The American society has a heart for the marginalized. Amid all the domestic and political cat fighting, name-calling and proverbial hair pulling lies one somewhat unified heartbeat — the marginalized need a champion, the hopeless needs our help, and the defenseless need a hero.
This generation of Americans (old and young) are shouting for justice. Screaming, like a petulant child in a grocery store. Having a fit, causing a ruckus, and disturbing the social norms in order to achieve justice. And who can blame them… or disagree with them. The truth is, the often messy and sometimes dangerous pursuit of justice is worth the trouble. Pursuing the protection of personal value and equality is valiant. I think Jesus would approve.
However, if we really want to be successful in our pursuits, we must move past knee jerk reactions and really consider how to be effective. Knee jerk reactions, satisfying as they often feel, are often unhelpful to the justice cause. Like most things in life, the why and how of pursuing justice matters just as much as the pursuit itself. We’ve seen fringe “freedom fighters,” if I could coin the term loosely, champion causes in ways that deepen the amount of injustice in the world more than it does to alleviate it. I can think of Westboro Baptist as one of many examples of groups who are pursuing, at its core, a correct objective (to bring people to Jesus and turn from sin), in incorrect, counterproductive ways.
Over the last few years, Americans have rallied around one form of injustice in our society after the other…
- Homosexuality and the same sex attraction community
- Same sex marriages and legal rights
- Women’s rights for equal pay (and in the pulpit)
- Politicized issues like global healthcare and tax reform
- Trafficking abolition
- Racial equality (thanks Ferguson)
- Mental Sickness (thanks Robin Williams)
- Domestic Abuse (thanks Ray Rice)
- Child Abuse (thanks Adrian Peterson)
And while America is right to defend the fundamental value of every person, it hasn’t quite figured out the best way to achieve its objectives.
The Christian community (the Church) has a tremendous opportunity here. Jesus was a champion for the marginalized, help for the hopeless, and a hero for the defenseless. And it’s Jesus who we follow!
It’s true that justice is not the only cause of American society. There’s also humanism, postmodernism, and a general sense of selfishness. These are the things Christians and churches go out of their way to point out. But this heart for justice is different. With it, we have a chance to partner together in loving our neighbor, all the while spreading the gospel. After all, the gospel is precisely about redeeming every person by reminding them of their value despite their sinful predicament. The gospel provides freedom from oppression and fear. The gospel is all about Jesus, the champion of justice and grace!
Unfortunately, what many of the well-meaning in society see from the church are actions that seem to promote oppression. This, of course, is not true (most of the time). True Christians hate injustice. But perceptions matter. And when society sees the church as an adversary, rather than an ally, in the battle for justice we will have lost our audience. It’s hard for America to understand what we’re fighting about when all they want is for children to be safe (child abuse), people to feel free to love (same-sex marriage), women to feel less inferior, and people to look beyond social class and skin color.
For the American society, these are no-brainers. Base level rights. These are things they don’t expect to receive a bunch or resistance from, especially from those following a religion that promotes love as a cornerstone to its beliefs. The question, then becomes, “Why are Christians fighting us on this? These are good things.” And the befuddlement begins, or continues.
If the American society is ready to embrace, even fight for, justice, then the church should known for leading the way. If anyone has experience fighting for justice, Christians have that experience. By now, the Church should have learned lessons from fighting for justice incorrectly (hello, Crusades). We know by passion needs wisdom as its partner. Wisdom is what makes passion effective. And we know true wisdom comes from God. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…”
So then, the challenge is before us fellow church leaders and Christians. How can we partner with this primarily good sense of justice on display by the American society in such a way that it leads them to Christ? How do we change the adversarial perception of the church in society? How do we lead the justice charge with the gospel in mind?
It begins with seeking to understand the motives of society. With listening well, and taking a real pulse of America and understanding how the gospel fits into their justice pursuits. And then, it takes action. We need to lead in wisdom, passion AND service because we know the true “why” behind justice. We know personally the true champion of Justice. The time is ripe to re-introduce America to Him.
How can the church change the perception of being a justice adversary to a justice ally?
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