Doing Justice, Loving Kindness, and Walking Humbly with Your God
Is social justice the mission of the church? Pastor Oliver clarifies what social justice is and what it is not.
"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 (ESV)
Micah 6:8 stands as the motto of the alcove of religion in the reading room of the Congressional Library in Washington, DC. This Bible verse was cited frequently in the literature of the American founding era. It has been called "the finest summary of the content of practical religion to be found in the OT." (JMP Smith, cited by Kenneth L Barker, 1999). This verse has also been used by many to advocate for social justice.
In its context, the book of Micah contains both words of warning and messages of hope. Micah spoke to the nation of Judah, during the reign of King Jotham, King Ahaz and King Hezekiah. It was a time of prosperity. Amid affluence, Micah denounced the transgression of God's people – in particular, the oppression of the poor by the wealthy. In Chapter 6, it opens to a picture of a courtroom, where God indicts His people Israel for their sins. God reminds Israel that He has redeemed them from slavery and have brought them up from Egypt (v4). God urges his people to remember His saving acts (v5). Then God tells His people what He requires in verses 6-8. It is not about religious sacrifices. Instead, God's people, redeemed and saved by God, in response are to "do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God" (v8). They are to live out the implications of God's rescue in their everyday relationships.
Firstly, God's people are to do justice, that is, when they are able, step in and rescue the weaker and wronged party by punishing the oppressor. They are to act fairly and equitably. Israel's leaders had done just the opposite (Mic 2:1-2; 3:1-3, 5-7, 9-11). Secondly, they are “to love kindness”. When they help others who are poor and disadvantaged, they should do so with a spirit of generosity and grace. Thirdly, God's people are “to walk humbly” or “to walk circumspectly”. This command orients God's people towards God, and it means bringing their lives into conformity with God's will. In summary, the people of God are to do good in their everyday relationships in response to God's saving love for them.
There has been much debate and discussion about biblical justice and its subset and essential component of social justice in recent years. What is social justice? It is "treating people equitably, working for systems and structures that are fair, and looking out for the weak and the vulnerable." For clarity sake, it is crucial to know what social justice is and what it is not.
What it is not. Doing good works for the cause of social justice is not the gospel. The gospel is good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins, and He was raised to life for our life (1 Cor 15:3-4). Doing social justice is not the mission of the church. Making disciples is (Matt 28:16-20; Mk 13:10, 14:9; Acts 1:8; 2 Tim 2:1-2, 4:2). We as a church is to be about the task of making disciples by telling others of the gospel and growing these disciples to Christlike maturity, rooting them in the gospel.
What it is. Doing social justice is an entailment of the gospel. It is an application of the gospel by Christ's disciples whose lives have been changed by the gospel. When the gospel transforms us, our relationships with others ought to be transformed as well. Doing social justice also gives witness to the just and compassionate character of God. It tells others about God's compassion and mercy for people. It may even give us opportunities to seed the gospel as we interact with others.
Practically, what does doing justice look like? We have some friends this Sunday (20 Oct) from the International Justice Mission (IJM). IJM works to end slave trade and to rescue people from slavery and other forms of violence. Closer to home, we have the ministry of Tamar Village who seeks to bring hope, help and healing to red-light districts as they walk a journey of restoration with individuals and families. Some Singapore churches in the western part of the island are involved in reaching out to and caring for the migrant workers in Singapore who are often working under difficult situations and often without a voice. In our church, we have started partnering with LoveAid this year. We hope to reach out to the elderly poor in our MacPherson neighbourhood. Many of these elderly are socially isolated, vulnerable and in need of friendships. We want to care for them. These are just some ways we can be involved and to do justice.
Finally, in his comments on Micah 6:8, Walter Kaiser aptly sums it up, "Thus, this saying is not an invitation, in lieu of the gospel, to save oneself by kindly acts of equity and fairness. Nor is it an attack on the forms of sacrifices and cultic acts mentioned in the tabernacle and temple instructions. It was instead a call for the natural consequence of truly forgiven men and women to demonstrate the reality of their faith by living it out in the marketplace. Such living would be accompanied with acts and deeds of mercy, justice, and giving of oneself for the orphan, the widow and the poor."
Other Resources on the topic of Social Justice:
Coming up this week:
- Seekers' Class will continue this Sunday (20 Oct 2019) at 11 am, Room 512-515. If you are interested in exploring what Christianity is about, do come and join us. If you have a friend who likes to find out more about Christianity and who Jesus is, do invite them for this!
- We want to encourage all members of Grace Baptist Church to update their photographs and personal information for our Members' Directory. Please submit your details by email to Kok Pui <firstname.lastname@example.org>.