Often when I speak with other conservative evangelicals about social justice they take issue with the term. They tell me that “social justice” has been aligned with the social gospel and liberal politics and so the term has a negative connotation in their mind. They encourage me to use the term “biblical justice” instead. My problem with that is I believe the term “biblical justice” is redundant. It’s like saying, “justice justice,” or “extraordinarily large.” If it’s not biblical it’s not justice and if it is justice then it is biblical. God’s primary characteristic is Holiness, and almost synonymous with holiness is justice. God is a just God and that He does is just. Thus, biblical justice is redundant.
Besides that, the term “social justice” means exactly what it means. It is bringing justice to society. It is standing up for what is right in the here and now. It is speaking up the voiceless and speaking against corruption and injustice in our society. I believe instead of giving up the term to people whom we may or may not agree, we need to redeem and reconcile the term in the name of Jesus, who personified social justice.
What do I mean by social justice? For me, social justice is synonymous with the kingdom of God. After His baptism Jesus announced the good news He was bringing into the world. He said, “The time has come…the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). Social justice means what Jesus meant when He prayed, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9). As followers of Jesus we are to be bringing and preaching and proclaiming the kingdom of God in our present reality. That is social justice!
What does the kingdom look like? In His hometown synagogue, reading from Isaiah, Jesus described the kingdom of God that came with Him into the world, like this: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed…” (Luke 4:18). The kingdom of God (social justice) is about hope for a secure future, freedom and liberation from injustice, physical healings, and spiritual and emotional deliverance. Social justice, then, is about economic equality, livable wages, mass incarceration, racial reconciliation, healthcare (including mental health and substance abuse and addiction) and spirituality.
Jesus brought these things with Him through the incarnation. He prayed that these things would be present here on earth as they are in heaven, and He stated that bringing these things into the present reality was why He came. These are things the church, the body of Jesus (Christ’s incarnation in the world today) are to be concerned about. Then, by stating, “…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:19), a reference to the year of Jubilee, Jesus was saying His kingdom is both a present reality and a future hope. Social justice in the present gives us a snapshot of what the Kingdom will look like when it comes to fruition when Christ returns.
- Biblical justice is redundant. If it’s biblical it is justice and if it’s not biblical it is not justice.
- Social justice is about proclaiming the kingdom of God and we are to pray for God’s kingdom to manifest itself on earth as it is in heaven.
- The business of social justice is the business of the church. It is evangelism.