The Social Justice Department is regularly asked the question – “what exactly is social justice?” This is a difficult question to answer, as the term “social justice” evokes a variety of responses which differ from person to person.
We believe that it is impossible and somewhat unwise to pin down a single definition, as to do so would inevitably exclude many of its elements. However, it is our belief that working for Social Justice is working to see the Kingdom of God on earth. When we pray The Lord’s Prayer, we ask “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven”. We are calling for God’s Kingdom on earth to look like God’s Kingdom in Heaven. God’s Kingdom is God’s ideal plan for the world. Therefore, those elements on earth which would not be present in his ideal plan – those social ills and problems which make us uncomfortable when viewed in the light of holiness – are not part of a world based on God’s justice. While this is not a clear-cut definition, it is a concept through which we view the world, and one which encourages us to continue seeking God’s face.
Social Justice is an extension of our holiness – not an added-on, optional extra. An exploration of Jesus’ life shows that He was a person who lived a life that brought Justice – God’s kind of justice. Our desire to live lives modeled on His (that is, a desire to be holy) includes a desire to live a life that brings God’s justice.
Social Justice is not simply a list of issues – it is a lifestyle made up of a series of choices, every day, to live a life which treats others as Jesus would. Social Justice is not something we ‘do’ – it is the aim. We want to see God’s Kingdom on earth – we want to see Social Justice – so we live lifestyles that will see that world exist in the present. Our aim is not to do Social Justice; our aim is to live lives that bring Social Justice
One helpful way to explore the concept of justice and how it can be lived out in today’s context, is by using the four principles of justice (as developed in The International Social Justice Commission’s Resource, Jesus and Justice, available for download on the ISJC’s website). These four principles can be seen through the way Jesus lived, and are:
- Including the excluded
- Challenging cultural practices
- Confronting the powerful
- Advocating for the oppressed.
These principles can be used to examine situations in which we find ourselves in today’s context, and allow us to get a better idea of how justice looks today.