by Tony Merida
While many people know they should care for the poor, few are motivated to do it over a lifetime. So, what should motivate us? Here are three big distinct motivations for doing justice.
1. The doctrine of imago Dei
Our belief in the doctrine of image of God should compel us to love. If we believe everyone is made in the image of God, then everyone is worthy of dignity, love, basic human rights, and hearing biblical truth.
Those who abuse people made in God’s image through enslavement, torture, rape, and grinding poverty, are dehumanizing people and insulting God Himself. Many victims of human trafficking and abuse report how they felt inhumane after being oppressed.
Those who believe in the imago Dei should live out their theology through practical acts of love for the oppressed and vulnerable.
2. The doctrine of redemption
The Bible records for us the story of God coming to save people. When we were enslaved, He freed us. When we were orphans, He adopted us. When we were sojourners, He welcomed us. When we were widows, Christ became our groom.
The mercy and justice of God meet at the cross, where our redemption comes from. We needed His redemption because none of us can live up to the standard God has set. But One did.
Jesus Christ is the ultimate display of a life of righteousness and justice. He wore justice perfectly. Jesus lived the life we couldn’t live, and then died the death we should have died, in order to make us righteous in God’s sight. Through repentance and faith in Christ, we are clothed in His righteousness.
Now, as believers, we have power to live just lives, and when we fail, we know God won’t crush us, for He has already crushed Christ in our place. Now we pursue justice because we love God, and have already been accepted in Him. We want to show mercy. That’s what God’s redemption has done for us.
God has changed our status and our desires. Pastor and author Tim Keller puts it well, “If a person has grasped the meaning of God’s grace in his heart, he will do justice.”
3. The doctrine of restoration
The good news about injustice isn’t only that we’re making some progress today, though we are. It’s that the King of kings will return to restore this broken world, bringing perfect shalom.
The kingdom of God has an individual-salvation dimension to it, it’s about the realm of God’s saving grace; and it also has a socio-future dimension to it, it’s about the realm of righteousness, justice, and blessing that is here, but not fully here yet.
In the coming Kingdom, will be no more orphans; no more trafficking; no more abuse. This fallen world will give way to glory. Doing justice and mercy is about showing the world what our King is like. It involves bringing the future into the present; that is, giving people a taste now of what the future will be like then.
When you welcome the stranger, share the good news among the nations, cultivate diverse friendships, adopt children, or defend the defenseless, you are simply living as the King’s people before a watching world. We don’t fight the problems of this fallen world as victims, but as victors.
My focus flowing from these motivations is on people. You may do justice and mercy through large-scale, political and social transformation like William Wilberforce, who worked to abolish slavery. Or you may do mercy and justice through simple acts like welcoming a foster child. In whatever case, let’s do it all in effort to bless people.
Because people are made in God’s image, because people need redemption, and because people will one day dwell with God in the new heavens and the new earth where everything will be finally transformed, we should be seriously interested in how to love our neighbors as ourselves—our orphaned neighbors, our lonely neighbors, our impoverished neighbors, our enslaved neighbors, our racially different neighbors, and our lost neighbors.