The Justice of Jesus Angers Religious People

Some people sit in church on Sunday and know all the Bible stories, but have yet to put what God says into action. Other people are all about action. They can list a dozen causes they are passionate about, but they don’t understand how what they care about has anything to do with what God cares about. This study is designed for people all along that spectrum, from those who know God but not action, to those who know action but not God. —From ACT:IVE, a discussion guide about Jesus and Justice that I wrote for  World Vision’s Action Network (ACT:S) and InterVarsity.

I’ve realized there’s a lot of defensiveness, bitterness, and accusation along that spectrum.

On the hand you have people who think anybody not directly feeding the hungry, visiting prisoners, or caring for the sick is on their way to damnation.

Arguing nearby them you find people who are fed up with Christianity precisely because they see Christians saying all kinds of nice fluff on Sundays but collecting their nice salaries and buying their kids five-hundred-dollar toys while millions of kids in the world don’t have school or food or medicine.

And then there are those Christians that get defensive when anybody talks about “justice” because it smacks of “trying to earn salvation by good works” or missing the one-and-only Big Topic worth talking about: Jesus’ death and resurrection.

I suppose Jesus didn’t please them all. And I have yet to figure out a way to please them all. Jesus looked in the eyes of the religious leaders and called them whitewashed tombs on their way to hell, but he didn’t give in to the zealots’ calls for a new political world order to end all injustice, either.

Pleasing everybody on the spectrum is not the goal though.  The goal is to look squarely at what’s in the Bible (and what’s not), and ask the Holy Spirit to help put that into application in real life.

Putting the whole story of the Bible into life means some days I’m going to fail the justice-loving activists out there.  I can’t check off a tangible way I fed a hungry person every day this month. Instead I’m tuning myself toward readiness to do so. God doesn’t need me to feed hungry people to prove my way to heaven. There is grace for my efforts.

But I really think God wants hungry people fed, sick and sad people cared for, and generosity flourishing. Some days I’m going to prick the delicate skin of the people saying all we need to do as Christians is talk about forgiven sins. And God very likely will use me or you to do so.

I am absolutely thrilled to have been part of a project that motivates people to look at Jesus and justice together on the same page.  Those two topics belong together. Not only has God stood up for justice all through history, God thought up justice. Justice and our desire for it flows out of his character. He designed justice, and best of all, he made it possible for us.

Jesus doesn’t fit nicely into our categories. He calls activists to corporate justice and personal righteousness. He calls good church folks to live differently from the people around them, out of love of neighbor and desire for justice. He upends our apple carts…all of them.

If you know people who would like to chew on those amazing truths together (or maybe they wouldn’t like to, but you can coerce them into it by offering really nice brownies every week), check out this free tool.

Lord knows, we need to talk about this stuff. So leave your thoughts below.



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