I have discovered a secret. Throughout our 13 years living in Zambia, we have experienced many short-term mission trips from all over the world. We have witnessed many lives transformed from mission trips. But, when they go back home they lose the same passion they had in Africa. Why? Can you only have zeal for mission in Africa? NO!
Missionaries lose their zeal because, unlike their mission trip, they stop practicing social justice daily.
Social justice is a way of life. It is found in every aspect of our life – from the way we spend, to the way we teach our children, and to the way we prepare our food.
Social Justice includes if we “clothed the naked, given your bread to the hungry, door open to every stranger, been a parent to the orphan, [and] made the suffering of every helpless person your own.” – St. Basil the Great, On Social Justice
Social justice is a mission that every Christian and Church must do, not only in Africa. This blog post will discuss the biblical, patristic and modern-day examples of social justice in our Faith. We pray this inspires you to do social justice as a way of life!
Biblical Understanding of Social Justice
Justice in the Old Testament is a common theme and it forms the basis of God’s holiness. Therefore, when we participate in social justice, we partake of this holiness. The Old Testament also includes many examples, such as Elijah, of faithful men and women who defend the poor and powerless.
The ultimate example of social justice was Jesus Christ. He starts His mission proclaiming His desire to bring justice to those in need and to the oppressed (Isaiah 61:1-2). He helped the destitute, poor, and marginalized. He went out of His way to the outcast woman at the well. He sat with sinners. He taught justice in that whatever we do for the sick, imprisoned, and stranger, we do it for Him.
Even in His death, the cross of Christ reconciled all and was the essence of His declaration of justice. The apostles continued to live out Christ’s mission of social justice through healing the sick, caring for the widows, and sharing their possessions to anyone in need.
St. John taught “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” – 1 John 3:17
We should follow these holy examples that lived before us to spur us into social justice action!
Patristic Understanding of Social Justice
The Early Church Fathers knew the importance of the daily spiritual practice of social justice. The closer the Fathers drew to God, the more they loved man and wanted to help those most in need. They knew social justice was not optional but a spiritual practice like praying and fasting. They knew it was the necessary path to true communion with God.
St. Gregory of Nazianzus, wrote, “As long as there is time, let us visit Christ, serve Christ, feed Christ, clothe Christ, offer hospitality to Christ, honor Christ.”
These teachings guide us to practice social justice daily and should be a way of life.
Examples of Practicing Social Justice
Our Orthodox Church has many modern-day saints and missionaries who set an example for us by practicing social justice. In the fourth century, St. Verena, out of a cave in Switzerland, cared for the lepers. Even under Islamic oppression, Coptic Churches practiced social justice through caring for the orphans, widows, the poor, elderly, and the sick. Eastern Orthodox missionaries such as St. Stephen of Perm, defended Alaskan natives against traders and others that treated them harshly. Bishop Abraam, known as the “Friend of the Poor,” offered shelter, food, clothing and more to the poor. A Greek Orthodox archbishop defied culture and took a risk to stand with Martin Luther King Jr., during the civil rights era.
The opportunities for social justice are all around us. Not only in Africa. We have to intentionally look for these opportunities. We can care for the forgotten, the outcast, the poor, the elderly, the homeless. Anyone who has no voice. You can be their voice!
For us to be in ultimate communion with God, we need to practice social justice daily! It is the secret of a fulfilled life!
Mission Assignment: Pray and find opportunities around you for practicing social justice as a way of life. Please share your ideas with us!Tags: homeless, hunger, missiontrip, oppressed, outcast, poor, racism, socialjustice, wayoflife