What do lemons have to do with social justice and the church? MJ and I were asked to share on the subject of social last night at Cornerstone Assembly, our home church here in Pretoria.
Definitions of social justice have the potential to be a very politically charged subject in society as most define it from the perspective of equality and human rights. I prefer to use John Rawls (A Theory of Justice) definition: “Social justice is the ability people have to realize their potential in the society where they live”. This definition puts the emphasis on the people themselves to make a difference, not just a program that does everything for them. In other words it helps them to realize their potential.
What is the Biblical response to social justice?
a) God is a just God
“He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.”
b) God is a God of equality
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, for you are all one in Christ. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
c) God cares for the poor and afflicted
Deuteronomy 10:18 “He defends the cause the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.”
James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
How should the church respond to social justice?
In Matthew 22:34-40, Jesus said that everything hangs on two commandments:
1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and, the second is like it:
2) Love your neighbor as yourself
God motivated love will lead to neighbor motivated love! The words “is like it” teaches us that the two cannot be separated. You cannot love your neighbour without first loving God, and you cannot love God if you do not love your neighbour.
Both commandments speak of relationship and responsibility. It is hard to love your neighbour without developing a relationship. Relationship with my neighbour allows me to see their potential and leads to the responsibility of helping them to use that potential to have an impact upon the society where they live.
Just before leaving for the meeting, MJ decided to pick some lemons from the lemon tree in our backyard (obviously lemons grow on lemon trees) and take them to people who would be in attendance. The bag of lemons gave me a last minute social justice idea. MJ shared some of the many faces of social justice that we see happening across Africa, and how they are giving people an opportunity to share the good news of Christ’s love. After she shared, I asked the audience what lemons had to do with social justice and the church. One young lady did not just see a lemon, she saw lemonade. This young lady understands social justice. Anyone can sell lemons, helping someone see the creative potential of what can be done with the lemon is social justice.
I decided to use my old baseball arm at the end of the night and throw lemons into the audience. The throws weren’t bad, the catches were even better. I encouraged those who were going home with a lemon to ask God to lead them to someone this week in Pretoria whom they could help find their potential.
Who is God asking you to share a lemon with this week?
Until next Monday…