I receive these weekly articles from Relevant Magazine and today the topic was social justice, as it usually is. Always a story or experience from someone doing something radical to change the world. I admire these stories and they always make me think about my life. I am a big advocate of speaking for those who cannot speak, helping them find their voice, meeting needs where we can, etc. However, what got me thinking today, and spawned this post, were the arguments used to make the point.
"Interestingly enough, the word for love in the KJV is Charity, which when properly translated from Aramaic actually means justice. Love is setting things right. Love is doing something when it's easier to do nothing. Love is fighting for those who have no voice. Love is justice incarnate."
My first thoughts were 1) the KJV is so wrought with error why would you choose from it. 2) I am curious what scripture in particular he was translating from the Aramaic to derive justice as the English translation for love. 3) I am not so sure I easily sit with the last phrase of "Love is justice incarnate." I'd like to stay with this last point for a bit.
I have a hard time agreeing with this definition of love as justice incarnate. If we reason like that, then we only have a partial reality and truth of Christ's death on the cross. Yes, it was just in that Christ absorbed God's wrath, our punishment for sinning against a Holy God, therefore making atonement for our sin, but if it was not accompanied with mercy and grace that is extended freely to us, then it was for nothing. There is no justice in Him extending it to us freely. That is pure mercy in Him offering us the grace that was paid through Christ. Mercy as defined by Merriam-Webster "implies compassion that forbears punishing even when justice demands it."
It is seemingly lacking to say "love is justice incarnate" because Christ didn't come for justice. Yes, He came to "set the captives free and bind up the broken hearted…" but that was not the chief end of His mission. Jesus did not heal every person physically when He lived on this earth. He didn't come to make peace in the world, but He did come and put peace in our hearts for those who would accept His grace that covers our sin. These are two very different ideas. He came with a message of freedom, but He cared more about the freedom from the sin within our own hearts, rather than external circumstances of sin against others. The debt towards God is much bigger than our debt towards others.
The title of this article is Repairing the World by George Elerick and that was his main point; that we can bring love to this world by providing justice for the oppressed. I still maintain it is twofold. We do have a responsibility to those who are oppressed to fight for them. I believe it with all my heart. James 1:27 (NIV)
27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
However, the type of repairing of the world Christ came for was first reconciling us to God.
Colossians 1: 19 "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."
His second coming will be for our sanctification. We will finally be made whole and our sinful nature will be left behind.
Hebrews 9:28 "so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him."
Again Merriam-Webster, here is the definition for salvation: "1 a: deliverance from the power and effects of sin b: the agent or means that effects salvation; 2: liberation from ignorance or illusion3 a: preservation from destruction or failure b: deliverance from danger or difficulty" This is when our sanctification will be made complete, when Christ returns or I die first—in the end it is the same.
I do think helping out those who are oppressed is very important; I just didn't really like his argument and thought his focus was a little off. I am not really sure what my ramblings here have come to, but these few brief lines from this article have got me thinking and these are the thoughts floating around in my head. I always tell people in YAG when I ask difficult questions that I only ask them to make them think because I can't stop thinking myself. So, I am asking you to think as well. What are your thoughts on social justice? Helping the poor? What are ways to engage those who are oppressed with both the spiritual and the physical needs? So, I will continue to wrestle with these questions as well and if I come up with something, be certain that I will write again.