Monday, July 25, 2011

What is "social justice"? Some thoughts from my friends

Someone asked me recently for a definition of "social justice". I actually found it hard to answer her question, and so I asked some friends to help me. Here are suggestions from them. I think they are insightful.

"One of the first things that comes to my mind is that it isn't about issues, but about the breaking through of God's justice into a social/communal/corporate setting, as opposed to remaining an element of personal salvation."

"Social Justice is about seeking God's perspective on social issues and working for change so that our world (and the issues we face) look more and more like God's will."

"I would say that social justice is the setting right of all relationships in the world."

"Social justice is an expression of God's love, about the last being first and the first being last. It is about the breaking in of God's kingdom on earth."

"I also see social justice inseparably linked to hope. While it is the breaking in of God's kingdom on earth, it also anticipates the future new creation, when there will be no more tears and no more pain and the old order of things has passed away. Social justice is God's order of things, it is the restoration of creation, it is transformation, and therefore it is inherently part of salvation."

"I would prefer to talk about transformation, which includes things like social justice, personal transformation of the human heart (from selfishness to self-giving, from harbouring personal resentments to having an attitude of forgiveness etc) and care for the earth."

As for me, I think one reason why it's hard to define "social justice" is that the Bible does not have the word “social justice”. Instead, the New Testament uses the word dikaiosunÄ“, which refers to a range of notions including righteousness and justice. It seems to me that justice, according to the biblical worldview, does not separate social justice and the justice of God. The Bible speaks of a God who is righteous, justice, loving and always faithful to his covenant with his people. And this God wants his people to do what is right, just and loving; and they are to do so not only as individuals but also communally in their inter-personal relationships. Indeed, God wants us to act justice, show mercy and walk humbly with him in all spheres of life.

Ultimately, if we understand that our Christian life is about following Christ and his self-giving way of life, then walking humbly with God is about living out a cross-shaped life as disciples of Jesus.

If we understand justice from a biblical perspective, then what we call “social justice” is in fact an integral part of discipleship. It is about how we may be faithful people of God.

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