The rise of the political organization Black Lives Matter and the modern social justice movement has caused no small disturbance in the American church. Some people are confused, some are overwhelmed, some are overconfident, and some are deceived. I’m specifically concerned for friends of mine in conservative Christianity who are blindly accepting this movement while failing to discern its faults. And I’m not the only concerned one. I know I speak for many.
Social justice seems like a noble cause because the presenting issue is racism. How could a Christian not want to end racism? Yet the fight over social justice in the church is leaving many casualties in its wake. Current social justice arguments in Christian circles tend to be sophisticated, academic, mind-boggling, and often incoherent. I’ve trace them out, and I am convinced they often appeal to a certain kind of intellectual pride.
Do I condemn racism? Definitely. Do I recognize our nation’s racist history? Absolutely. I have a serious problem with people who claim they are Christians yet drop racist jokes among close friends. However, while I affirm the phrase “Black lives matter,” I do not affirm the movement. Why?
The Root of the Problem
During a recent sermon on James 1:26-27 I decided to keep it simple, like Jesus would. Jesus was not a fan of elitism, and he taught in terms the common people could understand. Here’s my attempt at simple application:
Jesus said we would recognize false teachers by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-20). And James just told us in James 1:26-27 that doing the Word results in controlled speech, helping the helpless, and holy living. So let’s analyze today’s social justice movement by those standards.
If you were to go to the website of Black Lives Matter, the group that is at the center of the today’s social justice movement, you would find they attack the moral standard of marriage as a union between one man and one woman for life. They attack the truth that God has made us male and female and the truth that we ought to live as our Creator has made us. They attack the family unit that God created, particularly men, and reject the need for fathers in the home (interesting side note: I preached this sermon on September 6, 2020. Since then BLM has removed their statement of organization from their website. You can still read excerpts in Albert Mohler’s article here). They want to subvert these biblical morals. How is that holy living?
If you are following the news at all, you know the reports of vandalism, rioting, theft, harassment, and murder in the streets. In addition, the current social justice movement refuses to protect the most vulnerable people in our society—babies being murdered in the womb, women who have been ensnared in sex trafficking or pressured by abusive boyfriends to abort their babies, all driven by a multi-million-dollar abortion industry that sells baby body parts for profit. It denies the truth that every human life is sacred in the eyes of God. How is that helping the helpless?
You may have witnessed the videos of protestors marching down the streets, isolating innocent people who just want to go out for a nice evening meal, and screaming in their faces. How is that controlled speech?
And God has warned us about the thinking like the world.
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
Instead of being taken captive by this world’s philosophies and deceit, God presents us with a better way. We exalt the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.
I believe today’s social justice movement is a dead-end street. It is attractive because it claims to decapitate racism. Like the mythical Hydra, though, when they cut off one head two more respawn in its place. Simply look at the fruits of this movement. An honest Christian cannot deny the abundance of evil. The only way to slay the monster is to cauterize it at the root. And that’s the problem with the modern social justice movement. It does not go deep enough.
Modern social justice theory does not recognize our individual sin before God. It only recognizes systemic injustice against others without offering a consistent standard for measuring that injustice (to parade against racism yet celebrate abortion is the ultimate level of hypocrisy). It has no concern for God and his holy character, especially concerning sex. It sidesteps our true problem by making justice merely a societal issue that can be resolved through policies and political upheaval. Oh friends, we are in much deeper trouble than that.
By His Wounds You Have Been Healed
Justice is first and foremost a spiritual issue of individual accountability before Almighty God. God, as a just judge, is no respecter of persons. He is holy and cannot ignore sin. He is the standard by which we measure justice. He will not wave me into heaven because I was a member of a church or baptized at an early age. He will not welcome me to glory for marching with protestors, no matter how good the cause. No, my individual sin before God must be paid for, or I suffer eternal punishment in hell. Thank God Jesus went through the hell of the cross and separation from his Father so I could be forgiven. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
Racism is uprooted when we preach this glorious gospel, sinners repent, and God regenerates sinful hearts. We also need to realize God’s plan for this age is not the radical transformation of society. That kind of goal is, once again, a dead-end street. Rather, Paul tells Timothy that “evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).
So what, then? It sounds like a hopeless cause. Do we throw in the towel? Do we give up? No way. Paul continues, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14-15).
Jesus, Our Only Hope
To friends of mine who are discouraged today because you feel as if all the church is flocking to the world, I invite you to rest in Jesus like the apostle Paul. At the very end of his life, Demas, “in love with this present world,” betrayed him. Alexander the coppersmith greatly harmed him. Yet this was his hope: “But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:9-18). Turn to the Lord. He will stand by you and strengthen you in this discouraging hour.
He has told us what to do with the strength he gives. We continue in what we have learned and firmly believed. We “make disciples” under his divine authority, knowing he has promised to be with us “always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus is with us. He is! And do not forget God left Luke for Paul. God left 7,000 faithful in Israel when Elijah cried out, “I, even I only, am left” (1 Kings 19). And God has still left many for you. Take heart, beloved friends. You are not alone. No, you are not alone.
It’s not “racism vs. the gospel” or “the gospel vs. racism.” The gospel is God’s ordained means of uprooting racism. Jesus has bought with his own blood a diverse, unified body of people from every nation, tribe, and tongue. The ethnic unity and diversity of the church displays to an unholy world God’s holiness in their midst. When we keep the divine priority of the gospel straight in our churches, we won’t look like the world around us. We will glorify our God and remain faithful to the One who bought us with his own blood. He is more than capable of building his church in this chaos, and even “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). We know our King Jesus will return one day to right all wrongs and establish his kingdom (Revelation 19:11-16). Then racism will truly be eradicated forever. To him be the glory.