I have a t-shirt from Pepperdine that I like a lot. It's from MLK Day 2003. At Pepperdine, we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a Day of Peace, Hope, and Justice. On the t-shirt it says "Peace", "Hope", and "Justice" in small white letters. When I wear it, people always say, "Whoa, you got your name on your shirt? That's . . . Oh, wait. It says, 'Justice'."
"Justice" ain't what it used to be. Just like "Hope" and "Change", people are now rallying around this phrase "Social Justice". I drove by a church yesterday that had the phrase on a yard sign to try and bring people in. We are in danger of turning that phrase into a broad meaningless void that really doesn't mean anything.
One thing we all know, however, is that it is a liberal phrase. Glenn Beck told us that. People hear "social" and think socialism. "Social intercourse" for many people now means an orgy while reading quotes from Marx. Many people who trend toward conservative viewpoints hear "social justice" and think, "Oh, great. Another handout for people who are lazy."
I want to share a story. It's a story most of us know, but we may not think about it as a story of social justice. We usually hear it as a story of grace and loving one another. You know what, that's what social justice is. Here it is:
There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.
(Luke 10:30-35, The Message)
A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man's condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I'll pay you on my way back.'
Would it change the story it it was a rich man traveling? A poor man traveling? The Samaritan -- the bad guy to the Jews -- gave the man a handout. He didn't force the man to become an indentured servant of his to repay the loan. He didn't force him to go to education classes to learn how to avoid being robbed when traveling on the highway. The Samaritan showed the man mercy when other "godly" people wouldn't. And he simply loved the man.
That is what Social Justice is. And that is 100% liberal. It's also 100% of what we are called to do. As Brent Clifton pointed out recently on this blog: "When will we learn the simplicity of 'Love the Lord thy God; and Love your neighbor as yourself; upon these, all the law and the prophets are built'" (Matthew 22:37-40).
We are not called to worry about what they are going to do with "our" hard-earned money they get as a handout. We are simply called to
To act justly and to love mercyMicah 6:8. Go and do likewise.
and to walk humbly with your God.