In one dark period of human history, Dietrich Bonhoeffer defined the church’s role, what he referred to as the “disciples’ community,” in the following manner:
The disciples are given no choice whether they want to be salt or not. No appeal is made to them to become salt of the earth. Rather they just are salt, whether they want to be or not, by the power of the call which reached them…. That is the threatening judgment which hangs over the disciples’ community. The earth is supposed to be saved by the community. But the community that has stopped being what it is will be hopelessly lost. The call of Jesus Christ means being salt of the earth or being destroyed. It means following Christ or – the call itself will destroy the one called. There is no second opportunity to be saved. There cannot be such a salvation… With all this, the followers of Jesus are no longer faced with a decision. The only decision possible for them has already been made. Now they have to be what they are, or they are not following Jesus. (DBWE 4: 81)
Our most recent book, Social Injustice, Volume II: Evangelical Voices in Tumultuous Times, emerges out of a context of political, economic, and societal turmoil which feels unprecedented for our lifetimes. Granted, in the course of human history there are certainly other periods where tumultuous times seemed particularly perilous, like in Bonhoeffer’s Nazi Germany.How Can Evangelicals Address Justice? Click To Tweet
Sundry plagues, wars, and extreme poverty dot the landscape of human history and impact peoples at different times and scales across the world. In modern history, two world wars bisected by the Great Depression and Spanish Flu, the rise of communism and the Cold War, ongoing racial and ethnic tensions along with Apartheid, AIDS, and famine in Africa—not to mention extreme poverty—painted an apocalyptic picture of the 20th century. Even the continuing threats of war and genocide, natural disasters, political tensions, and plagues in the 21st century support the two-thousand-year old assertion made by the Apostle John: the time is near (Rev 1:3). In the midst of such turmoil, as at all times, the church is called to be the salt of the world (Matt 5:13-16).
To help address issues of justice, evangelical scholars and practitioners from around the world contributed to a volume addressing topics of discipleship, politics, race, mental health, and community development. Together in a single volume, these evangelicals from Africa, the Middle East, and North America share insights that can guide the evangelical church to effectively engage the injustices of the world.
Social Injustice, Volume II: Evangelical Voices in Tumultuous Times is organized according to five broad categories integral to engaging issues of social justice: Discipleship, Politics, Race, Mental Health, and Community Development. In each category we offer two or three evangelical voices who focus their unique area of expertise or perspective to the subjects at hand.
We begin with Voices on Discipleship, for it is out of our growth as believers in Jesus and our following closely in His ways that we come to engage the injustices and suffering in our global community. Grace Al Zoughbi, a Langham scholar from the West Bank, begins by offering a Palestinian perspective on suffering and justice from the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Her call to engage daily injustices with deep humility and Christ-like patience will challenge all of us. Michael Cooper continues this section by calling for a re-orientation of discipleship through a study of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and social justice. Many have appealed to Bonhoeffer as a model supporting their various efforts to influence culture. This chapter illustrates that more important than the acts of social justice are the acts of genuine Christlikeness.
In Voices on Politics, our authors offer three perspectives on politics and its influence on justice and civility in our extremely divided world. Mae Elise Cannon opens this section with a challenge to re-think much of the business-as-usual political engagement which has been the norm for many years, especially in the United States. She asks three vital questions: First, how do faithful biblical responses to injustices of our day correlate to bipartisan politics? Next, which questions will help define the role of religion and specifically evangelicalism, in American democracy? And finally, what constitutes faithful Christian social and political engagement in attempts to dismantle injustice? The answers to these questions can provide an evangelical framework for political engagement as a means for Christians to manifest their faith in the public square.
Next, Ronald Hesselgrave, explores the roots of political divisions and offers a critique of raising any human ideology above the call of the Gospel. He calls for an openness to the “other” and a commitment to invite all people into a place of reconciliation and justice, where the goal is restoration of just relationships. Finally, George Makeen, from his perspective as a director at a Christian satellite company broadcasting across the Middle East and North Africa, brings us into the vital role media plays in the region to raise awareness about Jesus and to offer solutions for the trials of this life to people where face to face conversation about these issues may not be possible.We believe that a determined posture of learning and an openness to discussion can renew hope and bring new opportunities for the Gospel. The whole body of Christ, diverse and humble in spirit, working together and shaping perspectives across the… Click To Tweet
In Voices on Race, we acknowledge the role which racial injustice has played to divide and diminish people in every culture. From Gary Fujino, we bring a missiological, theological perspective which anchors our discussion of justice for all peoples in the Imago Dei. Devlin Scott contributes a practical, personal and challenging view of Jesus’ role as ally, mentor, and leader during times of racial tension. He reminds us that even as we work towards restoring justice we are working ultimately towards Jesus’ provision of our own need for Living Water.
Voices on Mental Health show an emerging area of social justice engagement as communities across the world wrestle with social challenges which rise directly from a need for more effective mental health availability and care. Kathyrn Richards Bhatia calls for individuals, communities, organizations and institutions to become more compassionate, trauma-informed and resilience-oriented as we experience and participate in the ministry of social justice. Michaela Cooper and Brian Salveron explain why the provision of mental health support is a social justice issue and how churches and individuals can consider growing in this area. They offer personal and societal examples which typify some common misunderstandings. They make a clear call to equip churches and para-church organizations with professional and biblical training, for the good of the community, and the sake of the Gospel.
Voices on Community Development allows us to hear from Cromwell Awadey and Joseph Gordon-Mensah, community development activists in Ghana, as they describe how water injustice, which affects over 2 billion people on our planet, and educational disparity, which is directly affected by clean water availability, were addressed in Ghana, resulting in lasting community transformation. Michael Cooper then offers a perspective on sustainable development which brings together best practices for churches and individuals to consider when they seek to work together with majority world partners.
This diverse group of voices from within the evangelical world offers a snapshot of perspectives for just a few issues of social justice. We believe that a determined posture of learning and an openness to discussion can renew hope and bring new opportunities for the Gospel. The whole body of Christ, diverse and humble in spirit, working together and shaping perspectives across the globe, offers this broken and divided world a more just, healthy, and equitable future and ultimately gives us all a strong place to stand despite the tumultuous times in which we live.