Social Justice Is Not the Social Gospel

Mark Earley | Prison Fellowship Ministries | Friday, March 05, 2010

Social Justice Is Not the Social Gospel


March 5, 2010

When you hear the term "social justice," what comes to mind? Perhaps for you these words are intertwined with the social gospel movement that emphasized good deeds without the power of the Gospel. Well, if that's the case, it's time to revisit social justice, and I'm thrilled to tell you about a new resource, which is going to be a tremendous help for you and your church.

The Heritage Foundation and the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society have worked to create a six-part video small-group study called Seek Social Justice. The study features an all-star cast: Marvin Olasky of World Magazine, Al Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Sean Litton of the International Justice Mission, and BreakPoint's own Chuck Colson, to name only a few. Still better, the videos and the curriculum are available completely free online.

In this series, you'll hear that social justice is no small concept. It's about "shalom"—man at peace with God, his fellow human beings, and creation. Or as Marvin Olasky puts it: "It's about human flourishing. The sum total of millions of acts of relational justice."

The curriculum emphasizes that poverty isn't simply limited to physical poverty, but also encompasses spiritual poverty. Broken relationships, both with God and with family, are often at the heart of the matter. But how can broken relationships be restored? And better yet, how can we prevent brokenness in the first place?

The second lesson in this six-part series shows an inspiring example of how one Christian couple reaching out to another struggling family transformed everyone involved. It also underscores the surprising role that a healthy marriage and personal friendship can play in seeking social justice.

In the third lesson, we see how the local church can be involved in the work of social justice. It offers a dynamic example of how one Baptist church in Leesburg, Florida, is transforming their community through the holistic evangelistic outreach of their social justice ministry.

In lesson four, the curriculum explores something we know all too well here at Prison Fellowship: how important a job is to providing dignity and a future for the least of these. For prisoners, it can be the difference between a successful transition to the outside and the revolving door. And in this part of the curriculum, we see that a key dimension of human well-being is the freedom and ability to work, to earn, and to give.

Finally, a lot of confusion about social justice stems from misunderstanding roles and responsibilities. Who is responsible for bringing social justice? The government? The church? The individual? Lesson five shows that government plays an important role in a just society, but it doesn't bear the only—or even primary—responsibility for justice.

Through the story of a victim of human trafficking, you'll be able to see what government does well and what it should leave to the other spheres of society.

I want to encourage you to visit us at BreakPoint.org to find out how you can use this wonderful curriculum. As one commentator in the video says, social justice is "the activity of Christians who are yanking foretastes of the kingdom of heaven into reality."

That's something we should all want to be a part of.


Note: This BreakPoint commentary delivered by PFM President Mark Earley.

Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.  

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