Jesus valued social justice and so should you

Aug 20, 2015 by

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Jesus was a social justice hero. He boldly spoke out against inequality, helped the oppressed, condemned the oppressor and embraced the alienated.

Like today, many were drawn to His causes and could identify with his messages. He attracted crowds, followers and disciples.

But when it came time to stand with Jesus in solidarity — when he was arrested and about to be put to death by a corrupt government — virtually everyone abandoned him.

And so it is right now in today’s society: The masses cry out, but when it comes time to get uncomfortable and we’re required to speak out against the powerful, privileged and established norms, who will be brave enough to stand up for what is right —to stand with Jesus?

Jesus didn’t just verbally affirm the causes of the oppressed. He wasn’t a bystander, cheerleader or passive observer. He devoted his entire life towards actively seeking positive change.

He not only threw himself into the conflict, but he was often the one creating the conflicts by disrupting social norms, angering leaders, condemning officials and criticizing governments.

The important thing about Jesus is that he acknowledged and actively addressed what he observed: inequality, systemic injustice and an apathetic society — devoting his life towards abolishing such evils.

The exploited, ignored, mistreated, enslaved, abused, objectified, despised — these were the people he particularly invested in. These are the specific groups he passionately involved himself with.

So while he absolutely loved all of humanity, he paid special attention to those who were the victims of injustice.

He ate dinner with them. He listened to them. He befriended them. He defended them. He healed them. He encouraged them. He loved them. He was persecuted for them. He was arrested because of them. Eventually, he even died for them.

Jesus was alienated from the political and religious elite — and even mainstream society — by committing himself to empowering the downtrodden and calling out injustice whenever and wherever he saw it.

It was this radical lifestyle of advocacy, protest and civil disobedience that ultimately got him in trouble with an authoritarian government and aristocracy that thrived by maintaining the status quo.

Are we willing to be like Jesus, to sacrifice our daily comforts, our lives, for real people suffering from real injustices that are living within the real world all around us?

Social justice wasn’t a side project for Jesus. It wasn’t a moral hobby, a ministry strategy or a means of gaining populist support. Instead, it was a central part of his message. It wasn’t a minor add on to the gospel; it was a vitally important part of the gospel

And it still is today.

Instead of being co-opted by political agendas, fame, opportunistic gains, a lust for power, a desire for revenge, or any other secular motivation — social justice should ultimately be a divinely holy endeavor.

If we as Christians claim to follow Jesus yet fail to hear the cries of the oppressed and refuse to act against systemic injustices, inequality and suffering — we’re not being Christlike at all.

Social justice is a godly practice we should strive to do on a daily basis.

So if you’re afraid of being labeled, judged, shamed, attacked or criticized for being involved in a social justice-related cause, remember that participating in the “Black lives matter” movement, fighting to end human trafficking, standing up for gender equality, protecting the environment, promoting fair trade, and protecting human rights around the world is one of the most Christian things you can do.

Stephen Mattson graduated from the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, and is currently on staff at University of Northwestern — St. Paul (Minn.). Follow him on Twitter @mikta and on his personal blog

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