Biblical Justice versus Social Justice: Give Me Jesus Not Your Anger

Biblical Justice versus Social Justice: Give Me Jesus Not Your Anger March 26, 2019

In higher education today, it is widely taught that America is an imperialist, greedy capitalist, brutal colonizer of the innocent world. And chief among these sinners are white, Christian men. Therefore, caring, compassionate people need to get on the social justice bandwagon to “level the playing field” and fight the injustice. However, life and Scriptures have taught me that social justice is different than biblical justice. Christ did not come just for “the triply oppressed” or the “most marginalized people”. He came for the sinner, which means Caesar, you, and me.

Our modern Western society recognizes certain groups as experiencing more oppression than others, such as people of color, foreigners, women, children, LGBTQ, the poor, or refugees of war. Frankly, I can identify with several of those categories. Yet, here in America, I’ve experienced the opposite of oppression. In fact, I’ve been given both handouts and hand ups from multiethnic, multicultural folks of various demographic backgrounds. Yet, most were not POC or foreigners, but indeed mostly men, heteronormative, wealthy, and established citizens. After finding out more about these fine, nonoppressive Americans who’ve given to me and numerous others so selflessly, I learned that their compassion and help in most cases came from their Christian faith.

No Identity Politics in the Bible

Jesus taught that the one who owes more debt will love Jesus more when he feels forgiven. Likewise, “he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:41)  

The emphasis from Jesus is not, “which one of you humans sin more?” Rather, the emphasis is, “which one of you is more aware that you are a sinner and in need of my forgiveness?” Neither the elite, educated Pharisees nor the “sinner” woman whom the Pharisees judged was evaluated by Jesus on their level of sin. Instead, Jesus pointed out that the woman, whose sins are many, loved Jesus much. That’s because she realized that He can and has forgiven her many sins.  So, she proceeds to express her worship and appreciation by wetting and kissing Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiping them with her hair, and anointing His head with expensive oil. (Luke 7 41-47)

Jesus did not die for only certain groups in human society. 

Sure, we’ve heard of the woman at the well who was considered an ethnic minority in her region, whom Jesus gave dignity and honor to. In another example, Jesus dealt with a woman who was caught in an act of adultery by the Pharisees. We read that He did not condemn her but simply told her to “go and sin no more.” We’ve heard of the poor, the sick and diseased, the widows, the orphans, and those in prison that Jesus embraced and loved.  He showed them compassion and kindness so that they might not condemn themselves of their sins.  

Jesus loves each person.                                                                 Image by Uce from Pixabay

But Jesus also died for the rich men, for the kings and queens who realized that they, too, needed saving. His forgiveness extended to the Pharisees, who in their religiosity, missed the point. He died for the educated elite and the successful investors, if only they were to forsake their love of this world and follow His commandments. In fact, previous bloggers on Christianity Today and The Gospel Coalition have made similar points here and here.

Indeed, probably the greatest testimony for Christ came from the apostle Paul, an ex-Pharisee and a Jew. In today’s social justice ideology, Paul would be deemed as privileged as a white, Christian male American.  Jesus wanted to have a relationship with the wealthy and the elite to give them true life. He spent a lot of time talking with and trying to enlighten those who were blind or deaf due to their high status in society. He did not write them off but extended grace and truth to them also.
 

The High Calling for Christians

This tells me that we are all in bondage and we all suffer in this life, no matter where we live, how big our bank account, or how great our worldly influence. God uses believers on the higher socio-economic ladder to reach nonbelievers and He uses believers on the lower socio-economic ladder to reach nonbelievers. Our biggest priority as Christ followers is not to achieve “social justice” or “equality” on Earth as my brethren on the left would have us believe. That is a low bar for Christians to set for our goal.
 

Fighting for the oppressed and giving voice to the voiceless is a wonderful thing to do if we are led by the Holy Spirit. Anything less will not lead to righteousness or justice. Social justice in our current postmodern, post-Christian society rests on the framework of who wronged whom more and who wronged whom first. Westerners (whether white or people of color, Christians or nonChristians) who aim for this kind of “justice” in society are actually spreading more division and destruction because it is done in a spirit of anger and selfrighteousness. Of course, sins against God and humanity are wrong. But zealots fail to realize that each of us can sin against God and humanity just as much as our neighbor can. Thus, Jesus gave us the Lord’s prayer as a model to teach us to reflect on our own sins (even in our diverse attempts to do God’s work) and our need for forgiveness.

