The Social Gospel movement in the 1920s became mostly social with little gospel pretty quickly; Social Justice Warriors have turned the discussion of justice into a vehicle for Identity Politics and Marxist ideology. Perhaps it is understandable why, to many evangelicals, "social" and "justice" have become dog whistles signaling leftist, neo-marxist radicals to storm the doors of their local church.
There is a danger that we Christians will disengage from the cultural conversation about justice because the empire is redefining kingdom words, or because empire ideologies have coopted biblical principles. Why do I call this a danger? Because we are at risk of giving up land God established for us to inhabit. After all, justice was a just God's idea.
God rolled out a vision for a just society through biblical revelation, starting with the Israelites in the Old Testament and moving into the church in the New Testament. Being the people of God was not just a personal covenant; it was a corporate commitment. A just society reflects just people who image a just God. And the foundation built in the Old Testament era found eager builders in the New Testament to continue the work God started.
- “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and please the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:17).
- "When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers." (Proverbs 21:15)
- “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
- “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Luke 11:42).
- "For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong..." (Isaiah 61:8 )
- "Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!" (Psalm 106:3)
- “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another." (Zechariah 7:9 )
- “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor." (Leviticus 19:15 )
- "To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice." (Proverbs 21:3 )
- “‘Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ (Deuteronomy 27:19 )
- "Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place." (Jeremiah 22:3)
- "Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy." (Proverbs 31:8-9)
- "He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing." (Deuteronomy 10:18)
- “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others." (Matthew 23:23 )
- “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.” (Hosea 12:6 )
- "A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge." (Proverbs 29:7 )
- "Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute." (Psalm 82:3 )
- "I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy." (Psalm 140:12 )
- “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” (Zechariah 7:9-10)
- "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God." Leviticus 23:22
- "If one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells some of his property, his nearest relative is to come and redeem what his countryman has sold. . . . If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. . . . If one of your countrymen becomes poor among you and sells himself to you, do not make him work as a slave." Leviticus 25:25, 35, 39
- "But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth." (1 John 3:17-18)
- "Who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!" (Isaiah 5:23 )
- "It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice." (Proverbs 18:5)
- “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts." (Malachi 3:5 )
- “You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow's garment in pledge." (Deuteronomy 24:17 )
- "Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail. Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor." (Proverbs 22:8)
- “You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit." (Exodus 23:6)
- "Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!"( Isaiah 10:1-2)
- "The wicked accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the ways of justice." (Proverbs 17:23-28 )
- "At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied." Deuteronomy 14:28-29
- "However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you." Deuteronomy 15:4
- "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy." Ezekiel 16:49
- "If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother." Deuteronomy 15:7
- "Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near, so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin." Deuteronomy 15:9
- "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land." Deuteronomy 15:11
- "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.“ Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?" The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."(Matthew 25: 35-40)
- "In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor." Acts 9:36
- "Cornelius stared at him in fear. What is it, Lord?' he asked. The angel answered, Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.'" Acts 10:4
- "After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings." Acts 24:17
- "On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.'" Romans 12:20
- "For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem." Romans 15:26
- "All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do." Galatians 2:10
"Eight Core Christian Values" offers the following definition:
“Biblical justice… refers to very practical, down-to-earth actions which ensure that the weak, the poor and the socially disadvantaged are cared for, whether they ‘deserve’ it or not… Biblical justice… ensure[s] that the weak are protected from abuse, that the poor have what they need, that the stranger in the land is shown hospitality and that the socially disadvantaged are cared for. Even when this means giving them what they do not ‘deserve’… Justice is often interpreted in terms of seeking rights for oneself or one’s own group (‘we demand justice’) when biblically it is really an action on behalf of others… ‘Justice’ is not for ‘just me’. This means that Christians will be more keen to protect others than themselves.“
When God sent Jonah to Ninevah, he didn't send Jonah to convert the people to Yahweh. God sent him to tell them destruction was coming if they didn't stop being violent. They stopped. There is no indication a revival swept the city. God was apparently content to send a prophet simply to stop a pagan people from committing injustice.
Will changing the machinations of culture change the hearts of people? Not necessarily. But it will change what they can with their hands. It will protect innocent people from those whose hearts are full of darkness.
That, too, is important in the eyes of God.