Biblical Justice vs. Social Justice: What's the difference?Published by nanderson on Wed, 05/10/2017 - 7:34pm
Selling a human being. Abusing a child. Stealing from a widow. Most, if not all of us, would agree that using force or fraud to exploit the vulnerable is evil. We carry within us an innate sense of right and wrong, a conviction that oppressors should be punished and the weak protected. We want justice.
Justice in its simplest form, means to set things right. Yet, how do we know what is right? Who defines "right"? Is it society-at-large or the culture we live in? Or, is there a moral law that we somehow know we’re supposed to follow?
As followers of Christ, the answer is simple. Our sense of justice is instilled in us by our Creator God. He is loving, kind, and merciful and also righteous, holy, and just.
“The Rock, His work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he,” (Deuteronomy 32:4).
"Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you," (Psalm 89:14).
Biblical justice is the enactment of God’s nature. It means confronting evil and making right that which is wrong. And we look to define what is "right" in Scripture.
Jesus Christ is our standard of righteous. It’s because of Jesus and His work on the Cross that we ourselves are justified and made right with God.Jesus took all of our sin and unrighteousness upon himself and paid the penalty for our sin. He redeemed us.
"And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no distinction," (Romans 3:22).
As we look throughout Scripture, it is clear that the body of Christ is called to “do justice”. We are called to confront evil, to care for the fatherless, the orphan and to make right that which is wrong. This mandate is not new. It's not a cultural fad or something that was recently brought to our attention because it is trendy in today's society.
"Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute," (Psalm 82:3).
"To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice," (Proverbs 21:3).
"Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and please the widow's cause,” (Isaiah 1:17).
"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).
Social justice is a common term used today. A brief online search will uncover varying definitions about what it means. One definition says social justice is "promoting a just society by challenging injustice and valuing diversity". On one hand that sounds fine and good, but at a deeper look, it is vague and can lead to many different conclusions about what justice really looks like.
In contrast to social justice, which focuses on a temporal view of addressing injustices in society, biblical justice starts with the eternal in mind. It starts by seeing people as God sees them – recognizing that we are created in the image of God. It's incumbent upon Christ-followers to pursue physical and spiritual freedom for the oppressed so others can become what God created them to be.
As the Church, we may partner with those doing social justice as it also gives us an opportunity to share Christ, but let's not be confused about our ultimate mission. Our mission is not about picking up another cause because it sounds appealing and makes us look good. Our mission is about fully embracing the cause of Christ. The end goal of biblical justice is seeing lives transformed through the power of the Cross.
What can we do?
One day, everyone will give account for their actions and their eternal destiny will be revealed: heaven or hell. In essence, it is the execution of complete and perfect justice by a perfectly holy and just God. In the meantime, evil is pervasive throughout our world. Children are sold into slavery. The poor are forced to labor. Human trafficking continues in every country, city, and community. There are more than 35 million slaves in the world today, more than at any other time in history.
Can we, the Church, lead the way and pursue justice on behalf of the oppressed, the widow, the orphan, and the enslaved? YES! Fueled by the compassion of Christ, we engage in issues of injustice to bring the good news of the Gospel to those who desperately need a Savior.
Pursuing justice starts and continues with prayer, and it involves time and sacrifice. It means stepping out of our comfort zone and persevering with patience. The best part is we are not alone. God leads and we follow. He empowers us through the Holy Spirit to act on His behalf. So, let's go for it. Let's lead in the fight for true biblical justice.