If a tree falls in a forest does it make a sound?
If a church isn’t present, does justice happen?
There’s this notion that social justice is good, but real justice only happens when Jesus is preached. Or to put it in the words of John Piper, and I paraphrase, if the living water isn’t preached, then what’s the point of offering clean water to those dying of thirst? A new generation of Christians, dare I say, are rejecting this form of narrow conservative theology, but it does lend to a related thought.
Christians can act as if we own justice. Yes, the heart of the church IS one of justice, but the church doesn’t own exclusive rights to justice, if we did our world would be in deep trouble. Justice doesn’t suddenly prevail when the church arrives on the scene.
I recall one instance at the table with various evangelical churches looking to do more in the area of sexual exploitation. Their first order of business was an exercise in their OWN repentance and how they’ve moved within their own function and have largely forgotten about the neighborhood/city around them. That’s a good start, but unfortunately the conversation quickly changed pace to underestimating the value of non-church organizations already working in the target area, and overvaluing the church’s eventual role. (This has a lot to do with a Western saviour complex, but that’s a post for another time.)
This phenomenon is curiously backwards from 100 years ago when it was the church, not NGOs or government, doing most aspects of care and justice. Everything ranging from social programming, welfare, hospitals, etc., were launched by the church. Christendom, however, couldn’t deal with the rise of secularism and contemporary churches began to fold within themselves to the point ‘social gospel’ became secondary or even tertiary activities (sometimes even negative activities). Nowadays, the church by and large is still far more active than the majority of organizations (less perhaps government), but it’s a far cry from the purpose a body of believers are supposed to be fundamentally embodying–care and radical love for the other.
Easter is a reminder that we have Kingdom now, Jesus lives now and the new promise is that we get heaven now. Thankfully, that Kingdom also prevails with or without a participating church; Kingdom now where Jesus is but where I’m not. It leaves us with a simple piece really–make our part of the world better. That means not discrediting existing work, and perhaps joining existing organizations in their work, even if they aren’t church sponsored.
Ultimately we’re left with one simple question: what’s your part in righting wrongs to the world in your world?