This Lent, I have been reading John Stott’s classic book, The Cross of Christ, to focus on what Jesus’ death means. I found this quote in the last section of the book, called “Living Under the Cross.” In light of the recent conflict between Glenn Beck and Jim Wallis on the meaning of “social justice,” and how it relates to the Gospel, I thought I would share it.
[A]s we have repeatedly noted throughout this book, the cross is a revelation of God’s justice as well as of his love. That is why the community of the cross should concern itself with social justice as well as with loving philanthropy. It is never enough to have pity on the victims of injustice, if we do nothing to change the unjust situation itself. Good Samaritans will always be needed to succour those who are assaulted and robbed; yet it would be even better to rid the Jerusalem-Jericho road of brigands. Just so Christian philanthropy in terms of relief and aid is necessary, but long-term development is better, and we cannot evade our political responsibility to share in changing the structures which inhibit development. Christians cannot regard with equanimity the injustices which spoil God’s world and demean his creatures. Injustice must bring pain to the God whose justice flared brightly at the cross; it should bring pain to God’s people too. Contemporary injustices take many forms. They are international (the invasion and annexation of foreign territory), political (the subjugation of minorities), legal (the punishment of untried and unsentenced citizens), racial (the humiliating discrimination against people on the ground of race or colour), economic (the toleration of gross North-South inequality and of the traumas of poverty and unemployment), sexual (the oppression of women), educational (the denial of equal opportunity for all) or religious (the failure to take the gospel to the nations). Love and justice combine to oppose all these situations. If we love people, we shall be concerned to secure their basic rights as human beings, which is also the concern of justice. The community of the cross, which has truly absorbed the message of the cross, will always be motivated to action by the demands of justice and love. (292-3)