Welcome to a four-part series about what evangelism is and isn’t. In the first three pieces, I’ll look at why justice, ecumenism, and love are all components of evangelism. In the fourth piece, I’ll look at what’s missing–why none of those things are sufficient–and why speaking the good news is the essential component of evangelism.
Especially among progressive Christians, “doing justice” is the real deal of evangelism.
This is Micah 6:8-style evangelism. This is early church, Acts 2 justice stuff.
The first followers of Jesus, freshly filled with the Holy Spirit, came together and shared everything. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. They kept coming together. They broke bread at each other’s dinner tables and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. They praised God.
And what happened?
They “enjoyed the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
What Comes of Justice
Living justly and pursuing justice—economic, political, and social justice—can have mass effect. Standing up against the culture’s dominant –isms; resisting corruption and tactics of propaganda and manipulation; pushing for fairness in the streets and on the steps of the Capitol Building—such endeavors carried out to make the world look more like the kingdom are high-impact vehicles to move the gospel forward.
It’s funny how some of the people I know who are the best servants are also the most apt evangelists. These things go together. In my own life, working for the well-being of refugees and in defense of the displaced proved perpetually a catalyst for spiritual discussion.
Human rights, anti-discrimination, pro-all-life—none of these are the gospel, but they all connect to the gospel. If you get to a high enough vantage point, it’s not hard to see. Superhero justice is its own form of superhero marketing. Because ultimately, justice is good news.
“Why do you sign petitions and march for other peoples’ rights?”
“Why do you work at a nonprofit that educates and spreads opportunity?”
“Why does your church help out at the food kitchen?”
Such questions are justice questions. Such questions are questions that beg for the good news.
Jesus tells us outright to live lives of justice.
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”
The goodness of God’s grace to his people gives way to a gracious and generous justice.
‘Your Light Will Rise in the Darkness’
Isaiah 58 testifies that pursuing real justice—and resisting injustice—will help your light “rise in the darkness.”
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.”
Likewise, wasn’t it pure evangelism when Jesus stood up in the synagogue in Nazareth? He read from Isaiah—not about another, but about himself: the Prince of Justice.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And what happened? Everyone’s eyes were fixed on him. Everyone spoke well of him. All who saw and heard him were amazed, not only because he preached justice, but because he spoke as one who is just.
True justice, not the hot-button slactivism kind, but the real thing—doing it because of and from and with Jesus is a living testament to the good news. Justice is evangelism.
In the Evangelism Series:
Part 1: Justice Is Evangelism