HOLDING OUT FOR KINGDOM JUSTICE
Or, why Social Justice isn't enough...
Social justice or social action has once again become a point of controversy in parts of the church, particularly in the upheaval in the US brought on by their financial crisis. Social justice occurs when relationships among people and within communities on various levels become based on equality, respect and the valuing of each person.
As such, social justice generally refers to a condition reflected in the horizontal relationships of people with one another. Is this a good thing? Yes. Does it reflect the Heart of God? Yes. It is part of the journey into the place where His will is done on earth even as it is in heaven. The Father’s heart is to see un-walled unity and love among all the races, tribes and nations He created.
But I avoid talking of “social justice” wherever possible.
So, why would I say that I prefer not to use this term? To me it describes only a small part of what is happening and will happen in God's creation. The most essential character in the story of the universe seems to be missing and we have placed ourselves in that perceived void. As I have heard it said: “life is not a story about me”. The primary relationship within the created order is between the Creator and those He created. All other relationships draw their life from this one. And He is the King. Now and forever. A personal King. One whose activity is a reflection of his character. A King who is bringing His effective will to bear upon all He created: including all areas of life on earth that need restoration.
The reign of a king refers to that over which he has and exercises authority. In this case, the King is moving ahead (and also back) into a new age for which the creation is groaning. This new age is referred to as the Kingdom of God: the terrain where what happens and how it happens reflect His will in every way, in every area of life, and throughout the entire creation. He has chosen to involve us in seeing this come to fruition thus drawing us into an experience of the “now” and the “not yet” of this Kingdom. His will is already happening in some ways, with some people, in some places, some of the time. We are very aware of the spaces where this is not the case. This is the context of our journey with our King and Friend.
Within this structure, social justice consistently lived out in practical ways reflects the character of the three-in-one King. Social justice can form a critical part of the firstfruits of the “Kingdom now”. In this way the Heart of God can be more fully revealed. The One who calls us to patience, kindness, gentleness, humility and equality in community is Himself all these and more. On the other hand, these values can appear for a time in a limited way without being submitted to the Kingship of God. Secular humanism, pride and/or dualistic thinking may produce systems and structures that seem good on the outside but at their roots do not honour the Creator. Even in our life of loving those who are poor in our midst. Even when we do “good” things. Even when we manage to get along with each other for a time. Even when we show practical concern for the whales.
It all comes down to who is in charge? Who gets to have it all their way? And why? And even: what is it that actually gives human beings their value? Or: what is the end goal of life? We can be involved in social action, in pursuit of social justice, and often are, without answering these fundamental questions. And in subtle ways we let ourselves run the show. But increasing our will on the earth will not bring the Kingdom of God. Even if we do it in clever and revolutionary ways. We have to let Him be in charge. We need to ask Him what He wants in situations big and small. We need to work out the issues we have with Him about suffering in the world. We need to listen to Him and for Him. We need to get to know Him so that we will grow in our understanding of His Mind and Character. We need to open up space where He can be present and personally exercise His Kingship in our midst today. We still have lots to do as His stewards on earth in this age but we want to hear and follow His orders.
And, He doesn’t usually yell.
This is when we will experience Kingdom Justice. I’m holding out for that. His Justice and Glory filling the earth as the waters cover the sea. The equality spoken of by Paul. Daily bread for everyone. Old and young dancing together. The enough of the manna in all areas of life.