Systemic justice is unabashed obedience to what the Bible has always taught.
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and as protests raged across our country, I found myself in recurring conversations with pastors and Christian leaders, who, instead of leaning in, chose to disengage with the cultural moment. Whether online or in person, I repeatedly heard the line: “The church just needs to focus on the gospel right now and how the gospel changes hearts.” Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. Mike Ramos. Anti-Asian racism. In the face of these tragedies, many evangelical churches channeled their responses toward the spiritual to the detriment of all else, and unless they can be convinced otherwise, they will continue to take this stance with the next tragedy (which we all know is likely).
The tendencies of many American churches fail to heed Scripture’s demand on the people of God to collectively and continually work toward a more just society. Exacerbating this failure is a pervading hyper-individuality. When a community is ravaged by injustice, too many pastors reduce the priority of the church to getting individuals right with God. But the Christian faith encompasses so much more.
God intends his people to be integrally involved as a collective in civic space—repairing, rebuilding, and restoring structures and systems—so that all peoples may flourish. The church exists as an institution for greater social good, and we need to recapture ecclesial responsibility for systemic justice and meaningful change.
God’s People as Alternative Society
From the beginning of Scripture, we see God redeeming not a scattered collection of isolated individuals, but reforming a whole people into an alternative society, “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6; …