“Justice is any act of reconciliation that restores any part of God’s creation back to its original intent, purpose or image. When I think about justice that way, it doesn’t surprise me at all that God loves it. It includes both the acts of social justice and the restorative justice found on the cross.”
― John M. Perkins. Dream with Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win (2017).
The 20th of February was declared World Day of Social Justice in 2007 by the UN General Assembly. ‘Social Justice’ can seem like a vague, catch-all term or to some controversial and overly politicised. Ruth, our Hospitality Pledge Communications lead, shares what social justice means to her as a Christian and why it includes caring about refugees and asylum seekers.
Celebrating World Day of Social Justice is a great opportunity to remember the Biblical roots of social justice. After “love the Lord your God”, the second commandment Jesus gives is to “love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22: 37-39). Jesus’s life and teaching sets the example of showing love and compassion towards the poor, marginalised and vulnerable; Christ restores the value of those who have been excluded and face unequal treatment in society. God is sovereign over all aspects of life and this includes social dimensions. To me, caring about social justice is a fundamental outworking of my Christian faith, not an optional extra.
I find it particularly helpful to understand social justice through the lens of reconciliation. The story of the Bible is about God reconciling people to himself through Christ’s sacrifice. We live in a fallen world, around us we can see both individual cases of injustice and structures of injustice embedded in our societies, such as racial discrimination and gender inequality. But as Christians, we have hope that Christ will one day return, bringing the fullness of God’s Kingdom, and all things will be reconciled. The holistic view of reconciliation provided in the New Testament is not merely a distant hope and doesn’t require us to wait passively, but rather requires action in the present. While we await the return of Jesus, as Christians “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18) is our mandate; including working to reconcile the injustice we see around us to God’s original creation of a compassionate, equal and just world. Social justice is our mission in this period of the ‘now and the not yet’ of Christ’s Kingdom rule.
Why does social justice mean welcoming refugees?
UNHCR estimates that there are 26.6 million refugees and 4.4 million asylum seekers worldwide. There are a huge variety of reasons why people may experience injustice and inequality in their own country, causing them to leave, such as conflict, violence, persecution and famine. Jesus calls us to stand up for people in these situations through his command to welcome the stranger (Matthew 25: 31-45). However, across the world, including here in the UK, people who seek asylum and those who are refugees are frequently marginalised in society, and attitudes and responses towards them often intersect with racial discrimination, inequality and xenophobia. The biblical social justice we are called to cannot be compartmentalised; reconciliation in Christ is holistic. If we care about racial justice, gender inequality, climate justice, the list goes on, then we should also care about refugees. Promoting social justice for refugees is part of our wider mandate as Christians to love one another and work towards the reconciliation of all things to God’s original purpose.
“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10: 17-19 (NIV)
Written by – Ruth Blakey