Identity politics is nowhere espoused in the Bible. The distinction Jesus taught was never about skin color, religious, ethnic, or cultural affiliations or political positions.  In John 3:16, we are reminded that God sent His son Jesus to die on the cross because He “so loved the world”. The world means everyone in the world is a sinner and equally needs His saving grace. That includes the privileged Americans, too. Levels of oppression or hierarchy of marginalization and “microaggressions” are man-made conceptualizations. In God’s majestic and merciful eyes, we are all diversely, multiculturally, AND equally unholy and in need of grace.  

No matter our socioeconomic status, each believer has been greatly forgiven and has a huge responsibility to shine Christ’s love to others. Singling out a social cause and judging everyone who does not see things our way as the enemy is unhelpful. Furthermore, we veer far from biblical justice to call our fellow brothers and sisters on the right names such as racist, bigot, misogynist, judgmental, evil, or unloving.

Grace AND Truth

Only a perfect lamb and perfect model of truth and grace can participate in the righteous condemnation of another person or group of people. No, Christ already leveled out the playing field as the living Word of God who, for a time, walked with us in the flesh. Jesus already set the example of ultimate grace (forgiveness and servant leadership) and truth (by validating Old Testament Scriptures and adding on the new covenant written on our hearts).

Men and women of all colors, national origins, and creed have sinned against each other on all the continents throughout history. I know this not just because I studied the truth of world history, but because I came from another continent where yellow fought against yellow and millions died on both sides. And what was the war rallying cry? Social justice, equality, socialism, “everyone should get a piece of the pie”. Today, many are still healing from the scars.

Self-righteous anger will not connect us to joy or peace. Condemnation of other groups of people (for example, descendants of white slave owners in America) will only blind us from the forgiveness that Christ has already extended to us as sinners. While it is a noble and biblical virtue to fight societal injustice, to educate our fellow citizens of the plight of other neighbors, we have to be careful that in doing so, we do not drown out other voices that we do not yet understand or that we disapprove of.

What good is it to be in the vicious cycle of conflict with no end? Must someone else be nailed to the cross for the shame of sins that Christ already freed them from? How do we each become more Christlike, exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, in our being and doing? 

Maybe if every believer asks ourselves these questions, we’ll have a chance at biblical justice. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Let’s drop our fears and mistrust and model Christ’s truth and grace. Let that start with you and me, whether or not Caesar follows suit.

 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Lonborghini Funghini

    Are you a religious professional who no longer believes in the supernatural? At http://clergyproject.org you’re in excellent company.

  • Ruben Ilagan

    I agree with you that progressive Christianity makes it seem that the kingdom is about social justice and nothing more. But, honestly speaking, the Bible is replete with references to God’s special care for the needy, it also gives many examples where the outcasts are the ones who mostly reply to God’s call while the upper classes tend to ignore or outright reject it. The apostles also make it clear that most of the early believers were of low economic status. I think this mostly is because the poor and ordinary and common folk are open and know they are lacking. I believe there are verses that specifically say that God has a special concern for the lowly. I’m not advocating for the left or the right, just for what God says.

  • Good points.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    It’s pretty much impossible to read the Bible and not see that it is God’s nature to bring an end to injustice and bring down, in flames and disaster if necessary, the perpetrators of it. The idea that it is not central to the Gospel that God will not “bring down the mighty from their thrones” and mete out justice for the poor and oppressed cannot withstand actually reading what is said in it. Jesus used nasty names too calling those oppressing the kingdom “broods of vipers” and telling them they had the devil for a father.
    However, I agree with you that there can be a difference between some secular concepts of social justice and God’s. God’s justice is exactly the same as his mercy and love: the ultimate aim is to save the oppressors from their sin as much as saving the oppressed from their oppression. Christians fighting for social justice must always remember that true and complete victory will consist of not only an end to injustice, but also ultimately the repentance of and reconciliation in love with those that they presently fight.

  • “Complete victory will consist of not only an end to injustice, but also ultimately the repentance of and reconciliation in love with those that they presently fight.” I believe God will put an end to injustice in his time. Our part as believers is to repent and reconcile with each other—that is daily work and if we do a good enough job, we’ll likely contribute to ending oppression of others. Thanks for your feedback.

