A Gospel Compulsion toward Justice

The world is experiencing an exciting global moral revolution that is aligning with the heart of Christ, and it’s time for the church to get on board.

Sit with that sentence for a while and let it simmer…

What is your initial reaction to it?

Many evangelicals might be somewhat distressed by this statement for three reasons:

  1. It is inconceivable to evangelicals that the world could be moral. This concept simply would never enter our thinking. Like a reflexive tap under the kneecap, we are programmed to look for the sin of the world instead of looking for the good
  2. Evangelicals typically focus on sexuality when referring to “morality” and the world is not yet on board with God’s vision for sexuality – but it is getting there – more on that later
  3. The evangelical church has difficulty partnering in moral initiatives lead by the “secular” world. The sacred/secular divide in the minds of evangelicals make it tough to associate with institutions outside our familiar evangelical framework and relationships

Consider these global trends and compare them with the ministry priorities of Jesus Christ:

  • The world is mobilizing against extreme poverty, rallying together to ensure everyone on earth has their basic needs met of food, clean water, basic health care, and shelter. The rate of extreme poverty has dropped by 50% since 1990. Food is more readily available now than at any time in human history
  • The world is mobilizing against disease, rallying to ensure vaccines and treatment of disease is available globally to all. Malaria, small pox, measles, AIDS, and other diseases are being treated (and even eradicated) throughout both the developed and developing world. Accessibility to basic health care has never been more prevalent
  • The world is mobilizing against violence, rallying to ensure both localized and global conflicts are resolved peacefully. We are now enjoying the lowest mortality rates at the hands of other human beings in the history of humankind. Deaths by war is the lowest in history. Gun violence is down 50% over the last 50yrs globally
  • Women’s rights are on the rise globally in every region of the world. Movements against human trafficking and abuse of women are having profound results. Freedom and opportunities for women are on a dramatic rise, including the most recent movement in the US to confront sexual harassment in all forms
  • The provision and protection of children is on the rise globally unlike any time in human history. Child abuse of all kinds, child labor, and child slavery are being called out and real change is happening. 91% of the world’s children are in now elementary school. Infant mortality dropped by 90% in last 100yrs. Child mortality has been cut in half in the last 100yrs. Even abortion rates are falling globally
  • The world is safer now than ever in human history for every segment of the population: men, women, children, rich, poor, developed, and developing countries
  • Racism and bigotry are being confronted globally in effective ways, brining increasing harmony among ethnicities
  • The world gives more and volunteers more than ever in history
  • Technology is connecting and mobilizing the world against injustice and mobilizing toward mercy and kindness to all
  • Love for one another is increasingly becoming the rally cry for much of the world

An optimistic view of current trends and a vision for a bright future is rare with 24-hour cable news, the ugliness of politics, and our tendency to emphasize the negative. To be sure, the world is far from the biblical utopia envisioned in Revelation 21. There are always problem areas and significant setbacks at times, but the world is experiencing a moral revolution of justice and mercy that is sweeping the globe and aligning with the heart of Christ.

“He has shown you what is good and what the Lord requires of you. To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

“Here is my Servant whom I have chosen, the One I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on Him, and He will proclaim justice to the nations.” Matthew 12:18

Some in the evangelical world will be understandably cynical toward the notion of a global moral revolution, pointing to pervasive sexual immorality.

It is true that the world has not yet fully embraced God’s vision of sex – a beautiful gift to be experienced by one man and one woman covenantally bound together in marriage for life. While it is true that the world has not yet embraced the full vision of biblical sexuality, we should also have the humility to recognize that (based on the best research I could find) at least 96% of evangelicals have failed to live up to this biblical standard. 96%. How many evangelicals were sexually activity before marriage? How many evangelicals look at pornography? How many evangelicals have been divorced? How many evangelicals betray their marriage vows? These are just the external issues. What about the heart? Is there any one of us free from failures of the heart? This is not to judge, but a simple call to humility when it comes to our judgment of the world’s sexual morality.

