“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!” –Jesus, speaking in the Temple during the last week of his life, according to Matthew 23:23-24.
Some time ago I was in conversation with a pastor who heaped a bunch of us other pastors together as “social justice pastors” and did so in a not-so-subtly dismissive way. From this pastor’s perspective, the social justice bunch had missed the true mark and not focused in on the core message of grace that defines our denomination. Thus, it shouldn’t be surprising to the SJP’s that they find themselves struggling with their vocations in the church. It was too bad, yet also implicitly deserved.
It seems to me that Jesus is saying you can’t parse grace in ways that leave justice–and it’s key component , mercy–on the sidelines of “proper theology.” The systems that do so are systems that inevitably result in a few folks pleasuring themselves while ignoring the needs of the many.
And right now, the needs of the many are growing exponentially huge.