Monday, January 12, 2009

Social Justice and Christianity

Over the past five years or so there has been an outcry for social justice. The AIDS epidemic, Dalfur, Rwanda, Invisible Children, and so many more have all been in the forefront of the minds of many in our generation.

The Holy Bible has a lot to say about caring for the poor and hurting:

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (Matthew 25:35-46)
And
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:25)
There are several other examples, but it is clear that caring for the poor and weak is important to God. Christians would proclaim that even a free, well-fed, well-educated, healthy individual that does not know Christ would still end up in hell.
So here's the question, to what extent is social justice beneficial if not accompanied by spiritual truth? In other words, to what extent should we pursue meeting the physical and social needs of individuals and communities if we are not also able to share Christianity with them?

Should Christians be involved in Social Justice movements that are void of spiritual salvation?

5 comments:

  1. you''ve heard it, it goes something like this, "share Christ and when necessary use words."

    I think, in our culture one of the most powerful ways we speak the gospel is with our actions. By feeding the hungry, clothing the naked we are proclaiming the gospel. Maybe we are able to share with words how the good news has changed us but not be involved in social justice activities because you won't get to "share Christianity" is pretty, well not really possible.

    Do all the good you can!
    Let God speak his words when he want, he'll give you the opportunity.

    Peace
    Erik

    www.erikwillitsblog.com

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  2. I think I would have to agree with that on the personal and even perhaps the local level. But to what extent should we support national organizations that place no trust in Christianity?

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  3. Social Justice. Spiritual Truth. Salvation.


    What organizations one supports is up to a person’s interests and desires. Personally, I have supported with time and money people and places that only work on social justice, work in social justice and teach truth, and some that only teach truth. As far as I know, I do not differentiate between them. If I were forced to distinguish, I would say I spend more energy on those that practice social justice only, more money to those that practice social justice and teach truth, and more attention to those that only teach truth. I agree completely with Mark 9 (Luke 9) that anyone who is not against Jesus (me) is for Him (me) and that anyone who does good is of God from 3rd John 11. I find not reason why social justice is more or less necessary than spiritual truth.

    Here is my reasoning:

    Social justice, service, and good works all fail to bring salvation. This is why you, your pile of good deeds, your lack of bad deeds, and your money, cannot bring salvation. My motive for good deeds and compassion is to serve, to speak, and to act because of the love of God that I have experienced in Christ. If I act, I desire to act: in, through, with: love. No one can comprehend what Jesus has given me. I just use what He first gave me. (Isaiah 64:6, 1 John 4:7-21)

    Spiritual truth, doctrine, logic, and experience are helpful for a person to accept and mature in relationship with God. However, truth, like good works, does not save anyone. That is why the Pope, the pastor, the guru, your parents, your friends cannot save you...no matter how much truth they tell you or how much you accept. My reason for seeking truth is that the world functions on truth. I know, encourage, and teach the truth. I am and others are responsible for our decisions because we know the effects of our choices. The few people, who jump off bridges, do so for the same reason that most people do not...gravity. No matter a person's decision, the truth remains. (Romans 1:18-21)


    How is it that so many cling to doing good as the only hope for salvation?
    If we could all just love one another...

    The louder crowd stands beside truth as THE necessity for redemption.
    Face the truth or die.


    Social justice and truth do point to salvation. Social justice and truth both affirm that salvation exists. Neither brings salvation. Social justice and truth are based on a belief that we have hope and that some of reality is unseen. (Hebrews 11!) Social justice and truth are based on faith, which brings salvation.


    Faith alone brings salvation.
    Social justice and spiritual truth do not. (Phil 3:1-9)


    Faith cannot be done for a person like social justice nor taught as instruction like spiritual truth, so the idea that social justice with spiritual truth would bring about faith is simply an assumption. Only God's Spirit in a person results in faith. Whether a Social Justice movement brings about faith would have more to do with the Holy Spirit rather than with the teaching or silence of spiritual truth. Again, social justice and spiritual truth do precipitate faith, but neither causes faith nor results in salvation.

    The work of social justice is no more, and no less, beneficial than that of teaching and preaching spiritual truth. A person has no need or obligation to support an organization based on whether its focus is on both social justice and spiritual truth or just one.

    Hudson Cliffefield


    N.B. I obviously do not support all of my beliefs in my reasoning because the question at hand does not immediately concern them. My thoughts simply support my first and last paragraphs that answer the original post's questions. I would be happy to explicate any statement.

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  4. Thanks for joining the conversation!
    Your last paragraph especially sparked some interest in me:

    "The work of social justice is no more, and no less, beneficial than that of teaching and preaching spiritual truth. A person has no need or obligation to support an organization based on whether its focus is on both social justice and spiritual truth or just one."

    I agree that we should not assume that a person who hears spiritual truth alongside social justice would receive salvation by faith through grace.

    Would a person who has not heard the gospel, or spiritual truth as you call it, be more or less likely to accept the salation offered to him/her through Christ than the indivudal who did her the gospel in connection with receiving the aid in a social justice issue?

    I think that we would agree that a hungry man in Africa who was told the story about Jesus by a Christian who was handing him bread and giving him a job is more likely to by faith, through grace receive Salvation in Christ than the man who is just simply fed and hired.

    Romans says how will they believe if they have not heard, and how will they hear ifno one is sent? (paraphrase).

    Would you agree?

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  5. What if the man who both received bread and the message misunderstood the implications of the message and began to misinterpret Scripture and became a poor example of a Christian? I'm not one to point out who is and isn't more likely to be saved by grace, but it seems to me that sometimes actions can be not only louder, but more accurate than words.

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What do you think?