I have been struggling to understand why I am frustrated with 21st Century “Woke” Christianity. After all, who is not for justice? Who thinks that racism is a good idea?
Why then do alarm bells go off in my head when a church starts focusing on what they term “social justice”?
Two reasons come to mind.
The first is that the preaching often focuses on symptoms rather than the core problem. I recently ran across this paragraph by Timothy Keller:
“Since the garden, we live in a world filled with suffering, disease, poverty, racism, natural disasters, war, aging, and death – and it all stems from the wrath and curse of God on the world. The world is out of joint, and we need to be rescued. But the root of our problem is not these ‘horizontal’ relationships, though they are often the most obvious; it is our ‘vertical’ relationship with God. All human problems are ultimately symptoms, and our separation from God is the cause. The reason for all the misery – all the effects of the curse – is that we are not reconciled to God.”Timothy Keller in Center Church
As Keller points out, all the injustice in the world is ultimately because our relationship with God is broken and we are separated from God. Ultimately, the only way for true justice to be restored is for every person to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. This is the core message that the church is tasked with proclaiming.
But unfortunately, this message is not always clear when preachers proclaim current theories of how social justice will be achieved. We have churches that embrace theories that are more in line with Karl Marx than Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus summarized the teaching of Scripture into two great commands. The first is that we should love God with our entire being. The fact that we fail in this command produces all the ills that plague our society. Any preaching that does not tie the problems around us to our failure to satisfy this command is not Christian preaching.
My second reason for discomfort with social justice preaching is that there is usually selectivity in the proclamation of what needs to be done for justice to take place.
The second great command in the passage cited above is that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus emphasized that everyone we come in contact with is our neighbor. There is no separation by race, age, gender or birth status allowed in the application of this command.
We do not have the latitude to focus only on what the culture deems important. We need to be holistic in how we apply this command. Are we concerned about all forms of injustice? I can think of many forms of injustice in our society but I don’t hear all of them mentioned in “social justice” preaching.
Are we responding to the frenzy created by the media (after all creating frenzy is their purpose) or are preaching the good news of Jesus Christ? We cannot be selective as to who is to receive justice.
Any preaching and teaching in the church that does not ultimately point to the Cross of Jesus Christ as the remedy is not Christian preaching.
Without the regeneration that is made possible by our relationship with Christ, we cannot make any progress at all on fulfilling the two great commands. The gospel (good news) is that in Christ, restoration of our vertical relationship can be accomplished.
On the basis of a restored vertical relationship, the horizontal relationships can also be restored. That message needs to be heard. That is the first thing that needs to be first.