Social Justice and the Christian

“It was precisely when such polarities of extravagant wealth and crushing poverty became institutionalized and rationalized that the prophets of the Bible would thunder the judgment and justice of God, calling the people to repentance. But who will be the Jeremiah’s today?” – Jim Wallis

For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever…O land, land, land, hear the word of the LORD! (Jeremiah 7:5-7; 22:29 ESV)

Whether you’re a liberal, moderate, or conservative, the Bible still calls you as a Christian to plead the cause of those who are in need. As we see in the book of Isaiah,

Learn to do what is good. Seek justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:17 HCSB)

Jesus even called for the same thing when He said,

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’ “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ Then He will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels! For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger and you didn’t take Me in; I was naked and you didn’t clothe Me, sick and in prison and you didn’t take care of Me.’ “Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help You?’ “Then He will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.’ “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46 HCSB)

No Christian is free from the call to help those in need. Just beause you aren’t a Catholic doesn’t mean that you are not called to help people. And just because you aren’t Catholic doesn’t mean you can’t work with a Catholic to help put a dent in global hunger and poverty.

I don’t have the numbers (you can pull them up yourself by going to www.census.gov). But there is a problem when we are doing nothing to address the issue of poverty and helping those in need.

We as a church have become VERY inward focused. We look at how we can grow our numbers and how we can make our name known in our communities and what new programs we need to start. And these things are all well and good, but in focusing on these things, we have forgotten about many other issues that are more pressing than making our own church’s name known. There are thousands (probably millions) of people in our own nation who are living in conditions at or below the poverty line, and we’re not reaching them with the physical and spiritual help that they so desperately need.

We as the church of America have become just that…The Church of America. We’ve become very much focused on preaching the gospel of health, wealth, and prosperity rather than a gospel that promotes 100% dependence on Christ and on God and doing deeds to help the common good. Jim Wallis states,

“When religion becomes conformed to the culture, it can no longer provide a reliable path to spirituality, and our public life loses its moral compass. The two dominant forms of religion in our time have failed to provide the spiritual guidance that might inform a politics of moral conscience. Both conservative and liberal religion have become culturally captive forces that merely cheer on ideological camps with which each has identified. And religion as a political cheerleader is invariably false religion.

“Conservative religion has become preoccupied with words and dogma. Correct religious language and doctrine have replaced an emphasis upon faithful living and action. A certain lifestyle is associated with conservative religion, but it reveals more about the cultural and political biases of its adherents than about the meaning of authentic faith. Personal piety has become an end in itself instead of the energy for social justice. Religious language has little or no connection to moral action in society.

“…In the most materialistic culture in history, conservative religion has produced a gospel of prosperity. In a society whose inequitable distribution of resources has become obscene, conservative religion has become a defender of the wealthy…” (Jim Wallis, The Soul of Politics, 1995, Harcourt Brace, P. 43)

He may be a liberal, but he makes a very good point. The way the world sees “conservative religion” is by seeing men like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson who rant and rave about stopping gay marriage and putting an end to abortion. These are good issues for Christians to deal with, but what about the hunger and poverty that is right here in America?

Prayerfully consider what you and your church can do to help this issue. Petition your government officials to address the issue of poverty in your respective states. May God give us a true burden for those in need.

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