The other day a wise man I know referenced what "social justice Jesus" would do, and it really got me thinking. The Jesus of the Bible is in fact social justice Jesus and He always spoke against the super religious who got in the way of doing the Father's business. So how did we get to this passive, judgmental, white supremacist, Republican-worshipping version of Christ in America? That's a question for another day, but here is what I know:
Jesus retreated to be alone and pray, BUT he also acted. He knew that faith without works is dead and so he DID. He was a stone catcher when the uber religious wanted to kill a woman who was caught in adultery, and while this was a crime punishable by death at the time, he realized that just because something was permissible didn't make it right. He didn't retreat to pray this time; instead, He stepped in and stood for love and mercy for another human being.
He didn't stop there... When those in the temple were stealing and misusing funds he flipped the tables. When people were hungry or hurting he acted. Could he have just prayed and made it so? Yes! But he modeled a life of action over and over and over again.
And in the stories he told there was also a theme of social justice. Everything Jesus did was intentional, so I believe He wanted us to pay attention to His words as much as His actions. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, a man is traveling on the seventeen mile journey from Jericho to Jerusalem. This man was robbed and and beaten and left to die on the side of the road in a "bad" part of town. Both a priest and a Levite (those similar to preachers and church staff of today) come along the road and see him- but each of them react in disgust, cross the street and walk away. Twice this man left for dead is offered a glimmer of hope seeing someone who should help him and twice he is rejected, betrayed. Twice a man of God is given a chance to empathize with someone different from them and sit with them in their hurt and discomfort, and twice they reject him.
Finally, a Samaritan comes- a member of a people group often shunned and thought of as "half-breeds"- and he stops to help. But he does more than help a little: he binds up his wounds, anoints him with oil, loads him up on his mule, takes him to an inn and cares for him, going as far as to pay for his entire stay. Jesus asks those who are listening to the story which man took care of his neighbor as He commands, and is answered "the one who had mercy on him," to which Jesus replies, "Go and do likewise."
And while our churches are willfully turning their backs on the poor and those seeking refuge from hard places... While we are abandoning those just trying to find a safe space to be who they are and who God created them to be... While our leaders are penning articles justifying why they voted for a man who stands for hatred and oppression... While our pews and staffs are filled with people who look and think just like us... While we pervert and twist the Bible to fit our narrative and leave out the parts that make us look bad... While we are watching as history repeats itself and men who are there to serve and protect all of us recklessly murder some of us... While we threaten to mow down protestors... While we speak from a place of hate and ignorance and use the Bible to excuse it. While we are doing that, people are watching us.
We are the priests. We are the Levites.
But Jesus was the Samaritan- the misfit, the loud mouth, the reject, the bruised, the broken, the one that no one wanted. Jesus was the man of color executed by the state and called a criminal. He was the man whose life didn't matter to the religious because he upset their authority and disrupted their comfort.
And yet He commands us to have mercy. He commands us to love those that society rejects. He steps in when there is no justice and works to make it so. He models a life of both prayer *and* action.
And I believe with all my heart that if Jesus lived today he would say that Black Lives Matter. He would fight to stop the injustices of things that are permissible but not right. He would be hated by officials and the super religious because His message of love and mercy wouldn't fit in with the rhetoric. He would do good, seek justice and help the oppressed as Isaiah spoke of.
And when He was killed the folks of today would probably say, "He should have just done what He was told."