Why Advent Is Not Social Justice Awareness Month

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December 13, 2017

EPHESIANS 1:8-10

7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. 9 God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. 10 And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.

CONSIDER THIS

The last couple of days we’ve looked at our Advent mission as acts of social justice in the world. But this is a good time to pause and look carefully at our trajectory. Today’s text reminds us that the final mission plan is not only works of justice, but for everything in heaven and Earth to be brought together in Christ.

Remember, early in Advent we looked at how Jesus is the One who created all of this. And so of course his final mission will be to bring it all together in himself.

In other words, Advent is more than social justice awareness month.

The truth is we don’t need a gospel message for social justice. Even the pagans are for that. I’ve been a part of several interfaith services, and the one thing they all have in common is prayers for peace and calls for justice.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a good thing, but what does it really mean? Does peace mean absence of conflict? No more war? No more political Twitter trolling? Partially, but in Scripture, peace means so much more that this.

The word is shalom, and it means wholeness and well-being—the ideal state of humanity, both individual and communal—as a gift from God. It’s what we had and lost in Eden, and Advent reminds us it’s only found again in Jesus Christ. As Paul says in Colossians 1:19-20:

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For God in all his fullness
     was pleased to live in Christ,
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and through him God reconciled
     everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
     by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

Advent as a season aims to deepen our mission understanding of “for God so loved the world that he sent his only Son,” and widen our orbit beyond simply social justice.

As Andy Crouch writes:

“Attempt to bring justice without Jesus, and you many not even get justice. You will certainly not get justice the way the Bible understands it – the restoration of all things to their created fruitfulness with the One who made them . . . If you follow Jesus you will get justice. If you want justice, follow Jesus.”

Because what we’re aiming for is Revelation 7:9-10

9 After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 

10 And they were shouting with a great roar, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!”

So next we should probably talk about how to get into mission mode.

To be continued . . .

THE PRAYER

Heavenly Father, help us work for the only true justice… the kind that is found in your Son Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. What do you think about this idea that we don’t need a gospel message to accomplish social justice? How do we bridge the two together?
  1. How do you see yourself getting into “mission mode” for this work?

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Omar Rikabi is a United Methodist Pastor serving in North Texas. When not telling stories, Omar likes to watch movies with his wife Jennifer, read books with his three daughters, and work in the kitchen cooking and grilling for family and friends. You follow him on Twitter @omarrikabi or visit his blog omarrikabi.com

2 COMMENTS

  1. Great post. You take us beyond mere justice to the heart of God which is holy love. Justice stops short of holiness. Justification is the door. Sanctification is the house with all its fullness. Why we’ve all been content to hang around the door is a mystery, yet we do. Shalom is the whole.

  2. I like the practical way Philip Yancy explains this concept in “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” . At the end of chapter 18, Serpent Wisdom, he provides this contrast of the effectiveness of legislated social justice vs what the grace of God can accomplish:

    “In sum, the state must always water down the absolute quality of Jesus’ commands and turn them into a form of external morality–precisely the opposite of the gospel of grace…[T]he New Testament teaches no such thing as a ‘Judeo-Christian ethic’. It commands conversion and then this, ‘Be perfect…as your heavenly Father is perfect.’. …A state government can shut down stores and theaters on Sunday, but cannot compel worship. It can arrest and punish KKK murderers but cannot cure their hatred, much less teach them to love. It can pass laws making divorce more difficult but cannot force husbands to love their wives and wives their husbands. It can give subsidies to the poor but cannot force the rich to show compassion and justice. It can ban adultery but not lust, theft but not covetousness, cheating but not pride. It can encourage virtue but not holiness”

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