by Darrell Bernard Harrison
In Mark 7:21-23, Jesus makes it clear that the seed of every sinful attitude and act that you and I exhibit toward one another is the sin that resides in our hearts.
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.
I've been writing and speaking about the "gospel" of social justice, and its various and sundry layers and aspects, for nearly a decade. In that time, I've been consistent and unwavering in my insistence that Scripture is unambiguous that the root of all injustice in the world, regardless of how the injustice may manifest itself, is sin—period.
But as I continue to engage with evangelical social justicians on the matter of "social justice," I'm finding that many of them want the problem to something other than sin, that is, they want the problem to be something that is outside of them that they can fix, not something that is innate to them that only God can fix.
Interestingly, if not ironically, their desire that the problem of injustice be something other than the sinfulness of the human heart makes many of them angry and indignant because that reality means that there's nothing they themselves can do about it—absolutely nothing at all—which likewise means they are powerless in and of themselves to bring about the kind of structural and institutional changes they desire to see in the world.
Again, these are professing evangelicals I'm talking about. One would think, as professing evangelicals, that they would be quick to acknowledge the reality of what Jesus said in Mark 7:21-23, but no. What they want is for the problem of injustice to be systemic to society but not endemic to society (see Romans 3:23; 5:12) so that they can be the ones to take the actions and implement the solutions that will, in their minds, remedy the problem of injustice in society as opposed to the gospel working supernaturally in the hearts of sinful human beings since, well, that would take too long to get them what they want in this world, which is to be their own savior.
The reason the gospel is the only answer to injustice is that it addresses the what of injustice by remedying the why of injustice. It does this by dealing with the congenital defilement of the human heart which, as Jesus said in Mark 7:21-23, is the root and genesis of all such "evil things" in the first place.
Evangelical social justicians who are so zealous to "fight for justice" are sadly naive. Nowhere in Scripture are the people of God told to "fight" for justice. We are told to do justice and pursue it (see Psalm 82:3; Proverbs 21:3; Micah 6:8) The only "fight" believers are told to engage in is the "good fight" of faith (see 1 Timothy 1:18; 6:12).
Biblical justice is not accomplished through antagonistic or activist confrontation. It is not achieved by self-salvific tactics that promise to transform this world into a societal nirvana. The gospel of Jesus Christ conquers the world one heart at a time as God—in accordance with His own divine timing and providence—monergistically and sovereignly regenerates our sinful hearts and transforms our darkened minds so that we joyfully submit to His commands and precepts (see Ezekiel 36:26-27; Romans 12:1-2).
The problem of injustice is sin—and only sin—and that sin takes up residence in the human heart. There is no other remedy for the problem of sin than the heart-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is the height of pride for any professing believer in Christ to be so ungraciously arrogant as to think the same mercy that God demonstrated toward him or her when they were living in spiritual darkness should not be offered to those who are presently living in that same spiritual darkness (see Matthew 5:43-45; Acts 26:17-18; Ephesians 5:8; Colossians 1:13).
Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. He did not come into to save society. Had Jesus come into the world as some kind of divine social worker—as many evangelical social justicians make Him out to be—He would not have had to die on a cross. And therein lies the fundamental distinction and difference between the biblical gospel and the so-called "social gospel."
You cannot remedy an endemic problem from the outside; you must do it from the inside.
Only the gospel does that.
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. — Hebrews 4:12 (NASB)