Social Justice & the Gospel, Part II

Where Should We Focus?

What is the Focus of the Gospel?

In the first installment of this series, we examined the Biblical gospel — how Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again; that Christ is the oppressed figure in the gospel narrative; and how Social Justice misses these truths in the false gospel that they peddle. In this installment we are going to look at the focus of Social Justice Movement (SJW) and the Social Justice Warriors (SJWs).

What is the Focus of Social Justice?

Even if an advocate of Social Justice does place the victimhood rightly upon Christ (and not on particular sects of mankind), they always end up diluting the message of the Gospel by having the wrong focus. The wrong focus is manifested in two areas that distract from the power of the Gospel by making sure it is rarely or ever actually told.

The first area that the SJM magnifies above the gospel, and in so doing moves our focus away from it, is in the area of humanity’s true need. Scripture indicates clearly in numerous passages that man’s core need is salvation from sin. We can see this in 1 Corinthians 15:3:

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins…,” and in Isaiah 53:5: “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities…,”

…and once again in 2 Corinthians 5:21:

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” In order for the gospel to be effective, we must present what a person needs to be saved from or perhaps better said, “Before we can get to the good news we must understand the bad news.”

Just as the “good news” of the Gospel is very specific—Christ died for our sin and rose again to provide a way of salvation for all who would believe—so we also must recognize the specificity of the “bad news”—that each one of us has offended a holy God by violating His character through our personal sin, and that the penalty for that sin is eternal death in hell. Do social justice advocates in the church really understand this principle, and do they properly focus on the specific bad news in the gospel? Their emphases cause us to wonder if they understand.

Of course, the social justice message is not the only teaching that ignores the specifically stated bad news of the Gospel. It is just the newest fad to err in this particular way. The social gospel, the seeker-friendly movement, and hyper-grace teachings have all been down the well-worn path social justice warriors now are traveling. Instead of explaining the bad news of our sin and guilt before God its proper emphasis, the SJM focuses instead on “injustices” supposedly perpetrated by some groups against other groups. With this as a major focus, again, the “evangelical” version of social justice keeps its hearers from recognizing the true victim in the gospel narrative—Jesus Christ. Because some groups constantly hear about their own victimhood, they lose sight of how they have victimized God. Other categories of people are constantly berated for their perceived acts of oppression against those who have been and are oppressed, so again, the emphasis isn’t on how people—all people—have supremely offended Almighty God.

This fixation on perceived injustices is nothing more than a focus on a felt need that totally misses the real need. Satan has no real issue with presentations of a message of bad news about oppression and victimhood along with general and broad good news about a figure named Jesus Christ—as long as the “punch line” isn’t the message of the true gospel. Satan loves for people to hear about this or that need, as long as they never learn of their desperate need for divine forgiveness. Paul warned the church in Corinth not to accept a different gospel or another Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 he wrote, “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!” Social justice does not guard against different gospels or other saviors because it is all too willing to focus on the wrong bad news.

The second area where social justice fails to maintain the proper focus is found in the proclaimer of the message. The focus of the messenger is something that is absolutely vital to the gospel. After all, Romans 10:14 says:

“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?”

Furthermore, 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 states:

Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.

We who have received Christ have the ministry of reconciliation. We are His ambassadors, and people will not call upon Him without a preacher. In this context, every believer is to be a “preacher” of the good news of Christ. God Himself has tasked Christians with this ministry. While sharing the message is important, it is even more important to share and uphold the right message. We might say that the right focus of the gospel messenger is a “key cog” in effectively conveying and applying gospel truth.

The teachings of social justice “muddy the water.” They shift the focus from proclaiming the good news of Christ to fixing perceived social injustices. Please do not misunderstand. I am not trying to promote either of the false pietistic narratives that Christians are called to only preach the gospel or that they ought to be absent from the public sector. Rather, I am speaking to the ultimate focus of the ambassador of Christ when he or she shares the gospel with the world. Those defending social justice often do so by saying they are witnessing with their actions and will then follow up with the message of the gospel. This is good in theory, but it falls apart when we remember they consistently focus on the wrong bad news. Having the wrong bad news always dilutes or changes the good news of the gospel.

The Social Justice messenger (warrior) becomes preoccupied with social change that is often not rooted in a biblical ethic therefore making their spiritual impact minimal at best. When the focus of the messenger is off, there is always a devastating impact on the message. This becomes especially true in the case of the Social Justice Warrior because they are distracted by an unbiblical (as opposed to extra-biblical) gospel narrative, an unbiblical view of sin, and a diluted view of what Christ died for.

When the focus of the gospel is changed from the proper view of sin and when the messenger loses sight of the real goal, the gospel is soon lost. Through the changes in focus, the Social Justice movement has lost the gospel and the only way to recover it is an abandonment of the movement itself.