What do you need to be motivated to live a life of justice? Last week, we discovered that the character of God was a major example for the Christian to follow. However, a mere knowledge of God's character is not enough to transform us completely. For example, there are many of us that have grown up in theological traditions that emphasize theology and knowing God, yet they put little to no emphasis on caring for the "least of these." Somewhere between our belief in God and our practice, there is a disconnect. This problem occurs for a variety of reasons which vary from biblical ignorance to the fear of the "Social Gospel." For many of us, our "duties" as Christians go no farther than our church attendance and our evangelistic efforts. This is the status quo for many within the Christian community.
Tim Keller, the author of Generous Justice reminds us that this is not enough. “If a person has grasped the meaning of God's grace in his heart, he will do justice. If he doesn't live justly, then he may say with his lips that he is grateful for God's grace, but in his heart he is far from him. If he doesn't care about the poor, it reveals that at best he doesn't understand the grace he has experienced, and at worst he has not really encountered the saving mercy of God. Grace should make you just.” In essence, if we are not actively caring for the needy in our communities, we have a problem.
In January 2012 while at the Passion Conference in Atlanta, Ga, I was convicted by the fact that though I cared a lot about having my "theology right," I didn't care very much about those that are being currently being exploited around the world. For me, human trafficking was a "third world" problem and it did not affect me. God showed me, however, that it was relevant because though it may have not pierced my heart, God's heart was broken over the suffering of these people. I realized at that point that I needed to change. But I had absolutely NO idea of what a life of justice would look like.
As I stated in an earlier entry, "when we stand on the Gospel, we will stand against injustice." That means simply that the first step in biblical discipleship should not be to rush to do anything, but to rest in what has been done on your behalf. The Bible explains that we are absolutely powerless to save ourselves because in our natural state, we are spiritually dead. We have absolutely nothing to offer God to save us. Honestly, God would be entirely just to leave us in our sin and disobedience to naturally suffer the consequences that we deserve. But he does the complete opposite. He came and lived a perfect life in our place. He lived vicariously for you and me, obeying God the Father in everything. Unlike us, he never disobeyed God. Yet, he suffered as the most evil criminal in the history of mankind. Christ took our sins as his own and suffered God's wrath on sin in our place. In other words, it was as if He experienced Hell on the cross for us. Romans 5:8 explains that "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Understanding the Gospel not only saves, restores, and changes us, it also motivates us to action. As we ponder his grace, we will naturally begin to love and care for others. Christians must realize that we were once enslaved to our sin, but Christ set us free. Basking in this undeserved freedom is what drives us to action. In other words, recognizing that we have been freed from our spiritual shackles gives us the desire to see others freed from physical slavery. My friend Jonathan Walton, the director of Intervarsity's NYC Urban Project echoes this truth when he explains "to free people from physical and spiritual chains, we must be set free from our own physical and spiritual slavery. We cannot testify to a freedom that we don't know for ourselves."
Why would William Wilberforce risk his own livelihood to see that the English slave trade come to an end? Why would young professionals leave a promising career to work for struggling non profit organizations that are caring for victims of trafficking? They experienced the grace of God found in the Gospel and were changed forever. Realizing that the Gospel had set them free for eternity, their only response could be to seek that same freedom for others. Ultimately for Christians, the crux (latin for "cross") of abolition must be the Gospel.