Defining Social Justice: True Justice Requires True Judgement


"David and Goliath" by Gustave Doré

David chopped off the head of Goliath. Does this fit into your definition of "social justice"?

The term “social justice” is extremely en vogue nowadays. Celebrities apply it to their charitable side projects, politicians attach it to their pet policies, and Christians adopt it to stay “relevant” with the rest.

However, similar to those who tout “peace” from the rooftops, those who talk about “social justice” tend to ignore the various dimensions of what justice actually consists of. Whenever I hear someone pressed on what they mean by “social justice,” the answer always seems to be about some kind of momentary crisis or some urgent need to help others (or themselves).

Justice is having a house to live in. Justice is having health care. Justice is having a full belly. Justice is having a stable home environment. Justice is having the “right” to be married. Justice is making love, not war.

Such views are both too flexible and too narrow, and anyone who holds to them is extremely limited in making any real change in the world.

Peace and justice are both important, but they are desired outcomes, not starting points. True peace can only come when there is true justice, and true justice can only come when there is true judgment.

Yes, you heard me right. I said judgment.

Many shy away from this word because it means that some sort of truth exists. But, as much as it may hurt the feelings of those who advocate a relativistic worldview, true justice cannot be understood nor can it exist without truth.

It’s not easy to talk about the truth. It can be scary, painful, and even unknowable. The truth dictates. The truth discriminates. The truth judges.

But in order to pursue justice – a right-standing moral frame of mind toward God, humanity, and ourselves – we must first distinguish what that moral frame is. We must determine what is just. This doesn’t mean we are to judge people, but we must make accurate judgments about what is right and wrong for humanity.

This requires division, and because it requires division, it often results in anger, bloodshed, and war. The good part is that it also leads to redemption.

The road to justice requires more than charity, selflessness, and good intentions. It even requires more than on-the-ground action. Overall, it requires a willingness to fight for the truth, whether or not that makes you and your neighbor feel good.

Bible heroes like Noah, Moses, and King David were all “just” men in God’s eyes, but they all broke earthly conventions to do what God asked of them. Noah was unrealistic in his vision, Moses was an extreme absolutist, and David was a violent warrior. Today, many would view these men as unjust fanatics who resisted unity and “progress,” when they were simply striving and struggling to achieve God’s goals.

They resisted earthly perceptions of justice, because in the absence of God’s truth, His perfect judgment and pure justice is unknown and unreachable.

Social justice, therefore, doesn’t mean allowing individuals, cultures, religions, and governments to do whatever they want in the name of some abstract “good for humanity.” Rather, true social justice is a prescription of God’s truth, which, according to the Bible, is inevitably divisive.

Jesus taught that we must care for the poor and heal the sick, but he wasn’t persecuted and crucified for preaching that message. He was put to death for talking about God’s judgment. In our human attempts to bring justice to the world, we must not focus on what we feel justice is, but on what God’s holistic truth tells us.

It will judge. It will offend. It will divide. But it will set you free.


(Note: This post is an adapted and expanded version of a column I wrote for The Concordian in 2007.)

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  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/13499407220 Remnant Culture

    New post: "Defining Social Justice." True justice requires true JUDGEMENT. http://tiny.cc/xcndn #Christian #tcot #tlot

  • Annie

    And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” (John 9:39)
    “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the Truth. Everyone who is of the Truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37)

  • http://twitter.com/josephsunde/status/13553504196 Joseph Sunde

    David chopped Goliath's head off. Does that fit into your definition of "social justice"? http://tiny.cc/xcndn

  • http://twitter.com/mattress Matt

    I'm still not sure what the definition of social justice actually is, even after reading a number of articles about it. Seem like it means whatever you want it to mean.

  • http://www.remnantculture.com/ Remnant Culture

    Exactly. It seems that it means something that outrages people or gets their emotions riled up. E.g., “The situation is so dire it is a matter of SOCIAL JUSTICE!”

    It has become a buzz word that would be dismissible if it weren't for the actual impact its usage seems to be having on everyone's understanding of REAL justice.

  • http://www.remnantculture.com/ Remnant Culture

    Exactly. It seems that it means something that outrages people or gets their emotions riled up. E.g., “The situation is so dire it is a matter of SOCIAL JUSTICE!”

    It has become a buzz word that would be dismissible if it weren't for the actual impact its usage seems to be having on everyone's understanding of REAL justice.

  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/13730926798 Remnant Culture

    David chopped off Goliath's head. Does this fit into your definition of "social justice"? http://tiny.cc/xcndn #Christian

  • Pingback: The Christian Origins of Social Justice: Pope Pius XI, Individual Freedom, and the Common Good «Remnant Culture

  • Isaacrocco

    Yo, this is so awesome! Great job explaining this – you have truly enlightened me.

  • http://twitter.com/officialremnant/status/27734604058 The Remnant

    Defining Social Justice: True Justice Requires True Judgement http://bit.ly/a4NQKx

  • Anonymous

    Excellent article. Hebrews 4:12 states; “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” To many people the correct code of social justice is; feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, grant equal civil rights for all, take from the rich and give to the poor, etc. These actions, some believe shouldn’t be just personal, but mandated by earthly law. After all, those things listed are only “fair”. Those that want those actions carried out by government edict forget that in the end, God is not going to judge nations as a whole. Instead, each and every one of us will have to give an accounting. At that time many will try to bring their social justice trophies to present to God as proof that they belong in heaven. Sadly they have forgotten Christ’s words.”Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
    The justice of God is not that of men. God’s justice deals with the heart, not just the actions. Many might call His justice unfair. Maybe so, but it is righteous. What else would a holy God, do?

  • http://twitter.com/bigtrent/status/199887354222219264 Trenton Prieshoff

    RT @RemnantCulture: Defining Social Justice: True Justice Requires True Judgement http://t.co/Yn3esATb