Social Justice and/or Personal Holiness: A Quandry?

My mind has been unsettled recently about the relationship between social justice and personal holiness.  My own experience with the Church has been in settings that almost exclusively focus on issues of personal morality (e.g., fornication, lying, etc.).  I think there is good reason for this.  Take the Ten Commandments for example, they seem primarily concerned with one’s relationship to God.

On the other hand, there are well-meaning Christian and non-Christian groups that continually sound the alarm concerning the thousands of people that die every day from preventable disease around the globe, the children dying from starvation in other countries, the children kidnapped and forced to kill as soldier’s for a cause that is not there own.  I could go on and on about modern day slavery and the like.

I don’t have the answer, but I am coming to some preliminary considerations.

1.  Personal holiness and social justice are intertwined. Jesus makes it clear that love of God and love of others are two sides of the same coin.

2.  Christians need to be careful what they emphasize. On Derek Webb’s so-called controversial new album “Stockholm Syndrome” he has a lyric that reads:

If I can tell what’s in your heart / By what comes out of your mouth / Then it sure looks to me like being straight / Is all it’s about

I believe that marriage and sexuality are gospel issues.  However, I do not believe they are the only issues.

3.  The gospel is both foundational and transformational. The gospel does not speak to only personal struggles but, also, the redemption of the world.  Genuine service to the downtrodden is not less than the proclamation of the gospel, but it certainly is more.

These are some initial thoughts.  What do you think?  Any advice on how to think clearly about these issues?  Leave some comments.

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3 thoughts on “Social Justice and/or Personal Holiness: A Quandry?”

  1. I’m honestly not positive where you’re going with this, but I guess that’s why you said you have some “preliminary considerations!” Are you trying to connect lack of integrity with social injustice? Are you asking if failure to pursue/attain personal holiness (either globally or specifically related to believers) is the reason for social injustice? That line of thinking, whether that’s where you’re going or not, makes me ponder the usefulness of the bandaid efforts we make toward alleviating social injustice, which never really make a lasting, widespread effort. Now you’re just making me ask more questions.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. Initially I was wondering why some groups of Christians focus almost exclusively on personal holiness to the exclusion of social justice issues (and vice versa). As I began to write and think I felt more certain that these two issues must be related.

      However, in regard to the “bandaid efforts we make toward alleviating social injustice,” certainly we are called to demonstrate godly justice. If they are just “bandaid efforts” should we leave jettison those attempts?

  2. To tell the truth, social justice doesn’t come until Matt 23:39, but the simpler(?) answer is don’t make the solution too big. Take an “each one reach one” approach, an approach that was used with great success by the likes of Paul and Jesus. You see, I can’t cure world hunger, but I can buy a hungry kid a Happy Meal – I can’t stop war, but I can speak peace over an enemy – I can’t reach the whole world, but I can disciple one ( or a small group). I guess I believe social justice can only be realized through personal holiness and healthy personal relationships, particularly the one with Jeaus

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