social justice

So apparently the term “social justice” is heard by some in solely political terms—expressing an expectation of what government will do—what a certain kind of government will do—what big government will do, and thus, the very idea of social justice, in response to certain political views, is rejected.

Society though is more than government. Society is bigger than the political. And as Christians (it’s that whole light/salt/leaven thing—Matthew 5:13-14; 13:33), we are called not just to effect government, but to effect society. We are, in truth, called to transform society, and we are quite specifically and unequivocally tasked with working for justice. Scripture is clear. We are called to speak for those without privilege, power, or voice (and that includes non-human life and the earth itself). All creation eagerly awaits the revealing of the children of God (Romans 8:19).

So, with all creation, with bated breath waiting, let each of us confess our sin. As we strive to manifest God’s desires, some of us deny too much the role government can play, while some of us rely too much on it, some expecting it to do too much, others not expecting it to do enough—all of us allowing the issues important to us to determine the extent to which we want the government involved, none of us consistent in our preference for a certain kind of government.

May etymology serve as our theological reminder. For thinking etymologically, the word “government” takes us back to the Greek word for “steering.” The etymology of the word “society” takes us back to the Latin word for “companion.” We, as the people of God, are not called to control, but to be thoughtful, responsible, caring companions on a shared journey—just as God does not impose control on us, but shares our living as God-with-us.

Within a company of travelers, it is absolutely not that there aren’t legitimate expectations of very different ways by which to reach a goal—to realize a priority. It is that the goal itself—the priority itself—is absolutely not up for debate. It’s certainly not that it’s up to me, as minister, to privilege any particular politics, but it is up to me—incumbent upon me, as minister, not to allow any particular politics to unprivilege the priorities God has clearly set out—around which God’s people are to arrange their living.

What does God require of us? that we do justice … love kindness … and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).


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