With growing interest and rising attention to social issues worldwide, the modern church has realized the intense need to be like Jesus to their neighbors, their communities and their world. To do this, many congregations are taking up the call of “social justice,” which allows for tangible acts of love to permeate cities, to restore broken relationships, and to provide for those in need.
While the ways in which each church chooses to enact social justice differs with their congregations and communities, the core remains the same. We as followers of Christ are instructed to love the Lord our God, and we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40).
As we do this, we discover God’s heart to free slaves in both spiritual and physical realms. Our eyes are opened to see the hundreds of people who walk in and out of our lives, all in desperate need of relationship with additional people and with our Savior. To love God passionately, become as salt of the earth, and care for the least of these, we must learn to make social justice a way of life (Matthew 5:13-16, 25:40).
To pursue this lifestyle, consider these steps as starting points and be in constant prayer about how God intends you to influence your congregation and community through love in action.
Start a Scripture Study.
Gather a small group of people to meet regularly, and study themes of justice and injustice throughout the Bible. To begin, discuss the origins of injustice as a result of selfishness and track this theme throughout Scripture. But while you explore what injustice looks likes, also examine the attributes of God’s justice contrary to man’s justice.
From Isaiah to James, Habbakuk to Philippians, Esther to Matthew and more, look for the LORD’s response to injustice, His desire for true worshippers, and His commands regarding our love for others. Throughout each study session, pray as a group for God’s guidance as you each draw closer to His heart.
Stay Informed. Pray Informed.
Once you’ve awakened your heart to these themes, make a conscious decision to open your eyes to justice issues around you. To do this, you may need to change daily habits. For example, start to read current world news about persecuted Christians, take an alternate route as you drive home, or volunteer to serve a marginalized group in your community.
With open eyes and a pure heart, discover what influences your city and pray for areas of spiritual bondage in your town. Whether you come across domestic abuse, sexual temptation, homeless families, flippancy about the youth, or lukewarm churches, choose to dedicate your time, resources, and prayers to combat spiritual issues behind the physical oppressions.
Lead by Example in Word and Deed.
With Scriptural perspective, apply what you’ve learned about God’s heart to care for others. Start at home, and improve your attitude and actions toward your family. Then expand your vision.
Dedicate yourself to knowing the needs of your congregation. Ask God to show you ways to meet those needs and be willing to act, from delivering meals to donating clothes to meeting with people simply to encourage them. In all you say and do, cultivate willingness to break beyond your comfort zones to reach out to others.
While each individual who calls Christ LORD can accomplish social justice, this spiritual conviction is best completed with support. Develop that desire to express God’s love in word and deed. Then share it with those around you. Implore fellow church members to reach with you beyond church walls. Seek God’s guidance, and discover what He has placed upon your hearts.
As God leads, act upon those callings to see freedom flourish in the physical world and the spiritual realm with eternal perspective. In all this, grow together as a group that is always open to others, and encourage one another in any circumstances.
Give God Glory.
As we participate in social justice, we unite with the common goal of more intimately knowing Jesus and leading others to His saving grace. Then as we shine His light in our outlooks, words, and actions, we are molded closer to the heart of God that we may give Him glory and season this earth as salt until His kingdom comes.
~Ally Siwajian © 2012
Photograph credit: Hannah Myrick Anderson, featuring Ally Siwajian
This article has been accepted by foursquare.org for 2012 publication.