The problem I have with current social Justice in Church is that I think we are promising people something we can't deliver - Justice. and I don't think people are asking for Justice, They are asking for Mercy
The difference between Biblical Justice and Social Justice
Biblical justice involves two fundamental issues. The first involves the protection of the innocent and the prosecution of the guilty. The second involves justice for the poor and the powerless. In this second case, justice means that the disenfranchised are lifted. It means their poverty is not permanent. It cannot be justice if the poor are forever poor. All Christians (if they are devout and biblical) have these two issues in mind when we speak about justice.
As much as we should fight for the oppressed, there are people, cultural and groups we are promising justice for, that we can't guarantee.
t me throw verbally throw up my upbringing. I grew up poor, in one of the most expensive cities to live in Vancouver. Living in Vancouver you might know about Willingdon, (that church at the time) was BC’s biggest church at over 4,000 people. The thing that impressed me about Willingdon
What I found really cool about it, is that most of the people that went there were Asian, not white. (weird for an MB Church) What I also found interesting is most people that were attending were immigrants and most of them were first-time Christians. They came to faith through Jesus through the ministry at Willington. They had a thriving international ministry. 30 pastors. One for each cultural group. It was the only ministry of it’s kind in Canada
During my time there I spent my Saturdays with a guy from our church handing out Bananas and water in the East Side. He would tie Bible verses to the Bananas and hand them out. Bananas because people's teeth were so bad, water because there was no clean drinking water
I asked him why water, don’t they get that all the time? He told me no, When church groups hand out food, they usually hand out drinks that dehydrate you. He then gave me some stat about how much charity money gets spend on the Eastside for all kinds of causes. There were nonprofits in Vancouver where you could get free legal help but he told me there were only two places where the homeless could get free drinking water. He told me that when you see some in east strung out in the middle of the street – most people think they are high – but the reality is some of them you are watching dying of thirst….
That was in 2009. I don’t know if that has changed since but when I heard that it made me so angry that I lived in a city that was so rich that spend so much money helping the poor and yet we failed to provide something so crucial and simple, water. You can get free legal help in the East Side, but you can’t get water
This filtered into how I felt Christians approach the gospel o here you have a church ( a flawed church) but a church that ticks off all the woke boxes,
Helps the Poor
Advocates for Immigrants
But all they did was put the focus on the gospel, the traditional evangelical way.
When I was in Winnipeg, things got weird for me. I was a youth pastor – but I was asked to so much more than that. I felt like a pastor in four different kinds of cultures. The church I worked at was aging out really fast so it’s the solution was to build two worship centers and hold two services at the same time a modern one and a traditional one of which I had to help run (at the same time) At the same time, I was asked to run the ministry/church plant in point Douglas. I spent half my week in Point Douglas, the other half, in the richest, whitest subdivision of Winnipeg. And I struggled. I had to wear all these different hats at the same time, sometimes even in the same day.
- I ran Youth Sunday school
- MC the traditional service
- Ran over to the modern service to do the same thing
- And ran the Point Douglas service
That’s four times to four different kinds of people that I was teaching. That's not including mid-week youth group.
To cut back on the workload, I used the same lesson in every Setting, but I found that never really worked. I would have to change the way I articulated based upon who was talking to. If I was in the traditional service, I would have to use technical, academic words, in the modern service plain English, and when I spoke to youth I’d have to change to illustrations and the same would happen when I spoke to people in Point Douglas,
Nowhere did I feel the tension the greatest than the tension between serving in the poorest area and the richest area at the same time
That all changed after two encounters I had in point Douglas
I came to the conclusion that key to rich and poor is the same problem just from a different side.
The problem with ministering to rich people is getting them admit they are sicker than they like to admit. They know there are sick but emotionally don’t believe it because their lives aren’t falling apart
When I realized that I realized that ministry in a poor area like Point Douglas was the same problem just from the other side. The issue here isn’t that if you to convince them that life is full of evil and sin. The issue there is convincing them that Life can get better through Jesus
One day I had a man in our point Douglas church walk in the church, - high on something. He asked to see me. He broke down, “Dan I don’t want to live like this anymore! I don’t want the drugs!!”
“Bruce, what would like more than Drugs”
“Dan I want a home! Nothing Fancy, just a nice quiet place where I can read my books!”
“Bruce How much money did you spend on drugs last week?”
“ I spent $1000 on drugs last week”
“Bruce, $1000 gets a nice apartment in a wealthy part of Winnipeg for one Month. You can have you dream, what’s stopping you”
“ I don’t deserve it I am a bad man, I deserve this life”
There it was – the lie that things shouldn’t won’t get better, even though he had the means to make it happen
Later on that same week I met with a man whose desire was to fall in love and be married. I asked him, if that’s your dream why do spent all this money on prositutues?”
“because its’ never going to happen”
There it was again. I couldn’t grantee he would find his special someone but it was totally within his power to take steps in his life to get what he dreamed of instead he took steps in his life to do the opposite, all because he didn’t think things would get better
And then I was reminded again of the Jesus People, the incident with the water, and the youth pastors who forgot to mention Jesus, - something so simple it I gets overlooked, but so crucial that without it nothing else we do matters
- A belief that Jesus can make it Better
It wasn’t Justice or Power these men needed. They had that. They had the money, the means and relational intelligence to make their dreams come true- that had every social service in Point Douglas behind them and it still wasn’t enough what was missing was the belief that Jesus could infact make things better. They didn’t need justice. They needed to realize that Justice was all ready paid through Jesus at least the one guy kept doing what he did because he felt it was his way paying for all the crap in his life. He didn’t need justice or power, He needed to forgive himself – because Jesus all ready acted justly for him. Thats what was keeping going to drugs. That why the councillingo or the drug rehab never stuck – that issue was never dealt with.
When I think about Social Justice Theology I think it’s good intentioned, But I think it’s answer questions the oppressed aren’t asking. In liberation theology the problem is power and evil are the power so the solution is to overthrow the powerful and give – but that’s not what these guys needed. They had the power al What is really missing, is the core of the gospel... Mercy, grace and forgiveness ( at least that's my take)