Michael Rudolph and I wrote a book on applying Torah entitled Torah in Messiah. It is our view that Torah is practical but must be applied according to New Covenant fulfillment, primarily through the teaching of Yeshua. Messianic Jews and Gentiles should have something to say to the difficult social justice issues of our day. And it must be based on a Biblical definition of justice, not Marxist or socialist which come from a wrong worldview. This is why I wrote a book on Social Justice.
I do not have much hope for attaining progress in society without the influence and believers and the transforming power of the Gospel. So, if you are putting trust in mere human efforts you will fail. Many books have been written on the history of progress in social justice since the first century. Progress has come from the influence of believers and the Bible, first of all, due to the unheard-of idea that every person is created in the image of God and is due love, respect, and justice on that basis.
What is love and what is justice? If you study the whole Bible, you can conclude the following. Love is the passionate identification with others that seeks their good guided by Law. Their good is defined by God’s intended good destiny for them. This must always be our motive. Then justice is seeking an order of righteousness that maximizes the potential of people to fulfill their God-given destinies or that maximizes the fulfillment of love for all people. We seek an ordering of society that maximizes love and justice. However, unless there is a great influence of the Gospel by a significant number of committed disciples of Yeshua, history does not give much hope that much can be attained. I want to now apply this to the life and teaching of Yeshua and what he has to say about the issues of racism and the violent riots. Richmond is a historic center for the pain of these matters and the Confederate monuments are controversial. Z how do we bring healing? I approach this message assuming the definitions.
- Love and Justice begin with a call for repentance. Mark 1:15. Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand, or available to you. What does this mean? God’s Kingdom order of love, justice, and miracles is breaking into this world and you are called to repent and enter into it. Repudiate selfishness and hatred, and vengeance and give yourself to the power of the Kingdom. The Kingdom influences all of life. Note the ending of slavery largely came from Evangelicals. Many books on progress in history show this. Rodney Stark’s The Victory of Reason and British historian Tom Holland, Dominion, How the Christian Revolution remade the World.
- Yeshua calls for submission to the Torah teaching of Yeshua. This is most clear in the Sermon on the Mount near the beginning, Matthew 5:16, 17, and the end Matthew 7, were we are told to build on the rock of his teaching.
- The context of Luke 4 is important. Yeshua said that “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me to proclaim liberty.” To whom? The Gospels is first to the outcast, marginalized, and oppressed. The year of Jubilee is the context of Luke 4. It is the year when the slaves go free. Mennonite J. Howard Yoder in The Politics of Jesus is brilliant on this.
- The Sermon on the Mount’s Beatitudes proclaims the end of victim status. You cannot claim victim status and know the power of God and your life is now in his hands. Matthew is about the great reversal because the kingdom has now invaded earth.
- Our approach to change must include the rejection of violence: The Zealot movement and its attempts to overthrow the Roman government by violence was the context of Yeshua’s teaching against violence. The Romans did practice terrible oppression and racism. I am not saying that there is no place for just war, but this is far secondary to the way we seek change.
- Yeshua councils turning the other cheek and volunteering to carry a load a second mile when a Jewish person was conscripted by a Roman soldier to carry his load. This response to Roman oppression and shaming was unprecedented. It is the way of love. The oppressed shows love to the oppressor, the enemy.
- Satan comes not but to rob, steal, and destroy. The false shepherds of John 10:7, 10:10 were the ones seeking violent revolution.
- When Yeshua wept over Jerusalem and predicted its destruction it was because he knew the zealots would gain control and ultimately go to war. The chose the false shepherds instead of the Prince of Peace
- Romans 13 speaks of submitting to authority during the days of Nero! Now there are limits to submission and the Apostles made it clear that this did not include obeying sinful commands or shutting down the spread of the Gospel.
- Our approach calls for reconciliation and forgiveness based on the Gospel. We are to attain a heart of love for the enemy: Matthew 19:21 councils us to forgive 70 X 7 and teaches this forgiveness on the basis that the debt we owe to God far outstrips any debt another might have to us. He has given us the ministry of reconciliation to God and one and other. II Corr. 5:18
- A successful movement that pursues justice has to be driven by reconciled believers. Jonathan Blanchard (founder of Wheaton College), revivalist Charles Finney, EvangelicalHarriet Beacher Stowe, The Pastors Beachers, William Ward and Henry, and Wilbur Wilburforce show this witness. A Marxist humanistic movement of violence will lead to destruction and greater suffering. A true movement begins with reconciliation, with the Body of Believers with the repentance, reconciliation, and unity of all races and ethnicities. In this time of anti-police rhetoric and black offense, the best way forward would be a movement led by Christian Policemen and Black Christians, pastors, and members. These kinds of people can lead a non-violent movement of justice. Martin Luther King led just such a movement with Christians and Jews, blacks, and whites. His themes were Christian or biblical.
- The history of 20th century white churches is one of the saddest chapters. I am not speaking about southern Christians who had a racist or segregationist theology which was terrible. I am speaking about the non-racists who would sing with their children, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.” The sin was in neglect of their responsibility to first focus their efforts of the Gospel and their works of love to the poorest communities. An escapist theology as fostered and they, therefore, did not see pursuing justice as a central part of the Gospel.
- You can know that the violence, destroying, and killing is not from God and is like unto the zealots and will set back the cause of justice.
- However, pursuing justice and reconciliation has to be based on finding the truth and not based on lies. The claim of systemic racism is not helpful. Being guilty on the basis of being born white is anti-biblical. Rather we need to pursue the issue of specific areas of racism. In education, housing, family, business, and policing. The black experience is not that so many are killed unjustly, but that so many are mistreated. Why does the government allow 7,500 black on black murders per year? Where was the Church on mass? The Church should be there, preach the gospel and its members should be willing to lay down lives? Just where does racism show itself? It is in the heart. Is it in corporations? Which? Real discrimination has to be proven. I note public school disaster and the black underclass and the need to escape this system. Anecdotal evidence is not going to help solve this. There has to be objective social science studies by people without a Marxist agenda. A vague broad claim will just be denied. I know that only a Gospel effort for the poor and massive investment of our lives will turn around the poor of the cities. This is why we support every month the Richmond Ministry CHAT and its high school. It is one example of the Gospel in action. There should be thousands of examples. I am not thinking the government will solve it. By some measures, 22 Trillion has been spent since Johnson’s great society legislation. Much was squandered and did not work. But If we identify with and support violent revolutionaries or sympathize with it, we have abandoned the Gospel way and the power of God.