In the introduction to his book Generous Justice, Tim Keller begins with a description of the people for whom he wrote the book. The first person he describes is young Christians who are interested in social justice. He says:
“While many young adults have a Christian faith, and also a desire to help people in need, these two things are not actually connected to each other in their lives. They have not thought out the implications of Jesus’s gospel for doing justice in all aspects of life.”
My first reaction to this was dismissive. I felt like Keller did not give a fair shake to my generation. I began to think of all the people I know who are passionate about social justice and their Christian faith. I felt that so many young adult Christians have a sincere desire to be involved in social justice issues because of their faith in God. Sadly this list of people was much shorter than the next list of people that came to my mind.
I began to think of all the people I know who are passionate about social justice despite their faith (or lack thereof). I have lost count of the number of people who have posted something on facebook or twitter about how they doubt God and their faith because they believe in social justice. It’s become almost popular to doubt your faith as a sign that you believe in social justice. They have somehow forgotten the fact that Christ is the source of all that is good and just. They have forgotten that the idea of loving the fatherless, the widow, and the oppressed has come directly from God.
It’s not as if loving the outcast was a normal thing in Jesus’ day and we have somehow gotten away from that. Quite the contrary, what Jesus advocates in the gospel was a radical shift from the thinking of the day. Jesus wasn’t asking people to give a few coins to the blind man at the city gate, he told them to “give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind…” (Luke 14:13 ESV) How can you read something like that (as well as the numerous other passages where Jesus speaks about the oppressed) and doubt your faith on the basis of social justice?
Now you may be wondering where I am going with all this. I think it underscores the whole point that Keller makes throughout this book. That faith in God and a desire to do His will goes hand-in-hand with doing social justice. You cannot truly have one without the other. You cannot fully follow Christ without serving the oppressed and you cannot fully serve the oppressed without an understanding and faith in Christ. Without Christ, you will never fulfill more than the surface-level needs of those you are trying to serve.
This is where the Church needs to take a stand. We should be a bastion for social justice. If we were truly following the Bible, Christianity would be synonymous with social justice. I think the Church needs to challenge itself to see how we can be a place where a faith in Christ and social justice are so intertwined they cannot be separated from each other. How can we help millennials better understand the connection between God and social justice? There is a lot of talk on blogs, social media, and even in church pulpits about how the church can stop losing my generation. I think the answer lies in helping millennials understand just how close justice is to the heart of God.Image Courtesy of Mark H. Anbinder / Flickr.com