Putting the "Just Us" in Justice
Social justice is a hot topic right now and I'm finally going to weigh in. Even as I write this, a new video and blog regarding the topic have popped up on my Twitter feed. The topic is progressing so fast that it is hard to keep up with everything everyone is saying. That may be a problem in and of itself.
First let me say that I admire and have benefitted from the ministries of people standing on both sides such as John MacArthur, Thabiti Anyabwile, James White, Eric Mason, H.B. Charles Jr., Tom Ascol, etc. I personally cannot sign the statement with a clear conscience, not because I disagree with the foundational statements articulated within it, but because I think it's creating division in the church that is unneccessary and unhelpful. For those unfamiliar with this statement, you can find it here: The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel.
When I listen to the two sides talking back and forth, I often think they may actually be on the same side and talking past each other and then at other times I'm unsure. I may agree with Thabiti Anyabwile when he said this on Twitter:
As I begin, let me say that I've got a simple mind. Things may seem more simple to me than to others. I've also been trying to keep up as best I can with this topic. I've read many articles by Thabite, I've listened to James White talk a lot on the Dividing Line, I've read articles by Tom Ascol, and I'm currently reading and reviewing Woke Church by Eric Mason. I've read other articles by other people, I've listened to the MLK50 conference, and I attended Together for the Gospel. I'm not an expert, but I'm trying.
To me, it seems a simple issue. I think Romans 12 will settle the case for us. Romans 12:9 says, "Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good." Genuine love sees every human being as made in the image of God worthy of equality. Abhorring what is evil means we will abhor racism. We abhor when someone is treated differently because of their skin color, hair color, eye color, income level, I.Q., body type, etc. When we hold fast to what is good then we seek to love our neighbor as ourselves just as Jesus taught.
Paul continues in verse 10 to say, "Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. " There is nothing I wouldn't do for my biological brother. I only have one. I love him so much and I'd do anything he needed me to do for him aside from sin. Paul says I'm supposed to love my Christian brothers and sisters like this and I'm supposed to seek to show them more honor than they're showing me. Is this happening in this social justice conversation? To me it is unclear that it is.
In verses 15-16 Paul says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight." These verses are the nail in the coffin for me. Christian brothers and sisters who are black are hurting and weeping for their communities. Are we as white Christians seeking to understand this or talking past it? Are we hurting with them or justifying what is going on? Are we being haughty? If we are then we must repent. Shame on us!
When my wife and I lost our first child due to a miscarriage, I will never forget catching one of our friends trying to leave a gift at our doorstep and she was weeping. She was hurting with us as we hurt. Remembering her tears means more to me than the gift she gave us. In fact, it brings me to tears right now as I recount it in my memory.
Weeping with our black brothers and sisters who are weeping for their communities is what we should be doing. Asking them questions and considering ourselves not wise in our own sight is what we should be doing. In his new book, Woke Church, Eric Mason recounts:
"I was encouraged by one of these woke brothers awhile back when a young black man was shot and killed by a police officer. My friend Matt Chandler send an email to me a few other black pastors saying, 'Yo, E, I'm sorry about what happened. I don't know what to say. I'm brokenhearted. Love you guys.' He was sensitive to how every time one of these events takes place it re-traumatizes our communities" (18-19).
Weep with those who weep. To hurt with people means the world to them. We not always understand everything they're going through, but these are our brothers and sisters in Christ. When they hurt, we hurt. Simple.
Paul says in verse 17, "Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all." Loving my neighbor as myself is honorable. Seeking for all people to be treated equally is honorable. Standing up against injustice is honorable.
He goes on in verse 20 to say, "To the contrary, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.'" The question must be asked, if we are to treat our enemies this way, what should we be doing for our brothers and sisters in Christ? The answer is obvious. We should be loving them, being hospitable, seeking their good, caring for the things they care for, and seeking to make much of Christ in doing all these things!
As every brother I've talked about above has made clear, the gospel is primary. No one disagrees with that. But seeking justice for people made in the image of God is something that flows out of the gospel. When Paul says we should treat our enemies well then how can we argue that we should not be seeking the good of all image bearers of God?
The church is just us, all of us. An old children's song says, "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world." In Christ we are family. In Christ we are one. But our world is broken. If we believe the message of Christ and we follow His example then logically we will weep with those who weep and we love our neighbors as ourselves.