Social Justice and the Gospel

The Torah is the story of God liberating his people from bondage, and then telling them not to forget. They are to remember they were slaves freed by God, and so are to do justice to the poor, the widow, the orphan, the stranger.

Later, the prophets spend their time reminding the people to remember what the Torah said.

Jesus’ story begins with his mother proclaiming that God has continued to act as he did of old, casting down the mighty from their thrones and lifting up the lowly. In his first sermon, Jesus said he came to to preach good news to the poor and deliverance to the captive. He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. In his eschatological discourse, after dismissing attempts to predict his coming, Jesus tells the disciples that while they are waiting for him, they are to do the same things he did: clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting those in prison. This, he says, is the question we will face in the judgment.

Paul speaks of “justification.” What is that but that we are embraced by God’s liberating justice? We believe the good news that he is for us. We are justified by faith alone–we do not free ourselves. We do not overthrow our enemies. God has done it in Jesus Christ.

The theme of the Bible from beginning to end is God’s liberating justice. It’s about God freeing captives, and setting things right, and pulling down the powerful and speaking good news to those trampled upon. God’s kingdom smashes walls and nations and laughs at human arrogance.

Everything in the Bible is the inversion of the values of the world, and of the arrogant rich. Justice is not in opposition to the gospel, it is the gospel. God’s news is that he is setting the world right and bringing justice to the oppressed. The last day message (Rev 14) is that the hour of God’s judgment has come–and the prayer of the martyrs under the altar is now to be fulfilled.

Rev 14 (and later, Rev 18) says that Babylon, the mixture of state power and corrupt religion, is fallen. And we are to come away from that mess, and having nothing to do with it. We are to align ourselves completely with the kingdom of God and his justice. As the final crisis starts to unfold, Christians are told they can no longer sit quietly. They can no longer be docile servants. They must take a stand.

The Anabaptists felt that day was upon them, and they withdrew from “the world.”

Early Adventists heard that call as well.

When will we?