In 1983–the year after I was born–President Ronald Reagan officially designated the third Monday in January as Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But it wasn’t until 2000–the year I graduated from high school–that it was observed by all 50 states for the first time. As the saying goes, “Justice marches slowly on.” As we celebrate yet another MLK Day, the occasion warrants asking how the 21st century Christian church can continue Dr. King’s legacy.
Soong-Chan Rah—a popular speaker and author—is the B. Engebretson Associate Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, IL and the author of “The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity” and “Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church.” Previously, he was the founding senior pastor of the Cambridge Community Fellowship Church, a multi-ethnic, urban ministry-focused church committed to living out the values of racial reconciliation and social justice in the urban context. Here, we discuss how the Christian church can be an instrument of justice and reconciliation in our current era.
RNS: What message would you want to share with churches that are lukewarm about social justice, or simply not interested in prioritizing justice issues?
SCR: God’s heart for justice is a biblical mandate. It is not action arising from political correctness. If we’re lukewarm about social justice, then we are lukewarm about the Scriptures. The Bible calls for “justice to roll down” and consistently calls for believers to care for the poor and the immigrants among us. We are to be concerned about the orphans and the widows. We are given examples of how the prophets stood up to the powers. If we reject justice, we are performing a form of eisegesis that picks and chooses what we hold to be important from Scripture based upon our experiences, our cultural biases, and our personal preferences.