Within the church, most of us acknowledge the importance of biblical justice. And as a pastor, you may have spoken on this very topic in your sermons. But so many of us struggle with what it takes to actually do biblical justice as a church community and beyond.
According to a Barna Summer 2020 OmniPoll Report, 86 percent of practicing Christians (those who are actively involved in a church body) agree that seeking biblical justice is crucial to living out their beliefs.
But this didn’t exactly translate to knowing how to do biblical justice.
When these same Christians were asked if they would be interested in getting involved in biblical justice opportunities offered through their church, the numbers significantly dropped.
Only 37 percent of those same Christians responded “yes” to engaging in the mission to protect people who are poor from violence and only 33 percent were interested in engaging in strengthening justice systems to ensure they’re given safe futures that last.
What this might mean for your congregation is that the majority may believe they should seek biblical justice, but they also struggle with the “how” behind taking their first step to do it. So, how can you encourage your church to live out what they believe about biblical justice?
At IJM, we believe biblical justice goes hand in hand with protecting people in poverty from violence and working to strengthen the local justice systems. And we believe that you and your church play a pivotal role in this. Why? Let’s first take a look at what biblical justice is.
What is Biblical Justice?
“Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” – Isaiah 1:17
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” – Isaiah 58:6
These are the very scriptures we use to define what God deems as good biblical justice. And we have met so many Christians who oriented their entire lives around doing this work within the poorest communities in the developing world. But one, overwhelming obstacle kept getting in their way.
Little girls would stop showing up to their afterschool program because they had been trafficked into the sex industry. Fathers would stop bringing their kids by the free clinic because they’d been locked up in jail on false charges. Regardless of the wonderful resources Christians were providing, violence undermined the biblical justice they sought to do.
IJM was founded out of this reality. We wanted to come alongside people like you as you lead your community in doing God’s good work and address the issues of violence so that your programs and services can flourish.
For us, this meant that in order to follow Christ’s call to love our neighbors and seek justice for the oppressed, it had to start within the justice system. Why?
Justice systems are fundamental to a society. Law enforcement ensures that laws are followed. And you know what we’ve discovered in every place we’ve worked? There are laws against violence. There are laws against slavery. But they weren’t being enforced.
When these laws are not enforced, it leaves people unprotected and vulnerable—the majority being people who are poor. But, when we’ve worked together within these justice systems, that’s when we’ve seen miracles happen.
Miracles like this one…
Child Sex Trafficking in Cebu
By the early 2000s, the busy, bar-lined streets of metro Cebu, the Philippines, were a haven for criminals seeking to traffic children and vulnerable women for sex. Abuse was their business model. And bar and brothel owners grew rich selling minors while corrupt police officers were paid to look away.
Sex trafficking of children was rampant, traffickers feared no consequences, and the justice system simply didn’t function the way it should. So, we got to work.
We opened a new office in Cebu and fought through many obstacles to find the light of hope God was shining on this transforming community.
4 years after opening our office, we were stunned. We exceeded every expectation we set. Through side-by-side partnership with the justice system, they increased local law enforcement’s rescue of sex trafficking victims by about 1,000 percent—bringing freedom to more than 250 children and securing criminal charges against more than 100 suspected sex traffickers.
Most astonishingly, we saw a 79 percent reduction in the availability children in the commercial sex trade—that’s unprecedented!
Our work in Cebu showed that actually stopping the violence before it happened was possible when communities come together. To seek the same sustainable change everywhere, it’s going to take all of us in the church—including yours.
The church has a prophetic role to play in every society. And you can lead your church to stand in the gap for those experiencing everyday violence by bringing biblical justice that creates lasting change. For us, this means extending our hands to our neighbors next door, and our neighbors abroad.
So, now that we’ve defined biblical justice, how can you lead your church to do it effectively?
How Can Your Church Do Biblical Justice?
Here are 5 ways to get you started:
- Come together in prayer. Biblical justice is God’s work. So, seeking him is the first step. From the very first days of IJM, our work has been built around prayer—offering up our needs and desperate asks together. And we’ve seen many miracles happen as a result. Host a prayer meeting and invite your congregation to pray for the rescue and defense of people who are poor.
- Defend the poor. There are millions of people trapped in violence and slavery today. They’re children trafficked for sex. Innocent fathers unjustly thrown into prison. Widows whose homes are destroyed by men with machetes. And parents lured into forced labor slavery by the promise of a way out of poverty. None of them can afford advocates to defend them. But we can. Mobilize your church to give to organizations who will ensure there’s someone to protect and defend them.
- Look Around. Take a look around your own communities and open your eyes to people who might be suffering from intimidation and fear. Are there organizations within your city who are addressing these needs? Organize volunteer opportunities where your church can join them in serving your community together.
- Raise your voice. Christians have played a critical role in sounding the alarm on crises throughout history, becoming world leaders in confronting them. This is the church at its best: when the whole church body joins together by raising our voices as advocates for people who are poor. As the leader of your church, you can take this critical step. And we have the perfect opportunity to take it…
- Host a Freedom Sunday Service. When the church moves, the world transforms. Freedom Sunday is one service dedicated to sharing God’s heart for justice. We will equip you to educate, engage and empower your church to actively live out its faith in a fresh and authentic way. It’s a chance for adults, teens, kids and grandparents to gather together to pray and stand up for justice. When you sign up you’ll get step-by-step planning guides, sermon tools and a variety of free resources for both adults and children.
Biblical justice is heavy work. But God is doing most of the lifting. He’ll equip us to do the rest.
Together as the church, if we lean into this dark mission of protecting people who are poor from violence through partnering with local justice systems, God will bring so much light out of the darkness—making the mission of biblical justice unstoppable.
Will you join us in our mission to make justice for people who are poor unstoppable? Learn how you can host a Freedom Sunday service.