The Church & Social Justice

We are called to love. I think those who have experienced love in connection with another person can attest to the difficulty of it. Love is not easy. But love is the command.

Much has happened in our world the past few weeks. I don’t think anyone can deny that fact. We are living in the midst of two pandemics: COVID-19 and racism. And they are connected, although many do not see it. These are two social justice issues that are the most apparent currently. The Sex Pastor is also addressing social justice issues, or at least that is my plan. We do not talk about sex and sexuality within the church and this repression has been the product of many years of work in regulating human bodies on what is acceptable. This, in turn, affects marginalized bodies to a greater extent as exhibited by the history of Pride.

It is my belief that the church needs to be a part of spearheading the campaign for social justice. First because I believe we helped create and perpetuate the problem. And second, because it is our call. 

So why does the church need to be involved? Many have seen this quote going around:

Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Samaritan lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Children’s lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Gentile lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Jewish lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Women’s lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Lepers’ lives matter.”

I think this is a good starting point to understand where I am coming from in regards to the church’s necessity to be a part of social justice movements. We have the voice, we have the call to love everyone (no asterisk), we have Jesus on our side for those of us in the Christian tradition. So why do we tend to shy away from these efforts?

I think we are not often willing to see our own complicity in things that harm others. If we are not directly involved, we do not feel that we have any responsibility for the damage. It is hard to confront and see that although we may not be overtly spewing hate, we still do so through our silence (among other examples). But our silence as Christians is what rings the loudest. We have the explicit directions in our Bible to lift up those who society has pushed away. Or more succinctly, to love another. 

John 13:34 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Ephesians 4:2: – “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” 

1 Peter 4:8 – “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 

These verses are just a few amongst hundreds of examples found in the Bible. One of my favorites regarding this topic is from John 4:12-13.

John 4:12-13 – “No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in union with us, and God’s love is made perfect in us. We are sure that we live in union with God and that God lives in union with us, because God has given us God’s Spirit.”

It is our union with each other, our commitment to love each other, that will allow us glimpses of the Divine. So when we are condemning others on the basis of whatever the topic is at the moment, we are not living up to the expectations of God. This means denying the humanity of someone because of their sexuality, their race, ethnicity, expression of gender, etc. equals denying the opportunity to see God. The One who created us all in their image. The One who is representative of all who are on this earth. God is a multifaceted, unknowable, and beautiful divine reflection of each person you see living beside you. 

Denying the imago Dei of another is not what we are called to do. Maybe you disagree with someone’s way of thinking/life/being. That is okay. We can disagree with each other about how we operate in the world. The fine line is condemnation. We cannot pass judgement on others. We do not have that power, God does. 

We are called to love. I think those who have experienced love in connection with another person can attest to the difficulty of it. Love is not easy. But love is the command.

So back to the church and social justice. You can disagree with the ideas I have of promoting justice and de-stigmatization regarding sex and sexuality. I do not pretend to think that all my ideas are popular and are things that all will agree on. But the church, even in disagreement, must hold up the humanity of others. Oppression is a tough word for many people, but I believe that we as Christians are called to clear the oppressive structures holding our brothers, sisters, and siblings down. 

Our action as a church historically has been to continue the status quo. We don’t often find ourselves challenging topics that we see pop up. We are seeing a clash of church cultures now in regards to the Black Lives Matter movement and racism. I believe that the churches who are not calling out racism, are continuing to move about the world without acknowledging their part in it and are calling for a ‘return to normal’, are not living up to the call of Jesus. 

Jesus, as we can see in the first quote of this article, spoke out for marginalized groups. Jesus saw where people were being oppressed and he went to speak out against it. We often think of Jesus as a beautiful person, moving through his time with ease. But Jesus was a highly controversial person. He died on a cross because of it. People disagreed and condemned him to death. But regardless, Jesus stood up for those who were pushed down. 

That is an act of love and that is our call. It is not easy, it never has been. But we often say that being a Christian isn’t. So let us as a church body begin to live up to our command. Love one another, help one another live, and speak for those who our society has silenced. 

Social justice is, has been and will always be a church issue.

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