Biblical Justice vs Social Justice: Is There a Difference?

The concept of justice has filled thousands of volumes over the
centuries.  It would be foolish of me to
attempt to cover this rather detailed and complex subject as it requires.   Selling a human being, abusing a child, or stealing from a little
old lady, most of us, would agree that using force or fraud to exploit others
is evil.  We carry within us an inherent
sense of right and wrong, a conviction that oppressors should be punished and
the weak protected.  We want justice.

Justice in its simplest form, means to set things right.  Yet, how do we know what is right?  Who defines “right”?  Is it society-at-large or the culture we live
in?  Is there a moral law that we
inherently know to follow?

As we look at the life of Jesus and the instructions given
throughout Scripture, it is clear that Christ followers are called to, “…learn
to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the
fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”
(Isaiah 1:17) We are called to
take action and confront evil, to care for the vulnerable and to make right
that which is wrong.  This mandate is not
new.  It is not a cultural fad or
something that is simply a tendency in today’s society.

Throughout the Old and New Testament, our call to do justice
is clear:

“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of
the afflicted and the destitute…”
(Psalm 82:3)

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord
require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with
your God?”
(Micah 6:8)

“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every
herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done,
without neglecting the others…”
(Luke 11:42)

Social justice is a common term used today.  A brief online search will discover varying
definitions about what it means.  One
definition says social justice is, “promoting a just society by challenging
injustice and valuing diversity.”
[1] On
one hand that sounds fine, but looking deeper, it is rather vague and can lead
to many different conclusions about what justice really looks like.

In contrast to social justice, which focuses on a historical
view of addressing injustices in society, biblical justice starts with
the eternal in mind.  It starts by seeing
people as God sees them, recognizing that we are all created in the image of
God.  And it is incumbent upon Christ
followers to pursue physical and spiritual freedom for the oppressed so others
can also become what God created them to be. If we have experienced freedom, how can we not
pursue freedom on behalf of others?

As the Church, we may partner with those doing the work of social
justice in our communities, but let us not be confused about our ultimate
mission.  Our mission is not about
picking up another cause because it sounds appealing and makes us look
good.  Our mission is about fully
embracing the cause of Christ.  The end
goal of biblical justice is seeing lives reconciled to God and eternally

One day there will be perfect justice, carried out by a perfectly
holy and just God. In the meantime, evil
is pervasive throughout our world.  Women
and children are sold into sex slavery.  The poor are beaten and forced to work with
little, if any, pay.  Human trafficking
or modern-day slavery continues in every country today. There are more than 35 million slaves in the
world today, more than at any other time in history.

Can we, the Church, lead the way and pursue justice on behalf of
the oppressed, the widow, the orphan, and the enslaved?  If we know the One who is completely just,
should we not lead the charge?  I say, YES!

Fueled by the compassion of Christ, we engage in issues of
injustice, protecting the vulnerable, fighting for those held in oppression,
walking alongside the wounded and pointing them to the One who heals, restores
and redeems.

Pursuing justice starts and continues with a foundation of prayer,
because we know it is His battle not our own.  It involves time and sacrifice, and stepping
out of our comfort zone and persevering with patience.  It means walking in wisdom and not jumping in
haphazardly or foolishly.  Our just God
leads and we follow as He empowers us through the Holy Spirit.

True justice is best understood in the context of the redemptive
work of Christ.  He freed us from the
bonds of sin and elevated us into the heavenly realm where our fellowship is with the Lord, and His love and grace can in turn
flow through us to others.  Therefore,
the proper manifestation of the love of Christ and his followers is to love God
first (See Matthew 22:37), and then to follow that with loving our neighbors as
ourselves. (See Matthew 22:39)

This means we are not to oppress, but to help.  We are to seek justice for all and equality of
opportunity by which those who are gifted of God in different ways, may use
their gifts in expanding the kingdom of God.  But for those who do not know Him, even then
the grace of God shines upon them. (See Matthew 5:43-48)  

As Christians we are to glorify God by providing biblical justice
to all people.  So, let’s go and let’s
engage in the fight for biblical justice!



Reproduced with permission from Russ Sharrock.

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