I listened to the audio book of Generous Justice, by Timothy Keller, about a month ago, and although I have probably forgotten many important details, there are many points that have stayed with me. Here are some of those points followed by my reflections.
- Christians should be concerned with Justice. This should probably go without saying, but some have relegated concerns for justice to one end of the political spectrum and excluded them from a concern for all Christians. Once a Christian intimately experiences God’s grace, they will reflect his grace to others, showing concern for the well-being and justice of others.
- There is not a single cause of poverty. This is an important observation, but it will affect a person’s attitude toward justice. The Bible seems to suggest that poverty may occur because of various reasons including poor and/or immoral decisions, natural disaster, and institutional injustice. It is unfair to assign a single cause to poverty and thus impugn every single poor person (e.g. “all poor people are lazy; they should just go to McDonald’s and get a job.”). There are multiple factors that can contribute to a person’s poverty. Reflecting on these causes of poverty can go along way in helping Christians address the need for justice in the community.
- The Christian response can not be found entirely within either political party. Conservatives tend to contribute poverty to personal sloth and liberals tend to focus on institutional displays on injustice. Neither side captures the whole picture. After all, it is difficult to institute a sweeping social reform intended for a single population when multiple factors contribute to each individual’s poverty. Christians should be wary of aligning themselves to a single political party and christen all of their decisions.
- Christians who work for social justice may likely work alongside those with different views. If a Christian will work toward social justice, they may find that their efforts coincide with atheists and people from other faiths. This is not a reason to abandon ship, leaving the impression that Christians are unconcerned with social justice. Social justice is a piece to the puzzle for living out the kingdom of God, but it is not the entire puzzle. Christians can leave a lasting example by working alongside others and completing the picture, illustrating faith in God and concern for fellow man within the context of the kingdom of God.
- The church should be careful about adopting social programs. Keller suggests that churchs should be careful not to make the church’s mission a particular social program, lest it coopt the other concerns of the church. He suggests that Christians should join other social organizations or create one that is not associated with the church. While the gospel has definite implications for godly living, it should not be subsumed within any one particular effort. Keller makes this point better than I do, so I suggest that you go and read him.
There’s probably more that I am forgetting, but I will leave that for you to find when you read the book. It is a subject that is sorely needed in the Christian conversation, and I recommend that you check it out. Read the book. Think about what it says in light of the Bible. Let me know what you think!