My wife and I are like any other married couple; we’ve got issues. Those issues, if not taken care of, hinder us from growing in our relationship with one another. When my wife confronts me about my anger or my pride, her motivation stems from a desire to grow closer to me, not necessarily just for the sake of me repenting so we can go about our own peaceful, separate ways.
She wants to be reconciled, but my behavior keeps reconciliation and growth from happening.
Similarly, God has also been motivated by His love and desire to reconcile us to Himself. After all, “for God so loved the world, that He sent His Son” to bear the burden of punishment for our sin against Him. Yes, God’s justice demanded that we (or Somebody) pay for such a cosmic rebellion; however, God’s love provided for us a way out of eternal damnation, and a way back to the Garden, and into the presence of God. Indeed, this was God’s motivation: to reconcile the world to Himself, so that He would be our God, and we would be His people, and he would dwell with us (Exodus 6:7, Leviticus 26:12 Jeremiah 30:22, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Revelation 21). He did so, because He loves us.
When God gave His covenant community Israel the Ten Commandments, as recorded in Deuteronomy 5:7-21, He began in verse 6 by declaring that “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” God establishes His relationship with His covenant people as a motivation for obedience. He did so because disobedience disrupts our relationship with God. Likewise, our disobedience and sinfulness towards one another disrupts our ability to reconcile, as called through the Gospel of Christ, and outlined in passages such as 2 Corinthians 5:11-21. We are called to be ministers of reconciliation. God calls us to be motivated by His own example of love for us, despite our flaws and failings, to love others also, irrespective of any wrongdoings.
After all, God pursued each and every one of us, prior to our own acknowledgment of indwelling sinfulness, and even the recognition of our own need for reconciliation to God.
If our motivation for confronting the sins of others ends at others ceasing from sinning against us, then we’ve stopped short of what the Gospel is all about—that is, reconciliation.
With all of the talks addressing social injustices, I can’t help but wonder what our real motivation is. Do we desire to combat societal ills for the sake of maintaining our own peaceful little exclusive communities, or, do we, like God, desire to be reconciled to one another and view issues such as classism and racism as impediments to Gospel-centered reconciliation?
Are we seeking to raise our voices and stake our claims in the battle against injustice, as if we can some how earn our way into the Do-Gooders Hall of Fame?
It’s not about social justice. Social justice is merely a means towards reconciliation, similar to how our reconciliation with God would not have been possible, had not justice been satisfied through Christ becoming the propitiation for our sins. But justice is not the end-all. The motivating factor behind it all, at least between God and us, is love and a desire to be reconciled. Martin Luther King Jr. once said:
Justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.
When Gospel-centered reconciliation through love is not at the heart of our motivations, then we remain an irreconcilable people, filled with hatred and bitterness towards one another, masked in the form of “social justice.” Churches rise up against churches, cultures against cultures, overcome by pride and self-seeking agendas. Neither parties willing to set aside self for the sake of listening to one another, forgiving one another, and moving towards the beauty of inclusive community.
If reconciliation is not our end-goal, then we are not reflecting the image of our Maker (Col. 3:11-15).
If we, as the church, truly desire to see the end of social injustice, we must first, and foremost, understand that our eschatological hope must remain in Christ, without whom such an achievement would be impossible.
Secondly, we must be motivated by the same selfless, sacrificial, take-a-loogie-to-the-face sort of love that Christ loved us with—and died for us for.
Such a love will be willing to listen, to understand that it is not always about being understood, and that cultural intelligence and empathy needs to go both ways.
Sure, we want people to understand us, and what we are going through, but are we taking the time to understand them?
We must acknowledge the existence and sensitivity of issues such as systemic racism, and be willing to admit, like Andy Mineo, “my own people, owned people, but they won’t own that” (from the song Uncomfortable).
At the same time, we must also, from all sides of the spectrum, agree that the grace of God is greater than even the sin of racism, and therefore forgiveness for one another for the sake of reconciliation must not be out of range.
Recently, I was deeply convicted by my bitterness toward “conservative evangelicals.” Though somewhat theologically aligned, I constantly felt as if I did not fit in, and that they did not understand where I came from, nor even cared.
I was an “other.”
But it goes both ways, as I was just as guilty in judging them as I perceived them to be judging me.
It took a willingness on my part, and the love of Christ, to allow me to press in, and learn to humble myself through setting aside my cultural presuppositions in order to genuinely pursue relationship with my brothers and sisters in Christ, despite our differences.
I’m glad I did.
In doing so, not only have my relationships with believers and unbelievers alike, improved across the board, but also I’ve learned a lot about my own identity, and have found great security and solace in Christ.
My prayer, for us all, is that we would be compelled by the love of God to love others, and so much as it depends upon us, seek in every way possible to understand and be reconciled to one another.
In the end, love alleviates injustice.