  • Historically Christianity has always been middle-class. Both the rich and the poor reject Jesus. That’s true today too. And yes, God calls us to help the poor, not the state

  • Read the OT and see how long God allowed injustice. He warned the people in 1 Samuel 8 that a king would commit a great deal of injustice but they demanded a king so God allowed the injustice as punishment for their rebellion.

  • R/R 2016

    Thank you for this article, Kim. I think the biggest difference is that social justice is bottom-up, and biblical justice is top-down. While in the NT the aggrieved point to the Lord as the sole administrator of one’s just deserts, social justice seats the aggrieved in a position to judge the rest of society’s relationship to the individual. The latter, I believe, is an errant mode of thinking about justice, though that probably comes as no real surprise.

  • R/R 2016

    Goodness. I really hope social justice generally does not believe it’s in a position to “mete out” anything.

  • Bria Lapoint

    If you believe you are a bad person, so shall you become. There is agood reason people are leaving christianity, the belief that you are a bad person, makes it happen.

  • Bria Lapoint

    Where do you get your source? because poor people are most likely to be christian. keep them poor and uneducated, theyre more likely to accept jesus. my source is christian missionaries going from country to country siphoning off money from the gullible.

  • My source is real history..

  • What does a validation of the “Old Testament Scriptures” even mean? Does that mean a flat reading of the Bible? A hermeneutic of “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it?”

  • Matthew 5:17-20

  • I used to think like you, “good person” and “bad person” until I gained faith, which opened my eyes.

  • That’s a bible verse, yes. I was hoping for an answer. Not a verse without any exegesis.

  • adokastone

    Jesus is cool and his actions described in the new testament are a worthy example to be emulated many of the people who claim to follow him not so much.

  • Felina Erse

    I am an imperfect person – neither perfectly good or perfectly bad. Allowing myself to make mistakes without harsh judgment of myself. People whom I meet with (including the Pastor of my church) on Friday evenings do not judge others. Our main theme is helping people help themselves and helping those who cannot help themselves. Telling ones self that he/she is bad is harmful because we eventually believe these thoughts – self fulfilling prophecies.

  • Doug1943

    It seems to me that this discussion is orthogonal to the debates about ‘social justice’.

    That is, religious people will discuss among themselves what their particular religion — or their particular interpretation of it — calls upon them to do — how to behave towards others, for example.

    But if you live in a society where your particular religion is not the secular law — a recent development, historically — then, once you have decided on how your religion calls up on YOU to behave, you need to decide how the law, or that quasi-law enforced by private institutions and custom, should try to make others behave. This is not the same thing.

    For instance, your interpretation of your religion may require you not to work on Sunday, to tithe, to treat your slaves kindly, not to suffer a witch to live, to turn the other cheek, not to eat pork .. any or all of these things.

    But then you need to decide how the secular law, which covers all of us, including those who do not share your religion, should try to make us behave.

    You may decide that the law should require slaves to be treated kindly — or to prohibit slavery altogether — , but should not require non-believers to pay tiithes to the church. You may decide that prohibiting Sunday work is a good thing in itself, regardless of whther God decreed it or not, because it prevents people with little economic power from being worked to death. And so on.

    Of course your religious beliefs will inform your proposals for the secular law, but, hopefully, you will not say, ‘This should be legal (or illegal) because God told me so.”

    I believe this is how we all — religious and non–religious — should approch the ‘social justice’ debates. For myself, I believe that maximizing personal freedom, and then acting like grown-ups, is the best way to organize society. Although that view is not informed by anything supernatural, I believe that most religious people should agree with it.

  • Jeb Barr

    Historically there was no real middle class until nearly 1500 years after Christianity started.

  • Yes there was. See Peter Brown’s histories. It was small and made of craftsmen and merchants, the backbone of Christianity for centuries

  • Jimmy Malate

    WOW, what a complete misrepresentation of the social Gospel perspective. Straw man argument well done.

  • CuriousCat

    If your cherry picked version of biblical justice does not include gay people or any other form of person in this world, then it falls short of Jesus’s teaching. this is basically why I now choose to take my chances with atheism, because I would rather reach the pearly gates with integrity and a heart full of love… then swallow one morsel of this hypocritical bullshit.

  • Biblical justice is for everyone, that’s the beauty and mercy of God. Be blessed! Psalm 46:10

  • CuriousCat

    “It is easier to for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kindom of heaven” I hope you give this warning to the well heeled conservative men that you so gratiously built this entire article around. Maybe you can help 1 out of 10 people who’s lifes they wasted to get there.