People love themselves a good cause. It’s part of the human condition, I think, that we like something to rally behind, or at least show once that we rally behind something.
Perhaps the most notable outcome of this in recent years is what’s called “hashtag activism.” Perhaps the first notable instance of this was #Kony2012, started by the organization Invisible Children to try to raise awareness of Joseph Kony, an African cult leader and director of mass murders. Probably hundreds of hashtags have followed in the time since: #BlackLivesMatter, #AllLivesMatter, #BringBackOurGirls and more.
The merits and effectiveness of this strategy have been debated. Some call it “slacktivism,” basically a lazy activism that is supposed to make the person feel good about “what they’re doing for the cause.” Speaking specifically about #BringBackOurGirls, Fox News contributor George Will said, “I do not know how adults stand there facing a camera and say, ‘Bring Back Our Girls.’ Are these barbarians in the wilds of Nigeria supposed to check their Twitter accounts and say, ‘Uh-oh Michelle Obama is very cross with us, we better change our behavior?’”
Whatever the case, social justice causes often draw a lot of people’s attention, and it’s something people rally behind.
The Church has its own forms of social justice. Sometimes it takes the form of social justice causes the world is about too. For instance, the Passion Conference-driven #endit movement focusing on worldwide sex slavery is brought up nearly every January. And sometimes it’s a special brand, such as the #DefundPP movement that’s popular nowadays focused on ending federal government funding of Planned Parenthood.
I’ve wrestled a lot with these things. Often my mind comes to a conclusion like this: “These things are good, but they can’t be primary. The Gospel has got to be primary.”
As I’ve read through the Gospels – which has been an inconsistent process – for the last few months, one thing for me has become clear. Jesus cared about the social injustices of the day, but His primary concern, and then the primary concern of His disciples, was salvation.
He cared about the poor and the outcast, but instead of rallying to get the government to change things, He actually went out to them, healed them, talked with them. And then He went and died on the cross to give them salvation. His last breath was proclaiming that the work was done, it is finished.
The most radical of all of these movements is the fact that we can be freed from the entanglements of sin – both here and after here – through the blood of Christ. It’s not something we have to work for, it’s not something we earn because of our good works, it’s something that’s freely given.
How incredible is that? It’s something that’s incredibly social in that it deals with people. And it’s justice being served, but the opposite of how we would consider justice to actually go down.
We are the oppressed. We are the ones in need of saving. We are the ones in need of help. And God sent Jesus to die on the cross to complete the task. It’s the ultimate #Salvation4Free plea. It’s much better than any tweet, much better than any protest, much better than any blog post.
I’m not saying that those other movements are worthless. We can echo the call of Jesus and of Scripture to help the widows and orphans and those oppressed by participating in these movements.
But only the Gospel truly rescues people from their deepest need.