This year the United Nation’s World Day of Social Justice’s theme is “A Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy”. Their focus is largely to achieve progress and social justice in the context of globalization in industry and commerce. In their statement on the theme, “The General Assembly recognizes that social development and social justice are indispensable for the achievement and maintenance of peace and security within and among nations and that, in turn, social development and social justice cannot be attained in the absence of peace and security or in the absence of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
How can any of this happen if the concept of social justice does not first imbed itself in individuals’ hearts, minds, and consciousness? That social justice is a new concept, comes from the prominence of the term in the news and on social media. However, the concept can be found in the theology of Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Paine’s philosophies. The term was first used explicitly in the 1780’s. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action in 1993 felt that social justice is a purpose of human rights education.
What does all this mean in the life of those who follow Christ? How would Christ look at our use of digital platforms? What rules might apply?
Recently, we have seen the digital world having a huge impact. And by those who proclaim Christ. Seeds of disunity have been sown, within governments and families, as well as between individuals. Micah 6:8 states, “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?”
Nowhere, in the Word left us by God, does our all-seeing Father say, ‘except, of course, when the digital world arrives all previous teachings will become null and void.’ And yet, we see every day those proclaiming a Christian walk, leaving the love walk behind when it comes to the words left to their fellow man.
Does anyone truly believe, when our fingers become our tongues in the digital world, Divine guidelines change? Does it not grieve the Holy Spirit, as it tells us in Ephesians 4, when instead of beautiful words of encouragement and grace to help others, we turn to bitter words, temper tantrums, revenge, profanity and insults flowing onto our screens? Are our tongues still not “a small part of the body”, that carries great power? James’ warning to think of how small a flame can set a huge forest ablaze seems to still carry weight in the light of recent events.
We are still called to love and uplift our fellow man. We are still called to obey the laws of governments. We are still called to be sowers of peace and unity in a world that has always sowed division. Yes, we are allowed our opinions and differences, but how we express them matters.
It seems to me that both the news, often condensed to misleading headlines on social platforms, and all the digital platforms, used by individuals to convey their own thoughts and reactions, are now strewn with judgements on others extending even to who is and is not a Christian, based on political leanings. Can this ever be okay for those called to love even our enemies? “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven…” (Luke 6:37 ESV) still seems very real to me.
“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” (Eph 2:14)
Paul was talking of a racial ethnic divide being healed between Jews and non-Jews. At the time, he wrote of ethnic hatred being dissolved and that peace had to come by starting over—forming one new race of humanity. And yet, within the ether of social media exist groups whose sole purpose is to destroy one another. There are those, who seek to groom others to accepting their beliefs through appealing to their honest emotions with misleading information. We see Christians rationalizing their interest in such groups.
All lives do matter and yet the Bible tells us that there always have been those who are judged as less than, who need our steadfast support and whom we are called to love. Inequity exists and yet we are called to do our part to diminish inequality.
I believe the Bible still calls us to a more excellent standard, based on scripture, whether through our living in the world, in print or on social media. Social Justice, after all, is a call for scriptural justice. Isaiah 10 (ESV) declares, “Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey.”
The Bible remains our manual for how we live our lives justly and we do not get to rewrite it. Scripture remains the original call for social justice. In this world of self-promotion, we are called to promote unity through following the Word of God. In our lives, which include our digital lives, we are still called to behave as if for an audience (and ‘Like’) of One.
Philippians 2:3 tells us, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”