Everything. For too long we have created a false dichotomy in the Christian world between pursuing the gospel and pursuing justice. They are interconnected.
In its narrowest sense, the gospel is the gift of eternal life found in Christ through the atonement of his death and resurrection. But Jesus expanded an understanding of the gospel when he walked into the synagogue in Nazareth and read from Isaiah 61.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news (the gospel) to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19.
Jesus told those gathered, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:21. Jesus was proclaiming the year of jubilee. That was a year of freedom when debts were cancelled, land was restored, slaves were set free, and all was set right. Jesus came to usher in this jubilee of freedom and justice for all. That begins with righting the wrong of sin through salvation, but it extends to righting other wrongs through justice.
Some Christians miss the connection between justice and the gospel because we have a narrow view of both. Justice is viewed as retribution of wrong. In a Biblical sense this is most often viewed as the ultimate judgment of God who in the end will distribute perfect justice. This is true but too narrow a view of justice. Justice is a restorative command to be enacted now. Micah 6:8.
We are to actively seek justice and correct oppression. Isaiah 1:17. The most common word for justice in Hebrew shares the same root as the word for righteousness. The twin pillars of God’s kingdom (Justice & Righteousness) spring from a single source. Both flow from the character of God who is about restoring what is broken and righting what is wrong. He first restores us in relationship with him by imputing His righteousness so that we can be used by him to spread his justice.
When we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God the world sees our good deeds and glorifies our Father in heaven. As my friend Tony Evans writes in his newest book, Kingdom Politics,
“When the church fails to speak out on comprehensive justice, society suffers… God cares for the oppressed and the vulnerable… We must not support that which seeks to exploit the vulnerable and needy.” Pg. 64-65.
We should make the most of the opportunity to love neighbors caught in practical justice issues. If we want our churches to grow, then our love for neighbor through practical justice must grow. People will not care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Gospel Justice Centers
Every Saturday someone across the country steps foot inside a church who would never enter the doors on a Sunday. They have specific legal needs that have brought them to the Gospel Justice Center. Like all of us, they also have spiritual needs. Often, they struggle with fear and loneliness. They feel isolated in their legal problem and fear being judged. What an opportunity to wrap this neighbor in love, and provide both practical legal help, and gospel hope.
Your neighbors need you. Legal help is hard to find. A recent article highlights the growing problem of legal deserts and a lack of access to justice. But what if every church opened its doors one Saturday a month to invite neighbors to find help and hope. Even if a lawyer needs to be brought in virtually, a loving care team can wrap their arms around a neighbor in need.
When Iris entered the doors of the church, she did not wonder whether justice was a distraction from the gospel. She wondered if there was hope for her. Could God love her broken as she was? We created a tract specifically to address this question called Good News About Justice. As Iris read the tract she began to cry. She asked the attorney questions, and they walked through God’s plan of salvation together. She prayed to receive Christ. You can see her story on our YouTube channel here.
Iris is not alone. The book Gospel Justice recounts numerous stories of individuals caught in confusing legal circumstances who found hope at a Gospel Justice Center. Whether coming to faith in Christ or having faith restored, they rediscover hope, purpose, and a path out of confusion and fear.
As one pastor recently wrote,
“I was not expecting Administer Justice to be such a focal point for enthusiastic service for the Lord’s work in our church. Our workers are attracting new workers even outside our church to be translators. There is a buzz in our building on the Saturdays that Administer Justice serving our community. After our first day, at the very next worship service, one of our clients showed up to worship with us.”
That is the intersection of the gospel and justice that transforms individuals, churches, and communities as we reflect the heart of our Savior to a world in need. If you’d like to learn more visit AdministerJustice.org.
I am recommending NT Wright’s “The Day the Revolution Began as a great discussion starter for broadening (recovering) the Church’s understanding of the Cross / Gospel. I enjoyed the article and applaud your ministry!
Thanks, Dave! Always love hearing what people recommend on this subject!