God’s grace and the pursuit of justice

that’s basically the thrust of Tim Keller’s new book Generous Justice: How God’s Grace makes us Just (Pinguin Group, 2010).  More and more I am liking and appreciating the work of Tim Keller – he doesn’t want to settle for average Christianity – he wants to make a difference and one area he has a heart to make a difference in is the cities.   In this book he writes in part:

There are many great differences between the small  southern town of Hopewell, Virginia, and the giant metropolis of New York. But there was one thing that was exactly the same. To my surprise, there is a direct relationship between a person’s grasp and experience of God’s grace, and his or her heart for justice and the poor. In both settings, as I preached the classic message that God does not give us justice but saves us by free grace, I discovered that those most affected by the message became the most sensitive to the social inequities around them.

Elaine Scarry of Harvard has written a fascinating little book called On Beauty and Being Just.  Her thesis is that the experience of beauty makes us less self-centered and more open to justice. I have observed
over the decades that when people see the beauty of God’s grace in Christ, it leads them powerfully toward justice.

I was just reading about this the other day in a book on cross cultural missions, a similar thought anyways, in that part of the pursuit of God’s mission in this world, the pursuit of his salvation to the ends of the earth, is the pursuit of justice for the poor and oppressed of the world.

What Keller is suggesting here as well is how can it be possible that we, as Christians who have experienced, even in minute ways, the grace and mercy of God, go on in life in any other fashion than to pursue justice and freedom for the poor and oppressed of our societies or the world? How can we just sit by and live in the grace of God and not be moved to help others also experience that grace?

I ask, because, sadly this is what happens to many Christians – they get saved out of their own difficult situations and lives, be it literal poverty or injustice or our spiritual states of total depravity and then just go on with life not turning back to help relieve others in similar plights.  It happens all the time.  I actually think this is a “catch-22” kind of problem within Pentecostalism.

Maybe that is the question for the day: has God’s grace made you just?  if so, how so?

Feel free to let me know what you think.


See Roger Olson’s thoughts about how God will judge us for not taking care of children trapped in deep poverty – he has some good thoughts.


2 responses to “God’s grace and the pursuit of justice

  1. Hi again Brian.

    That book sounds interesting. I am noticing that God is bringing this topic up again among Christians in our culture (i.e. social justice). Several years ago I took a course from the Chalmers Center where our textbook was “Walking with the Poor” by Bryant Myers. Myers worked for years with World Vision (WV) and much of the material covered what they had learned while reaching out to the poor and exploited. It was not an easy read (with sociology paradigms attempting to describe the basis of poverty), but made many excellent points. In an effort to bring the concepts of that book down to a lay level, they recently released the book “<a href="When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Yourself“>“. It is excellent, and I have used the book in an adult Sunday School class.

    I think God’s grace should naturally make us just and more compassionate. I feel it has for me and others I know well. The latter book addresses some issues of ‘how to’ related to larger social issues. For example, it should be obvious to us as Christians how to be honest in our dealings with others and pay our bills on time. Also, organizations such as WV let us address children dying of hunger and even child soldier/labor/prostitution issues. However, the latter book is helpful in addressing issues such as poverty, joblessness, etc. that are in our own communities. I think you might find it interesting.

  2. Thanks Jean for commenting! Sorry to take so long to get back to you. Thanks to for the book tip – it looks pretty interesting. I am glad God is reminding us to take care of the poor and the oppressed in our society – he tells is too in his word and that is the basic thrust of much of the prophetic books in the OT, prophets calling in Kings and Spiritual leaders of Israel to repent of their oppression of the poor and the need to watch after them – because they were once poor and oppressed in Egypt – and we too have all at one time been spiritually poor and oppressed so too we should care for others in such situations. Blessings

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