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Gospel or Social Justice?

Posted by on Oct 28, 2010 in blog links, missional, service | 5 comments

Gospel or Social Justice?

Two recent posts have suggested that our proclamation of the gospel must proceed along with social justice – that is, caring for people’s needs. Otherwise, the authors agree, we are not truly proclaiming the gospel.

The first post is from Arthur at “The Voice of  One Crying Out in Suburbia” and is called “It cannot be one or the other, it must be both.” He says:

The problem is not an overemphasis on one or the other, it is that often the emphasis is on neither and it must be on both. The way we ensure that we don’t forget evangelism or mercy is to first, as Carson says, make sure we get the Gospel right. Second, equip all believers and give them the ability and encourage the inclination to do ministry in the world, to think outside of the church building for ministry opportunities. Third, be bold and clear that the life of a disciple of Christ is not one of insulated middle-class values and comforts but instead a self-denying, cross bearing life that will rub the world the wrong way.

The second post, which is like the first, is from Jared at “The Gospel-Driven Church” and is called “Why Social Justice is Necessary.” Jared gives us 8 reasons for including acts of mercy with gospel proclamation.

hmmm… the second is like the first… seems I’ve heard that before…

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:35-40 ESV)

Oh yeah, I remember that now.


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  1. 10-28-2010

    The problem with all of this emphasis on “social justice”, is that this term is really not something that is interchangeable or synonomous with “acts of mercy” or “love your neighbor”, etc…

    Of course, we are now using it this way all throughout the blahgosphere, so much so that now we accept it as a given. But I believe that the concept of “social justice” is a massive shift away from what Jesus was actually talking about…

    “Love your neighbor” means giving to someone in need, sharing what you have, etc. But “social justice”? When we stop and really look at it, it is a very different concept, and it has swept into the broader Christian mindframe like an ideological trojan horse…

    ‘Social justice’ is the approach whereby “needs” are addressed on a systematic, societal scale. “Love your neighor as yourself” is a description of loving people as individuals first, with names, and lives, and experiences. “Social justice” tries to do things like “fight poverty” or “promote equality”, whereas Agape love is about getting to know individual people, and their struggles and needs, and helping them discreetly

    “Social justice” is something that by design, must be measured and assessed from the outside, and herein lies the real danger, because once you start defining “love” as being what the rest of the world defines as love, then we have completely exchanged our agenda from God’s to the World’s…

    This is why I believe it is a term, and a concept, which we would be better off if the Body of Christ just stopped using altogther…

  2. 10-28-2010


    I agree with almost everything that you said. I think we can still use the term “social justice.” In fact, when I say “social justice,” I mean it much like you defined the phrase “love your neighbor.” But, I do understand your concern.


  3. 10-28-2010


    I also have similar concerns to Daniel.

    Loving one’s neighbor, the one anothers of Scripture, is about putting a living face on the Gospel we preach. It’s “the proof of the pudding. As Jesus showed us, a Gospel of words alone, is not showing, “all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

    The social “gospel”, especially in some of our cities has begun well but simply degenerated into a Christless soup kitchen, food pantry, 50 cent clothing supply.

  4. 10-28-2010

    Well, the more I have thought about this, the more I have come to realize that the major distinction comes in recognizing the difference in the motivations behind the “acts of mercy”, or whatever we may call loving our neighbor…

    The reason I think this term “social justice” is so inappriate for us to use as followers of Christ, is that we do not act in love towards our brother or sister because we believe it is the “just” (i.e. fair) thing to do. The concept of social justice rests on the assumption that everyone “deserves” a certain level of physical goods/services. It approaches humanity from the perspective that we all have basic “rights” to things. (a thoroughly American concept) But when you really get down to it, God doesn’t approach love from this perspective. We don’t love people because they have the “right” to expect it from us, we love people because Christ first loved us! Did we have the right to expect anything from God? Did we really receive “justice” from Him? Or mercy?

    Maybe it seems terribly nit-picky to harp on this distinction, but I really am becoming more and more convinced that it makes all the difference in the world. At face value, it may seem to all be talking about the same thing, but I think the two perspectives eventually veer off into two very opposite directions….

  5. 10-28-2010

    Aussie John and Daniel,

    Believe me… I understand your concerns about using the term “social justice.” I hope the term can be redeemed, like other terms like “church,” “pastor,” etc.