Photo Courtesy of Tomber Su [file]
Christians have long been called to be gospel people. Jesus launched his ministry by quoting a prophecy from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19) The “good news” of the kingdom is grounded in Jesus’ sacrificial death, but it calls us to mercy, justice and compassion toward those who are oppressed. We can never dismiss or downplay suffering, especially that of Christians around the world persecuted for the sake of Christ.
Our identity in Christ does not erase our personal identities. Rather, it gives them a kingdom-enriching beauty. As alumnus Chris Brooks said earlier this month in our Community Chapel, “Unity across ethnic and class lines is not in addition to the gospel or opposed to the gospel. It is at the very heart of the gospel.”
As a Biola community, we cannot ignore matters of social justice. When Christ returns, we will abide in a world where justice prevails, a world purged of racism and oppression, a world where greed and tyranny are permanently replaced with a focus on the glory of Christ. We know the fulfillment of this vision awaits his return, but in the meantime, let us help this present world glimmer with the light of the one to come.
This is nothing new for God’s people. Long before the language of social justice was woven into the vernacular of the modern university, Christians were feeding the poor, educating the illiterate, subverting racism, sheltering the homeless and caring for the marginalized. Though Christians too often have fallen woefully short, Christ followers have led courageously as advocates of biblical social justice. They did so not as a “lived ethic” but as a gospel witness. A “lived ethic” is not saving anyone from sin. Biola must never set biblically grounded social justice and evangelism against each other as alternatives, and we must always pursue models of biblical social justice.
When social justice theories encourage one group to dismiss another viewpoint on the basis of skin tone—white or brown—it is not biblical social justice. When social justice theories blame all evil on external systems of oppression while ignoring the Bible’s pride-deflating insight that our own hearts are full of evil, it is not biblical social justice. When social justice theories deconstruct relationships in terms of power-differentials and argue that such hierarchies are evil and must be abolished in the name of “equality,” it is not biblical social justice. When social justice theories encourage outrage toward certain groups to generate a spirit of mutual suspicion and hostility, it is not biblical social justice. On the other hand, when justice theories look only at individual responsibility and don’t account for the pervasiveness of sin impacting institutions and systems, that is not biblical social justice either.
Jesus came as our savior, not as a political activist or a social engineer. But as our savior, he had a profound concern for justice. So must we.