It is also helpful to keep in mind that biblical sexuality is not just about keeping religious rules or a definition of gender or marriage. Sexuality is a precious, humanizing gift that is robbed by power, violence and abuse. Through that lens, there is also a global moral revolution aligning with the heart of Christ regarding sexuality:

  • The world is mobilizing against the rape of women and children
  • The world is mobilizing against genital mutilation and arranged marriage of children
  • The world is mobilizing against sex slavery and sex trafficking
  • The world is mobilizing against sexually transmitted diseases that ravage whole regions of the world, including those transmitted to newborns
  • The world is mobilizing against the bullying of people who struggle with sexual identity
  • The world is mobilizing toward consensual sex between adults

While we might want 1 or 2 more bullet points on this list, there is much to be thankful for and the trends are good.

The world is increasingly adopting the vision Jesus Christ preached and practiced 2,000 years ago. Love expressed through justice for the oppressed and mercy to those in need is increasingly becoming the dominant culture of this world. It is interesting to note that while the evangelical Church devalued Gospel-driven justice in favor of Gospel proclamation in the late 20th Century (adopting an escapist soteriology), the world took up the cause and is filling that void.

How wonderful would it would be if the evangelical church once again took its rightful place in this world by leading in the cause of Christ, not only preaching a message of unconditional love, but putting God’s love to work as a day-to-day compulsion of the Gospel through justice and mercy.

Adding Justice to our Gospel Ministry

In 2003, we woke up to the reality that while our church excelled in evangelistic preaching and evangelistic missionary partnership, we did nothing in the justice and mercy arena. There was (as Richard Stearns puts it), “a hole in our Gospel”.

A transformation of our church began.

A local Calvary Chapel had just initiated a justice ministry combatting human trafficking, so we followed their lead. Shortly after, we formed two small teams, one called “EAC” (Encourage a Child), providing buddies for every group-home child in our region, and another called “SMURF” (Single Mothers United in Rewarding Fellowship… I hated that name), a weekly dinner and support ministry for local single mothers. These two ministries grew quickly and began a justice and mercy movement in our church that quickly grew to 22 teams in just 2 years, each started by members of the church who gathered friends together to help people in need locally and globally.

Today, in addition to dozens of teams, we started 2 international NGOs, and our rescue mission (Community Mission of Hope) holds the human service contracts for our city and has helped unify our county around a homeless action plan that is enjoying profound transformative results.

The Gospel impact by the reputation and relationships built by a movement of justice and mercy is incalculable. The message of Christ plus the justice and mercy ministry of Christ sets up a local church to make the message tangible in their community. Through these ministries, the Gospel becomes a truth that can be experienced, felt, active, participatory, and communal. It can just start with a single small group dedicated to bringing the justice and mercy of the Kingdom of Heaven to a local area of need.

Jesus began a Gospel movement that is founded on an announcement; that God is our Heavenly Father who freely and unconditionally forgives us and eternally unites us to Him by the righteous life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. Believing this is eternal life. This message of unconditional love compels us to live lives of unconditional love, not just as a message of what God did 2,000 years ago, but a lifestyle here-and-now expressed through justice and mercy.

Let the world see the love of Christ because they see it in us.

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  1. Great and thought provoking article. Loving people by rolling up our sleeves rather
    than finger pointing…is what reveals the real Jesus in us.

  2. It is worth noticing what the world has accomplished and continues trying to accomplish and that the Church in general should follow if not lead the world is those efforts.

    What is missing or could be added is the reality that 200 million Christians are persecuted and 400 million Christians have to deal with seriously difficult living conditions mainly within Muslim dominated countries! What do we hear and do about these kind of horrendous realities our brothers and sisters are facing daily during many years. The same countries that contribute so much to all those rewarding activities, among them Western Europe, could well be overruled by the Muslim world, while the Church does not seem be interested in it all.

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