God’s kingdom and social justice

Social justice isn’t an angry fist; it’s a cross, bearing the injustice away.

Imagine a world without gender conflict, where males and females value each other as persons. Imagine a world where no one no one dies of preventable diseases, where no one starves while others horde wealth. Imagine a world without racism or slavery or war, a world where no leader forces themselves on people. Imagine a world where people shun violence and retribution, calling on God to bring justice instead.

Lofty ideals? It’s our future. This is the world we will know when it runs as our heavenly sovereign intends — as the kingdom of God. The big question is how do we get there?

Do we stand up against the evil powers of this world and demand justice? Do we take up guns as Sam Childers did in Africa or Gustavo Gutiérrez did in South America? Do we bring down the oppressive regimes as the Bolsheviks did in Russia or as USA did in Iraq?

Peace never comes from violence. Check history. Bringing down a bad regime doesn’t solve the problem: it just opens the door for another.

So what do we do? Shake our fists and protest the injustice? Sit on our hands and wait for God to sort it out? Activism brings no lasting change, and passivity changes nothing.

What did Jesus do?

  • Jesus was a pacifist: he refused to take up swords.
  • Jesus was an activist: he refused to let the injustice remain.

Jesus walked among people, seeing their oppression, freeing them to live as the kingdom of God. He didn’t fight the existing kingdom; he embodied another.

  • He bypassed the rich and powerful by giving the kingdom to the poor and powerless.
  • He overturned systemic injustice by satisfying those who hungered and thirsted for right.
  • He out-strategized the warmongers by making peace (Matthew 5:2-9).

Dare you follow him, embodying his kingdom? Jesus calls us to live now as if he were already acknowledged as king.

This is incredibly dangerous! In the current violent world, we’d be like sheep among wolves. I mean, look what happened to him when he embodied God’s kingdom! If we follow him down that path, won’t we be picking up crosses too?

Can he be serious? Is this the road to social justice? To live now as if we believe in God’s reign? To live now as the kingdom of God?

He doesn’t call us to confront the rulers of this world or to call them out for their evil ways. He calls us not to be critics of the current government but to be the alternative — the community living under earth’s true king.

The suffering Messiah wants us to bear the injustice as he did. There’s a world of difference between fighting it and bearing it away.

Imagine a world without gender conflict, racism, slavery, war, unjust rule, or retribution. He calls us to take up our crosses and be that kind of community — the kingdom of God in the troubled world.

The only way to defeat the darkness is to be the light.


What others are saying

Steven C. Roy, “Embracing Social Justice: Reflections from the Storyline of Scripture,” Trinity Journal 30:1 (2009): 47-48:

Social justice is a creation mandate. … God’s vision for his human image-bearers is one characterized by the “rightness” and “justice” of his own character. …

From the call of Abram to God’s deliverance of his enslaved people from Egypt in the Exodus, from the Mosaic law to Israel’s experience of exile and return, from the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth to the experience and vision of the church that follows him, we have seen that social justice is not merely an optional “add-on.” …

Consummated justice will be a crucial element of God’s ultimate work of making all things new (Rev 21:5).

Social justice in Scripture is creational, restorative, and eschatological. Such is its nature and importance.

Karen Heil Borchert, “Paths of the Spirit” in Review and Expositor 94:1 (1997), 100:

The spiritual practices of the path of social justice compellingly call Christians to action. Seeking implementation of justice for marginalized groups is a difficult and sometimes dangerous process. Believing that in helping “the least of these” that God is served, many Christians’ grow in relation to God through their involvement in causes which bring relief, justice, and peace to others.

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[next: God’s kingdom and Israel today]

Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview Church, Perth, Western Australia

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