The world is full of injustice, and Christians have a wide range of thoughts on how to deal with it. How does God say we should approach injustice?
This world is broken.
More to the point: this world is broken and cannot be fixed until Jesus Christ returns to establish the Kingdom of God. This is a central teaching of the Bible.
The human race has spent countless generations ignoring or outright rebelling against the commandments of God—divine instructions that show us the difference between right and wrong, good and evil. Now, our world is drowning in the consequences—and not for the first time. When Isaiah looked at the nation of Israel thousands of years ago, he said:
“Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked to anger the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward.
“Why should you be stricken again? You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores” (Isaiah 1:4-6).
The head is sick. The heart faints. Not even the people of God can legislate or physically enforce the kind of changes this world really needs:
A change of heart. Repentance (see “What Is Repentance?”). A permanent end to the influence of Satan the devil. An understanding and embracing of the spiritual principles necessary for true peace, justice and prosperity.
Those changes are coming. The human race will see the spiritual truths that are hidden from its eyes.
But not yet. That comes later.
Two approaches to injustice
So what’s a Christian supposed to do?
We’re here, living in a world that Jesus wants us to be in but not “of” (John 17:16-18). We are citizens of a faraway Kingdom (Philippians 3:20), strangers and pilgrims waiting for a city whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10, 13-16).
What are we supposed to do when we encounter injustice?
There are two obvious approaches we can be tempted to take.
The first is to get involved. To join a movement and campaign for change, knowing that we’re working within a broken system built on values that are incompatible with God’s way of life, hoping that we can bring about a net positive outcome without compromising too many of our own Christian beliefs.
The second is to keep our distance and watch it all burn. Knowing what we know—that we can’t fix the world around us, that things are destined to get worse before they get better—it can be tempting to absolve ourselves of responsibility. Things are bad. What of it? We can’t change it.
The Bible tells us to help others
Can you spot the problem with those two approaches?
They’re two ditches. They present a false dichotomy—either we roll up our sleeves and get in the trenches to make this world a better place, or we wash our hands of it and watch dispassionately while it all falls apart.
But those aren’t our only options. The approach God wants us to take lies in between those two extremes.
We can hardly pretend that the Bible is a book about ignoring the suffering of others. The entire parable of the Good Samaritan—where a wounded man is ignored by his countrymen and rescued by a societal outcast (Luke 10:25-37)—expounds on the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) by reminding us that we’re all neighbors.
John urged us to “not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
Asaph the psalmist wrote that God is looking for those who will “defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy; free them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:3-4). Isaiah echoed, “Seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17).
Paul admonished, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10, emphasis added throughout).
There’s no getting around it: a Christian who is content to turn a blind eye to the injustices suffered by others is missing the point of what it means to be a Christian.
The Bible tells us we can’t fix the world
But there’s no getting around this, either: a Christian who is looking to reform the institutions of this world by bringing them into harmony with the laws of God is also missing the point of what it means to be a Christian.
“Friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4), wrote James. “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:16), wrote John. “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (Romans 8:7), wrote Paul.
Trying to reform “this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4) ignores the simple truth that Jesus shared with Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight . . . but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36).
God’s laws cannot be integrated into this world, because they are at odds with this world. “Mostly right” is still wrong. Either we live by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4), or none of it will work the way it’s supposed to. And until the Kingdom of God is established on the earth, attempting to bring about that kind of change is an exercise in futility.
Which leads us back to: What should Christians do about injustice?
Learning from the Good Samaritan
And the answer, the balance between the two extremes, is this:
Our words and actions cannot pull this world back from the brink. But they can make a difference in our interactions with others.What we can, where we can.
No, you can’t fix the broken systems of the world. You can’t selectively patch those systems with godly principles. You can’t back a politician or a movement that can produce the change we need.
But you can do good to “those to whom it is due” (Proverbs 3:27). You can “open your mouth for the speechless . . . judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9).
When we see injustice that we can personally do something about—when others around us are on the receiving end of racism and other forms of prejudice—whenever they are mistreated, mocked, insulted, abused or trampled by those who are bigger and stronger than they are—we should step in and help where we can (or perhaps contact the authorities when it would be unsafe).
If we want a practical example of what this looks like in action, the parable of the Good Samaritan is a great place to start. The hero of the story didn’t help by trying to reform the Roman justice system or campaign for societal change. He just stepped in and did what even the wounded man’s own countrymen wouldn’t:
“When he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you’” (Luke 10:33-35).
He helped. He didn’t try to fix the engine of injustice—but he did help one of the victims.
Jesus ended that parable with the command that we should “go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).
What to do while we wait
Our intervention won’t change the world. It might not even change the immediate situation. But as Christians, we are citizens of a Kingdom that will one day change the world.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). But He also taught us to conduct ourselves as members of that Kingdom.
Prayer is important, but God expects action as well.
“You are the light of the world,” Jesus told His disciples. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
What should Christians do about injustice?
The answer is not joining a movement or backing a political candidate. Amos said that when a society has shrugged off God’s law, “he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time, for it is an evil time” (Amos 5:13, English Standard Version). Our words and actions cannot pull this world back from the brink.
But they can make a difference in our interactions with others.
We should commit ourselves to doing the good works that make the glory of our Father in heaven impossible to ignore, doing good to all as we have opportunity, rebuking the oppressors, defending the fatherless and pleading for the widows.
It’s true: the world is broken, and we can’t fix it.
But while we wait for the Kingdom that can fix it, we should do what we can to make things a little less broken for those around us.