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Why Social Justice is Vital Component of the Gospel

A coalition of conservative pastors and ministers recently denounced social justice as an idea created and promoted by cultural influences.

Led by John MacArthur, the group adopted “The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel” (SSJG).

The document endorsed a very conservative and narrow interpretation and application of the Bible, addressing critical issues that interest them.

The statement asserted that these “critical issues” are “being challenged under the broad and somewhat nebulous rubric of concern for ‘social justice.’”

As an advocate for social justice, I disagree with the group’s conclusions. I do think they bring up an interesting question about the place for social justice within the gospel.

However, I believe the place for social justice is within the gospel, not outside of it.

I advocate for social justice because of my interpretation and application of Scripture, not in spite of it. Let me offer a few reasons why.

I am an advocate for social justice because of God’s creative mandate.

In the book of Genesis, God creates the universe and entrusts humanity with its care.

Humans have a social responsibility as caretakers of this world and everything that lives within it.

As part of this ecosystem God created, we live in a symbiotic relationship with all inhabitants.

Therefore, we are part of a social order that God created and instructed us to treat justly.

I am an advocate for social justice because God liberated the Hebrews.

When the Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt, God called Moses to help free them. God did not leave them in their enslavement hoping the pharaoh would change his mind or waiting for the Hebrews to revolt and fight their way out.

God intervened, demonstrating how individuals who are faithful to the Word could bring good news to the captives.

Moses possessed and exhibited a social conscience rooted in his faith that we are called to emulate.

I am an advocate for social justice because of God’s prophets.

When I read the prophets of the Old Testament, their sermons and soliloquies strike the match for social justice. They advocated for the poor, the hungry, the sick and the outcast.

In both kingdoms of Israel and Judah, the prophets made it clear that any injustice toward the downtrodden was an affront to God. Therefore, judgment came upon them for their social behaviors.

Social repentance was the only way to thwart the consequences of their sins.

I am an advocate for social justice because of God’s Son.

I cannot read the Gospels without seeing social justice as an essential concept and undertaking of Jesus’ message and ministry.

Social justice was at the heart of his gospel. He came to save the whole person – mind, body and soul.

While Jesus had one eye on the eternal, he had his other eye on the world around him.

He healed the sick, fed the hungry, gave sight to the blind, welcomed the stranger and embraced the marginalized. Before becoming the Christ of history, Jesus was – and remains – a social justice advocate for the many.

I am an advocate for social justice because God’s apostles led the way.

With Jesus as an example, the book of Acts and the epistles demonstrate that social justice remained a critical element of the early church.

From caring for widows to unique offerings for the poor, these acts of social justice were an extension of Jesus’ message and ministry.

The Apostle James states it best. “You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. … So, faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2).

Social justice is a vital component of the gospel. It is not the whole gospel, but one should not divorce it from the message and ministry of the church either.

MacArthur and the signatories of The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel seem more upset about their narrow doctrines being challenged by those offering fresh interpretations and applications of Scripture.

They are certainly entitled to their views and conclusions, but to categorically condemn social justice ignores the biblical reality and denies the earthly ministry of Jesus.

For me, the main reason for my support of social justice is that my faith guides me to do so.

Mitch Randall

Mitch Randall is executive director of EthicsDaily.com.