faith and justice

As I mentioned in my previous posts, a group exists in our future city called The Boston Faith and Justice Network.

It began as a conversation between Christians (initiated in part by our new friends, Aaron and Amy Graham) who saw great injustices and hurt in the world and wanted to explore the connection between these injustices and their faith. Take a minute to read their mission statement.

Recently, someone expressed to me their fear that if we “focus too much on social justice, we’ll lose the proclamation of the gospel.” This person’s concern was authentic and heart-felt, and I tried my best to communicate why I believe justice for the oppressed is at the very heart of our Heavenly Father, using verses like Deuteronomy 15, the book of Amos, etc. Friday night, I was convicted of exactly why the Christian is obligated to serve those who are broken and marginalized, genuinely working for their “freedom from bondage.” We attended the meeting of the Boston Faith and Justice Network, where retired Gordon-Conwell professor Dr. Steven Mott spoke on “Jesus and Justice.” Mott worked from Jesus’ reading from the scroll in the temple in Luke 4:18-19, revealing what that reading would have meant to the Jews to whom he was speaking.

Jesus’ mission statement at the outset of his ministry (which was read from Isaiah 61:1-2) — much like the book of Isaiah — was dripping with “social justice” language. Mott said Christians have often translated Jesus’ words as being metaphorical for spiritual blindness or oppression, which Mott acknowledges is a part of it. But the undeniable translation of the passage, Mott proposes, is that Christ’s mission of restoring humanity to God included not only spiritual salvation and eternal life, but physical redemption and release from oppressive chains. (in fact, here’s an interesting fact: Jesus doesn’t quote in Luke 4 the one part of Isaiah 61 that is completely spiritual/emotional — “bind up the brokenhearted”) We, the people of God, are to follow Christ into the world, fighting for those in oppression and serving those in need. This is Christ’s heart.

So, what about proclamation of the gospel? Here’s a thought: What greater proclamation of the gospel is there than in working to free the broken and marginalized? Didn’t God have Amos speak some harsh words to his people regarding observing religious festivals and worship while neglecting the poor? If we believe that salvation is deeper than just a list of beliefs or a transaction of Hell for Heaven, we must believe that it also includes the righting of wrongs, justice for the oppressed, care for God’s creation, and welcome for the stranger — all without any agenda besides following Christ.
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