As Christians continue to push their way to the front lines of social justice issues, it's important to feel the tension that this creates within us as a people of great faith. On one hand, we believe in all of the things that social justice movements are fighting for. On the other hand, Jesus has not called us to fight in such a way.
And I think there's a pretty good reason why.
It only seems natural - and good - to most of us that we should be out there fighting for these things, fighting for all persons to be treated equally, fighting for the dignity of the poor, the oppressed, the imprisoned, the sick, the lame, the homosexual, the widowed, the young, the old, etc. If Jesus Himself saw the honor bestowed upon them and responded to it, should we not do the same?
At the same time, there is a very real danger that the harder we fight for these things, the more likely we are to succeed.
That doesn't seem like a problem on the surface. It's almost laughable, this idea that it would be troubling to live in a world where everyone is treated the way that Jesus would want them to be treated, where everyone is honored for what is God-imaged in them, even if we don't use precisely that language to describe it. But as I said yesterday - what if we could give this to our world? What if we succeeded here?
We would give them everything Jesus would give them, but we would not give them Christ. And they'd no longer have any need of Him.
What good is a Savior in a world that's not dangerous for you? What good is life when there is no death? What good is light when there is no darkness? If we legislate the world to give them justice and mercy and grace, what on earth would they possibly need Jesus for?
Therein lies the problem. See, it doesn't take long for the world to forget the why, particularly when they've become so attached - perhaps even entitled - to the what. If we create a world based on the heart of Jesus, then the unbelieving world simply accepts that this is the way that the world is. The world owes them everything they're getting. It's just the way that humans live. It doesn't take long for Christ as the motivator for our movement to fade away completely, leaving us with just what we've given each other.
I think that's why Jesus is so careful to tell His disciples what they can, and should, do in this world - heal the sick, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the imprisoned, watch over orphans and widows, and above all, love everyone with the holy love of Christ. He never says to go out and re-order the world. He never says to go out and legislate His love. He never says to eliminate poverty. He always says we will always have the poor among us.
And why? Because He knows that without these things, men will forget their need of God. It won't take long before He is a footnote in human progress, a distant memory of a time gone by, a useful, but now unnecessary, force in the world. Poor men need their poverty to bring them to Jesus, and rich men need the poor to humble them in His presence. The sick need their illness to give them the courage to cry out on the side of the road, and the healthy need sickness to know the healing power of Christ. The foolish need wisdom to convict them; the wise need wisdom to keep them going. Everything that Christ offers is for both the broken and the whole. It is precisely because this world is not what God intended it to be that we are all so keenly aware of our need for Him.
That's the hidden danger here in all our fighting, in all our advocating, in all our longing to see the world live in a way that reflects the heart of Jesus for one and all. It just doesn't take much for men to forget there is a Christ - or how desperately they need Him.