Social justice leads to greater unity in the church.
Some don’t believe this, but it’s true.
There are worries about social justice as propagating a liberal agenda or socialism. Others worry about our society entering a “politically correct” oppression from minority groups. Maybe these worries are true in a few instances, but not in the greater understanding of what social justice is.
What is Social Justice?
Social justice is unity. It is a generous and empathic sharing in the problems and triumphs of others. Social justice is looking beyond ourselves for the greater good of others. To state it biblically, social justice is loving our neighbors as ourselves.
The Holy Spirit brought great unity at the time of the Spirit’s release over Christians after Christ’s death. Acts 2:1–44 tells the story of the “pouring forth” of the Spirit on mankind. Immediately following that passage, we see what else the Spirit brought forth.
“And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:44–47 NASB).
The power of the Spirit of God pouring out on Christians brought unity among them. They loved each other and “continued with one mind in the temple.” These weren’t oppressive and unjust Christians, for they “began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.”
The early Christians understood the power and need for social justice as a byproduct of the outpouring of the Spirit on their lives.
The outpouring of the Spirit brought about such great love in the hearts of all the Christians that they voluntarily gave of all they had to help others in need. They gave of themselves and their wealth so they could share in the problems and pains of those less fortunate than they.
This example is the heart of social justice. Social justice does not force people to change their minds. Rather, social justice leads by example by showing people how to love.
Social Justice Disrupts Disunity
Many believe that social justice is disruptive to unity. Some even see it as unproductive activism that is unbiblical.
Look at Martin Luther King Jr.’s experience and you’ll see that social justice disrupted the comforts of the unjust. Many of the white Americans who were denying rights and love towards Blacks strongly identified as Christians.
In fact, Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail was written in response to pastors and religious leaders who thought his activism was inappropriate for a Christian.
Rather than speak for an uncomfortable biblical expression of love towards one another, these pastors spoke for the comfortable denial of love.
Great disunity was in place at the time. This disunity focused on the color of a person’s skin instead of love for one another. The social justice of Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister who understood Christ’s principles, was uncomfortable for many because it was disrupting the social norm of the day.
That time was uncomfortable for many and ultimately led to the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and others in the Civil Rights Movement, but their deaths were not in vain. Their movement sparked unity.
Social Justice Leads to Greater Unity in the Church
Today, we see that greater unity in the church and America formed as a result of the social justice acts of the Civil Rights movement.
Yes, we have more work to do. However, major steps in a multiethnic unity have occurred over the years since the Civil Rights movement.
Churches today, though still widely segregated, enjoy more unity than in the period of Jim Crow. Why? Simply because God’s Spirit lit upon Martin Luther King Jr. and others. This movement of the Spirit led to a movement of social justice. Martin Luther King Jr. and the men and women that stood with him expressed God’s love for all people as they faced much vile persecution.
Like Christ, they stayed true to the work of the Spirit inside of them and accomplished a world where loving one’s neighbor comes a little more easily than it did before.
The work of the Civil Rights movement produced a major step in the ability to love one’s neighbor as ourselves. However, there is still more work to do to experience the great multicultural worship gathering envisioned in the book of Revelation.
What steps must we take to be a part of today’s social justice movement?
Think about it and share with us in the comments. We all need to work together to see more of God’s love flow out into this dark world. We can only do that with the help of the Holy Spirit and each other.