Social justice—who cares?

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By Lt. Colonel Janet Munn

What does social justice have to do with God—Father, Son and Spirit?

The psalmist and the prophets answer this question by describing the Lord as one who loves justice (Psalm 11:7, Isaiah 61:8) and whose throne is founded upon justice (Psalm 97:2). And God is holy.

Jesus’ life was marked by justice. His heart was filled with compassion for the vulnerable and oppressed of society. He cleansed the lepers (Mark 1:40-44), and brought dignity to women (John 4:1-42). Jesus released those bound by demons (Mark 1:21-34), spoke up for the weak (Luke 14:12-14) and confronted the spiritually proud (Luke 6:1-11).

Hear Jesus’ mission: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). The anointing of the Spirit was Jesus’ source.

Our holy God—Father, Son and Spirit—devoted to justice.


What does social justice have to do with Christianity and The Salvation Army? 

The prophet Amos clarifies the Lord’s heart on the issue of justice. He confronts the hypocrisy of socially irrelevant spirituality and the “super-spiritual” whose prayer lives are detached from the immediate issues of justice for the poor:

I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music…Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want” (Amos 5:21-24 MSG).

Throughout church history, social justice has been at the root of our mission. This includes not only social action in the world, but when we pray for justice we pray for healing as God’s judgment on sickness; for revival as God’s judgment on a compromised church; for evangelism as God’s judgment on the kingdom of darkness; for reconciliation as God’s judgment on division; for holiness as God’s judgment on sin.

The Salvation Army historically has had “a deep compassion for the plight of society’s outcasts.” This “was not just a distinctive of The Salvation Army—it was its very essence” (Insane: The Stories of Crazy Salvos Who Changed the World, Munn and Collinson).


What does social justice have to do with me?

It is no coincidence that before he started his ministry Jesus spent 40 days alone, praying and fasting, preparing for his mission. Similarly, as we spend time in prayer before a holy God, his concerns become ours.

Jesus’ lifestyle was a marriage of prayer, mission and justice. He desires the same for us.


Learn to do good.

Work for justice.

Help the down-and-out.

Stand up for the homeless.

Go to bat for the defenseless.

(Isaiah 1:17)


Lt. Colonel Janet Munn is the international secretary for Spiritual Life Development.



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