Jesus Christ and Social Justice
We live in a discontented age. Mass communication floods men’s souls with images and delusions of wealth and pleasure that are unattainable for most and deadly for all. But now they are held out as rights – to have what you want and to take, by force if necessary, what others have withheld from you or your ancestors. The rich and powerful have created financial and political institutions to ensure their prosperity and power; the struggling masses of humanity now demand their fair share.
The rich and powerful, especially politicians, learned long ago to wring their hands in public over injustice and poverty, then to use social agitation, collective guilt, and sin’s neuroses to solidify their stranglehold over the very power structures that deepen humanity’s misery. Behind every social revolution in the name of “down with the rich” and “up with the poor” are rich men who speculate upon human covetousness and despair. Even the philanthropy of most rich men has an agenda – they do not hand out their billions in the streets but form institutions to study poverty, fund impossible utopian visions for society, and make a name for themselves. From Rockefeller and Morgan to Gates and Soros, all are guilty of playing this brazen, self-aggrandizing con game.
Discontent and the promise of a better life are tempting carrots. Men are deceived into fighting social revolutions, from the French to the Bolshevik to “making the world safe for democracy.” All lies, all bloody wars that served the interests of the elites but not the masses who spilled their blood or were starved to death. No common man is made better by war. No common man will have his standard of living raised by participating in social revolutions. The wealthy and powerful have no intention of giving up their possessions and place. They share crumbs; they serve themselves.
Perhaps we are beginning to recognize this; I hope so. The church, however, is in most quarters ill prepared to give a certain gospel sound in these uneasy times. Discontent and the lying promise of a better life are a combustible mixture. Many preachers feed social justice fires by their “best life now” lies, by their equating the kingdom of God with a happy and wealthy life. Others would have us march with the race agitators, when the statistics (crime, poverty, single parent, divorce) say that blacks and whites were happier and friendlier before political utopias were fostered upon us in the “Great Society” agendas that have not helped but destroyed once stable family and social institutions. Others say that to be a Christian is to fight for social justice, but most of American Christianity defines justice by false notions of love and tolerance, never by God’s holy law.
There is but one way to peace and justice. We must submit to the only righteous King, Jesus Christ. There is no national prosperity or social righteousness without obedience to him (Ps. 2:8-12; Isa. 11:4-5; Rev. 19:11-15). His standard of social righteousness is not income equality, sexual license, climate idolatry, or social egalitarianism but the holy law of his Father. To God’s commandments he continually pointed us (Matt. 5:17-20; 19:17; 23:23; Mark 7:7; Luke 16:17; 18:20; John 14:21; 15:10). The Lamb of God died on the cross not to start social revolutions but to atone for man’s lawbreaking. His every breath was “I delight to do thy will, O my God, and thy law is within my heart.” To follow him is to walk as he walked (1 John 2:6), to believe upon him for righteousness and then to be obedient to the commands of God by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rev. 14:12). This is the King’s justice, the way he brings peace on earth, and the church’s great prophetic message of hope and peace to the world. Yet, his church is usually embarrassed and would rather shout “grace” than practice self-denying obedience.
Each age has its particular tests and temptations. One of ours is surely to turn a deaf ear to promoters of discontent and preachers of equality and peace apart from submission to God’s law. There is no peace for the wicked (Isa. 48:22; 57:21). This is the law of God’s universe. It is a law now sealed with the blood of the Prince of Peace, whose cross and crown forever bar the way to securing national peace and prosperity without faith in him and submission to his reign. Our true contentment lies not in having everything we want and reforming our personal identities and even genders by our private fantasies. What the apostle wrote pointedly applies in the present hour. “Are you called [to Christ] being a servant? Care not for it” (1 Cor. 7:21). If we can improve our personal and social circumstances, fine, but the gospel of Jesus Christ powerfully contents the soul to serve God in the state, in the position, with the health, wealth, and body, he has ordained for you. If you are content in God, you will not be easily deceived. When Marx said that “religion is the opiate of the people,” he meant that true religion keeps them from listening to his utopian lies. It will do the same for us – not Marxism but the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not discontent and social justice defined by man, but the kingdom of God, obedience to his law, and his eternal city.
This is not passivity and turning a blind eye to the real injustices of our land. To live with this vision requires an active, humble faith that God determines man’s boundaries and habitations, prosperity and poverty, health and sickness (Acts 17:25). The poor, our Savior said, will always be with us. We may and must do them good whenever we can, but we cannot completely erase what God wisely determines. We can and must pursue righteousness in our relationships, beginning with the practice of fervent love among ourselves (John 13:35; 1 Pet. 4:8). It is necessary in these and all times, for Christians to listen carefully to each other and think charitably of one another, avoid gossip and judgmentalism. A true believer will desire to examine every opinion and theory, his own and others, before the tribunal of God’s word. Without this teachableness, one cannot legitimately claim to be a disciple of Christ (Luke 6:46).
Then, we must obey his word with respect to all men – speaking and living his truth, explaining the connection between faith in Christ and righteousness, contentment, and peace. We must point men to the true source of righteousness, the law of God. We must humbly yet boldly challenge the dangerous notion that each man is his own source of truth and justice, and that whoever shouts the loudest must finally have his way. No, we live in God’s world under the reign of God’s Son, and he is the only way, truth, and life. His is the only law by which men and nations will know true justice – when they surrender their hearts and minds to be governed by his word alone (Rom. 12:1-2).
And this means that we must confront sin. Somewhere, someone, and certainly the devil had a hand in it, began preaching the notion that love means tolerating others no matter what they believe, how they live, or what they impose upon others. This is not love; it is tyranny – the tyranny of the petty individual. Social revolutionaries are first private revolutionaries – you must respect my whims, as a child. Parents did not apply the rod of correction and instruct and set a warm example of true happiness in knowing and serving God. Unchecked wills and unloved souls usually grow into monsters. Christians must hold and live by a clear and true definition of love – obeying God (1 John 5:3). All other versions of love are selfishness unbridled, demanding, and swallowing up everything in narcissistic delusions that ruin men’s lives and force others either to go along with them or face their wrath.
Only by resisting the human will with the sword of the Spirit, charitably, wisely, and patiently, can the real root of revolution be exposed and cut off. It is discontent with God, slavery to the foolish lusts of the heart, and willingness to listen to anyone who promises that I can do as I please, listen to no one who disagrees with me, and then force others to pay for what I want. This is not the way of the cross. It is anti-cross, anti-Christian, anti-Christ.
Faithfulness to the gospel requires us to call a spade a spade. Yes, perhaps a man struggles with his gender, but this is discontent and rejection of God’s providence. Another finds himself having immoral thoughts – should we not bring him to the great Physician who cures lepers? He may have been born with these particular lusts raging within, but this is original sin at work. Remember your Bible, Christian. Of course men are born with delusions and propensities to certain sins and lusts. They are not the same in everyone, either of nature or degree, but they are present in all. The great King and Savior breaks their power. We must not allow what we already know to be true – that men are born with depraved inclinations and in slavery to sin – to become a genetic excuse for sin or a banner for a social crusade. There is another crusade, and it ended with the defeat of sin and death, lusts and selfishness. It was our Savior’s cross, and now he rules at God’s right hand to bring truth and righteousness into the world as far as the curse is found. This is now our great crusade, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us march in his triumphal procession, for he alone can establish justice and peace in the earth.