The Responsibility of the Church
Does the church* have a responsibility to implement social justice in its everyday ministry?
The church is to be the “light of the world” where all may “see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:14–16). The basic call for all Christians is to emulate our Saviour who is emulating the Father. As Christ said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (Jn 4:34). That is our goal as well. Food is important to us. It sustains us and nourishes us. Food gives us the energy to do great things. Likewise, doing the will of the Father is important, sustaining, nourishing, and energizing.
Christians are to be the example of God’s love in a dark world. We are to love God supremely and love others as ourselves (Mt 22:36–40). Love is our clarion call as Christians. Love is our greatest commandment.
But do we accomplish this love? Do we as Christians effectively love others the way God first loved us?
The Lack of Love has Distorted Christianity
Fear, hatred, greed, and selfishness have creeped into the church and has distorted the basic principles of Christianity.
Today, Christianity is believed to be a religion of hate and intolerance.
Many equate Christianity with the Crusades.
Many equate Christianity with justifications for wars.
Many equate Christianity with oppression.
But is that what Christianity teaches? Is that who we are to be as Christians? We’ve already discussed what Christians are supposed to be like, so our answer should be easy.
But why is the predominant understanding of Christianity in our generation today that of hatred and oppression?
Recently, President Obama made some statements during the National Prayer Breakfast where he was calling attention to some atrocities done in the name of Christ: “But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge – or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon….And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ….So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.”
Predictably, a lot of Christians were upset at these words. Some saw this as an equivocation where the President should have stood stronger against the terrorist organization, ISIS. Others saw it as an unnecessary reprisal of Christianity. The response was quick and fierce.
How dare he mention the crusades and the inquisition when we’re dealing with terrorists today.
How dare he talk about the violent past of Christianity.
How dare he remind us of our past sins.
However, those past sins must be acknowledged and dealt with honestly. The church has not always been the best at loving the way Christ loves, but the love of Christ has always been at the forefront of the social justice movement.
The Love of Christ is at the Forefront of Social Justice
Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister who effectively used the love of Christ to change hearts and minds. He, along with many others, started the civil rights movement that changed history. This movement wasn’t one of violence; it wasn’t one of war. Rather, the civil rights movement was motivated by God’s love for others. They took a stand to say that God’s love was not being expressed and showed the world how to love. Even in the face of violence, these godly men and women did not retaliate but turned the other cheek and showed the grace, mercy, and patience of Christ.
These men and women were the light and love of Christ in a dark and hate-filled world.
Today, the anti-human trafficking movement is largely run by Christians who understand the love of Christ. The same is true for the pro-life movement. Even the anti-war movement is led by an understanding of Christ’s love for our neighbors.
We obtain social justice when, and only when, we properly understand God’s love for us and others.
There is no other way around it. Yes, the name of Christ has been used as a foundation for various violent atrocities. We do not deny that.
What we do deny is the idea that those atrocities were based on a proper understanding of Christianity.
Distorted Christianity brought us Jim Crow.
Proper Christianity brought us the Civil Rights Movement.
The church is needed at the forefront of the social justice movement because there wouldn’t be a social justice movement without the church. Social justice is not obtained without an understanding of Christ’s love for everyone. Love leads to social justice. The church must stop being a hindrance and start being a champion of God’s love for humanity. Christ’s love is the only way the social justice movement will succeed and its the only way to see God’s will accomplished on earth as it is in heaven.
* The church referred to here is not a simple building where people gather together to worship God. Rather, the church is the body of Christ effectively working towards the will of God. That means that each Christian makes up a part of the church. Reference: 1 Cor 12:12–13, 27; Rom 12:4–5; Col 1:18, 24