3: Be Agents of Change

Image forth Shalom.

God is at work in the world reclaiming his beloved creation (Colossians 1:15-20):

Through Christ we are called to participate in the “in-breaking” of His amazing Kingdom here and now. We must first be reconciled to God and the way we engage others also must be transformed.  Accordingly, we are to be active partners with God in reconciling mankind to Him and mankind to one another (Matthew 22: 36-40, Matthew 25:31-46).

The local Church is God’s agent for change:

The localized community of Christians is God’s agent for change: not the government, not non-profits, but the local Church committed to specific people in a specific place and time.

God intends to image forth the righteousness and justice of His Kingdom through His beloved community: the reconciled and transformed Body of Christ.  We are to be the realization of divine love in lived social relation (John 13:34-35).

What matters most is that we are willing to open our doors and invite in the hurting and the broken to journey with a community that believes God is at work setting things to rights and reclaiming his beloved creation.  Francis Schaeffer lends his wisdom:

“It is not enough for the Church to be engaged with the State in healing social ills, though this is important at times. But when the world can turn around and see a group of God’s people exhibiting substantial healing in the area of human relationships in their present life, then the world will take notice. Each group of Christians is, as it were, a pilot plant, showing that something can be done in the present situation, if only we begin in the right way.”

A community of Godly character:

The heart of Christian social justice is in the way that a personal faith in Christ can transform people into a new body of believers where there is no social, economic, racial, or gender division (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:10-11).

This is not meant to be in a “metaphorical” sense or “in spirit.”  When the unsaved, in a world full of poverty, division, and oppression, after hearing the gospel ask where they can see that happening we should be able to show them such a place without hesitation.

The Church is to actively and creatively represent a new reality in a broken world.  A place where materialism does not reign; a place that bears witness to the Prince of Peace in a violent and suffering world; a place where Christ is all and is in all (Act 2: 44-47). Dan Allender explains it well:

“God wants us to relieve suffering, pursue justice, facilitate reconciliation, and free the heart to love, but He desires for us to do so in a way that reveals His Character. It is not enough just to do well for others or to do things well. We must do well in our unique way in order to reveal the vast creativity of a God who loves to bring change through the most unlikely channels.”

At its very core a Christian response to God’s call for love and justice is not about “fixing” a faulty political system, giving money, or about raising cultural morals.  It is about bridging the gap sin has created in human relationships. These fractures in our relationship to one another saturate the fallen human condition and it is within that breach that we as Christians are to stand.

Shalom: nothing missing, nothing broken:

Doing justice is about repairing the fabric of society where it is torn apart – restoring the Shalom of God.  We are not merely called to “social justice” but to radical self-sacrifice for the sake of the world.

Yes, Christians should be involved in social justice.  Yet, “social justice” is simply not a big enough term for our God and is not an apt description of what we are called to as Christ-followers.  The” big three” social justice issues of race, poverty, and gender are absolutely central to what the Bible reveals about God’s heart for justice.  As well as “the least of these”: the orphan and the widow, the hungry and the thirsty, the poor and the oppressed, the weak and the needy.

However, within the beloved community the stakes are much higher. Christ raised every standard to a supernatural level for His followers.  Where the law instructs to love your neighbor as your self, Christ commands us to love as he loved us, to be perfect as God is perfect (John 13:34-35, Matthew 5:48).

Justice comes about when the Church is willing to stand in the breach that sin has caused in human relationships, and by the power of the Spirit, becomes for the world what Jesus was for the world –  announcing the Kingdom, healing the wounds of the world, and challenging the power structures that perpetuate anger, pain, and oppression.

The ideas of justice and shalom are closely linked. Shalom is translated peace, but our translation of peace is too weak. Physical shalom is good health. Social shalom is an interwoveness among various social segments of society for the common good. Nicolas Wolterstorff’s definition is beautifully stated:

“…Shalom is the human being dwelling at peace in all his or her relationships: with God, with self, with fellows, with nature. . . But the peace which is shalom is not merely the absence of hostility, not merely being in the right relationship. Shalom at its highest is enjoyment in one’s relationships. A nation may be at peace with all its neighbors and yet be miserable in its poverty. To dwell in shalom is to enjoy living before God, to enjoy living in one’s physical surroundings, to enjoy living with one’s fellows, to enjoy life with oneself…

…We must add the ideas of justice, harmony, and enjoyment to capture the full biblical meaning of the word. Shalom means just relationship (living justly and experiencing justice), harmonious relationships and enjoyable relationships. Shalom means belonging to an authentic and nurturing community in which one can be one’s true self and give one’s self away without becoming poor. Justice, harmony, and the enjoyment of God, self, others, and nature; this is the shalom that Jesus brings, the peace that passes all understanding… “(Philippians 4:7).

Your personal piety is not the Good News. A building full of really nice and moral people is not the Good News.

Focus on the Biblical text:

Galatians 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:10-11: …and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Act 2: 44-47: All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

He has shown you what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. ~Micah 6:8