Muhamar Ghaddafi's beaten and gunshot body was pushed onto TV screens by media touting his final capture and downfall—the downfall of a tyrant—the Madman of Libya. There are still plenty of images and video footage to view, if you need it. Of course, there are some claiming he was unjustly put to death, and should have been granted a fair trial. Did he receive justice at the hand of those he oppressed? He had opportunity to escape, surrender and negotiate for peace with the rebels. Perhaps he brought justice upon his own head—literally. Madmen, aka tyrants, and justice—isn't that an oxymoron?
Reading through the prophet Jeremiah, I came across, "Rescue those who have been robbed from those who oppress them. Don't mistreat foreigners, orphans, or widows, and don't oppress them. Don't kill innocent people in this place" (Jeremiah 22:3 GWT). The idea of social justice has become a hot topic for many Christian believers over the past decade or so. It may be more vogue now, but it has always been the center of God's heart, as indicated by Jeremiah's words.
In God's message through Jeremiah (Jeremiah 22:4-5), God gives His people in Judah an option—the same option He gave them over and over, the same option God gives us today—if you do this (rescue, etc...) blessing will come, if not, then judgment will come. I write this from the Philippines on the front porch of our cottage at Rainbow Village. My wife and I arrived this weekend to our home of fifteen years, as we celebrate twenty years of ministry at Rainbow. Rainbow's ministry could be termed social justice (it is), but that's not why we started it back in 1991. We responded to God's call, as have many others over the centuries. Prophets deliver God's message, but God's people hear it and respond one way or the other.
Social justice is tied to God's sovereign nature, not the capriciousness of man's social conscience. Man's social constructs are relativistic attempts at being good, but based on self-justification—an effort to make ourselves innocent of wrong. God's justice is impartial because He is righteous by nature. Any involvement in social justice is laudable, but not grounds for claiming any righteousness. When we rescue, set the oppressed free, don't oppress or mistreat, and don't kill the innocent, we are doing what we ought to do, nothing extraordinary. If it seems extraordinary then something is wrong with what is the prevailing norm.
My oldest son was born in 1973, the year abortion on demand (the murder of unborn children) was legalized in the US. Of course, there are those who say it's a matter of choice—of course it is. But that choice has consequences. It's easy to focus on madmen like Ghaddafi as tyrants deserving of judgment. It's a bit more discomforting when looking at why judgment comes in view of Jeremiah's words above. I believe it was Rev. Billy Graham who said, "If God doesn't judge America, He will need to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah."
For those who focus on evangelism and church planting, social justice isn't an option, it should be expected within God's kingdom—the natural outcome of living out the Gospel. Social justice is not a cause to take up, it's the heart of God who is both merciful and mighty, gracious and righteous. Judgment is God's domain, not man's. Social justice is loving our neighbor as ourself—the 2nd great commandment, and as Jesus further said, "By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35).