There is a sentiment that I have been seeing circulate around the inter-webs that I want to respond to. It is not a new sentiment, in fact one that has been present for…well, the idea is so old I cannot quite trace its origins. The age of the idea, however, does not take away from the false sense of spirituality that it purports and proves just how easily the people of God can be deceived if we are not careful.
And the sentiment is this: Social justice is good. But it is a distraction when it comes to the real things of the Spirit. And the real things are devotion to Jesus, faith and prayer, tithing and purity. Oh, so much purity. Since these are the things of the Spirit, none of the other things matter in the grand scheme of things i.e. eternity. So engage in the social justice efforts if you must but don’t let them distract you from the main goal: eternity spent in Christ with heaven.
I understand this line of thinking because it so much reflects the faith community that I was a part of until very recently. Like 4 years recently. Still, I would say that over the last 10, I experienced a major shift in my theology that gave me the opportunity to see that the sentiment that forced believers to make a choice between a life of faith and a life of justice was wrong. And this is why:
We cannot abandon the fight for justice for weightier matters of the spirit because justice is the weightier matter of the spirit. Western thought with its dualistic approach to life – spirit is good, matter is bad – leads us to believe that social justice and ensuring that all people’s human rights are protected is a nice gesture but not essential, and perhaps a distraction when it comes to the things of God.
But these are the things of God. God cares about our Spirit and where our spirit dwells in eternity and God cares about our bodies and how these bodies fare on earth. God cares about our entire being and because God cares ,we ought to care, not just in terms of our own individual well being but the wellbeing of communities in the world around us.
Which means we need to care about DACA and the Travel Ban. And police brutality. And #45s attempts to ban transgender people from the military as well as his twitter rants calling people who refuse to bow to the national anthem SOBs. And healthcare. And Puerto Rico. And climate change. And gentrification. And Flint. And DAPL. And mental illness. And mass shootings. And every other thing that compromises people’s ability to simply breathe and do life well.
These are the things of the Spirit. These are the things of God. Let’s not be confused by Western platonic thought that forces us to make a false choice between our spirits and our bodies or the spiritual world and the natural world. Instead, let’s choose both and be fully integrated people of faith who understand that prayer is not just something we do with our hands but with our feet, and faith is not just a matter of right belief but right action that flows from our belief.
Furthermore, let us understand why the choice is presented to us in the first place. If we, people who are filled with the Spirit of God – the same Spirit that was present as God created the heavens and the earth and the same Spirit who raised Jesus Christ from the dead – are lead astray from raising our voices to demand change, the systems that have inflicted such massive harm on communities on account of their race, culture, sexual orientation, immigration status, religion, ability, and gender, have an easier time accomplishing their purpose to control and destroy the world. Imagine, if we who are called by His name, lift our prophetic voice and join with the multitude of others who, through their own convictions, also fight for justice. The world would flip upside and we would surely see the fullness of the kin-dom of God unfold among us!
This is why we cannot afford to even entertain the thought that justice and faith do not go hand in hand. They are one in the same! We do a grave disservice to the community of faith and the world around us the more we try to separate the two.
Inspired by Matthew 23.23, 24 and James 2.14-26