Updated: Mar 9
WHY THE CHURCH IS LOST ON SOCIAL JUSTICE
Our world is in absolute upheaval. People around our country and around the world have added their voices to a cause, claiming to seek justice on behalf of minorities or “people of color” in America. Celebrities, politicians, and pastors have thrown their influence into the ring as well. Full disclosure, I’m a white guy. For some that means I have no right to speak up on this issue, but I’m not JUST a white guy, I’m a Bible-believing, sold-out, hard-core follower of Yeshua/Jesus, so when I look at the racial & social conflict happening around the United States, I don't want it to continue anymore than most of us do. I just happen to think the only solution is in the Bible, where many others including the church, keep looking for answers in every other place outside of the Bible. Personally, my greatest question is, "if Christians are all following the Bible, why is it we can't get together and be a part of the solution it appears people are searching for?" Maybe you have noticed too, but it appears pastors all over the United States are all talking about the same verses, but coming to very different conclusions. It's almost like everyone has a voice but no one actually has any answers, and isn't the church supposed to have those answers? Aren't we supposed to look different?
From pulpits to megaphones to the halls of Congress, one of the most common verses quoted by Christians and non-Christians on the topic of racial injustice is Isaiah 1:17 "Learn to do what is right. Promote justice. Give the oppressed reason to celebrate. Take up the cause of the orphan. Defend the rights of the widow."
This is a great verse about God’s expectation for His people, after all, right here YHVH says “seek/promote justice”. That wraps it up then, God says to seek justice. Grab your baseball bats and rocks, and let’s go!
Before we “storm the castle” there are a few questions worth reflecting on:
How do you define justice? What makes your definition the correct one? Do you think the rest of the world agrees with your definition? If they don’t agree, how do you figure out who's wrong?
Most people read Isaiah 1:17 and they immediately demand action. In fact, in a discussion I was having over the past couple weeks I was told, “It’s time to step up!” So I asked, “what action do you consider stepping up?” Instead of answering my question that person told me, if I didn’t already know what to do, then they weren’t going to tell me. However, I'm willing to bet if I did the "wrong" thing, they would surely let me know. The difficulty in landing a shot on the bullseye of the modern "justice" movement is nearly impossible, because there is no standard, no guideline in which to adequately determine what justice is, what injustice is, and then how to rightly respond to injustice. The current nature of this topic then leaves us rudderless and without hope of discovering a satisfactory answer to the issue of social justice. When we take a step back and survey the battlefield one thing is clear, everyone is trying to enforce their answer, and all those answers are different and in direct conflict with each other. Out of all the questions we face regarding racial justice, there is one truth we should all agree on, our way isn't working, we must appeal to Scripture to find the answers. Unfortunately Scripture has been abandoned and our own intellect has doomed us to destruction and hatred with no hope for reconciliation.
Our country is struggling to find answers to so many questions, churches and pastors also are struggling to find answers to these same questions. Why do you think that is?
We don’t have to be confused. The Bible answers each question loud and clear. The problem is most people in our world are making up the answers as they go. However, if we believe the Bible is true, and that it is the Word of God, then we don’t get the luxury of making the answers up. This article, and the following articles in this series will seek to answer three critical questions without emotion, bias, or politics. Instead, the goal is to dig into Scripture and allow YHVH through His Holy Spirit to teach us and lead us in all truth. 1. What is justice?
2. What is injustice? 3. How do we respond to injustice?
FIRST QUESTION: How do we define or understand what justice is?
We cannot allow our modern culture to define terms like "justice" for us because they can’t seem to agree on what justice is. Instead, we must allow something secure, consistent, and tested to define these terms. The Bible is the only source we have that has been consistent throughout time, and once again, it must provide the baseline to define what true justice is. It is the solid foundation needed to discover truth.
Genesis 18:19 is the first instance where the word “justice” is used in the Bible. This account is all the way back from Abraham’s life right before God destroys Sodom and Gamorah.
“I have chosen him so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. Then the Lord will give to Abraham what he promised him.” Genesis 18:19 net
According to this verse how does Abraham “do what is right and just?” the Bible makes it clear Abraham is chosen by YHVH because he keeps the "way of the Lord" by doing what is right and just. We must understand that these words "right" and "just" were not determinations made by Abraham, this is the standard YHVH made according to His way, not according to Abraham's way. This is critical to understand because the same standard for doing what is right and just still remains fixed firmly in the truth of YHVH"s "way" and not our own. In fact, it is following our own way that typically leads us away from doing what is right and just.
Let’s look at the word “just” in this verse: Hebrew: mishpat Literal Translation: Judgement Textual Translation: Judgement, justice, ordinances
Application: To rightly judge, follow, or obey based on a standard of given ordinances or rules.
How does Abraham know what is just or unjust? It seems strange that YHVH would declare that Abraham would lead his children in justice if he doesn’t know what justice is. It is clear he does know what is right and just because YHVH says Abraham will "keep the way of the Lord." This "way" is made physically manifest in its fullness in the life and example of Yeshua, however, YHVH makes these same truths known to Abraham long before Yeshua enters the world, and long before the Lord's way is recorded in written text. We are fortunate to live in a day where not only do we have the written text that describes the "way of the Lord", but we have hundreds of various translations, teachers, and the resources available to us, and we have the perfect and complete example of Yeshua to lead is along YHVH's way. However, in Abraham's day, it was taught from parents to children through oral education and practical, hands-on instruction (a tool our modern culture has largely abandon to the public schools and church programs).
YHVH's statement about Abraham is not unique, in fact, it is the basis for the oft repeated verse from Isaiah 1 that I mentioned at the beginning of this article. The message given by Isaiah 1:17 and Genesis 18:19 is actually repeated all throughout the Bible.
Here are a few examples:
Open your mouth on behalf of those unable to speak, for the legal rights of all the dying. Open your mouth, judge in righteousness, and plead the cause of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9 net
He says, “How long will you make unjust legal decisions and show favoritism to the wicked? (Selah) Defend the cause of the poor and the fatherless Vindicate the oppressed and suffering. Rescue the poor and needy. Deliver them from the power of the wicked.
If people want to boast, the