THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE WAY FORWARD IN CHRIST
SPIRITUAL RENEWAL AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
1 John 4:19-5:4
In the Church today there is the tension between spiritual
renewal and social justice. There should be no dichotomy
between the two, as both are part and parcel of Christian
life and work. But unfortunately there is. There are those
who work at spiritual renewal but hardly have any concern
about the poor. On the other hand, there are those who are
so-called social justice warriors but who give in to the
culture of death in pursuing their goals.
look at the Sustainable Development Goals of the United
Nations, to which our Church has subscribed to. The ultimate
goal is a world without poverty. In pursuing this goal,
there are the thrusts, among others, of zero hunger, gender
equality, clean energy, and climate action. These would
seem to be good, but on closer scrutiny, these bring in
the culture of death. To achieve the goal, there is the
promotion of such evils as LGBT and abortion. Blaming much
of poverty and climate change on overpopulation, it looks
to drastically limiting the population of the world. That
necessitates the whole gamut of the culture of death.
is authentic Christian teaching?
we look not only to God but also to our neighbor. We are
to love them both. “If anyone says, ‘I love
God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; ….
This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves
God must also love his brother.” (1 Jn 4:20a,21).
We are all children of God. So we must be concerned about
our brothers, especially the least of our brethren.
we look to justice in the world. Justice is giving to everyone
what is his due. To the poor is due a equitable share of
the world’s goods. But the goods of the world are
under the control of the rich and powerful. So Solomon prays
that the king “may govern your people with justice,
your oppressed with right judgment” (Ps 72:2b).
social justice, basically work with the poor, is at the
heart of the Christian faith. Jesus himself took on the
words of the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord
is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings
to the poor.” (Lk 4:18a). God has a preferential option
for the poor. So should we as Church.
what is glad tidings? It is the gospel. It is the proclamation
of salvation in Jesus. It is announcing the coming of the
Kingdom of God in our midst. Now if the Kingdom of God is
firmly established in the world, then there will be social
justice. The poor would not be deprived but would properly
be cared for.
with much of social work today, here is the problem: there
is work with the poor, but Jesus and the Kingdom of God
have been left out. There is a drive for social justice
but not for spiritual renewal. The focus is on man and not
on God. There is feeding of the body but not of the soul.
With acceptance of the culture of death in social development
programs, work with the poor has become work against Christian
morality and faith.
Jesus was sent “to proclaim liberty to captives ….
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” (Lk
4:18b,19). He was called to proclaim and of course
to do the actual work of “recovery of sight to the
blind, to let the oppressed go free” (Lk 4:18c). The
two go together. The proclamation and the actual work. The
good news is not just material or physical well-being, but
spiritual well-being. The poor are fed not just with physical
food but spiritual food.
when messengers of John the Baptist asked Jesus if he was
the Messiah, he said to them, “Go and tell John what
you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the
lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead
are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to
them.” (Lk 7:22). If we follow the logical flow
of contrasts that happen (blind see, lame walk, etc.), then
Jesus should have said “the poor become rich.”
But no. The poor have the gospel preached to them. This
is the gospel of the Kingdom.
social justice without spiritual renewal is not what God
intends. Rather, there is spiritual renewal, and social
justice will naturally flow out of that.