On Earth as it is in Heaven
Since coming into my appointment as Territorial Social Justice Secretary two years ago, I have regularly been asked, “What exactly is social justice?” and “What does that look like for the Salvation Army today?”
Social Justice has been an integral part of the DNA of The Salvation Army from its earliest inception in the East End of London. The idea was fleshed out by the vision of William and Catherine Booth and passed on through generations of Salvationists.
General Evangeline Booth said, “Be an enemy, a fighting enemy of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Be an aggressor, carry the war into the enemy’s camp. Be a fighter, a soldier, a man or woman who has the fire of war against sin in their blood and bone.”
In 1865, Catherine Booth said (referring to human trafficking, prostitution, and commercial sexual exploitation in London), “I felt as though I must go and walk the streets and besiege the dens where these hellish iniquities are going on. To keep quiet seemed like being a traitor to humanity.”
These quotes stir and energizes my soul and spirit! Today, I see across the world the work that The Salvation Army is still doing to fight human trafficking. It is truly “entering the enemy’s camp” and fighting on the front lines.
When we look at biblical mandates, we see that God is a God of justice. He hates injustice and gives dignity to all human life.
- “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. I will faithfully reward my people for their suffering and make an everlasting covenant with them,” Isaiah 61:8.
- “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow,” Isaiah 1:17.
- “The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love,” Psalm 33:5.
- “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never–failing stream,” Amos 5:24.
- “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God,” Micah 6:8.
The Lord Jesus Christ came to redeem and restore the world. At the beginning of His earthly ministry, He declared from the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come,” Luke 4:18,19.
Recently, I read a blog post by Brad Watson (“Saturate” 10/24/2017). He aptly summed up the conditions that we continue to face in our world and how desperately we need the kingdom of heaven on earth.
“You don’t have to read the papers, watch the news, or scroll through social media to know this pervasive truth: the world is not as it should be. Society is not right. Culture is corrupt. Institutions are failing. The market is not moral. Humans, in our sin, are destroying the earth as fast as we can, only to be outdone by the destroying of one-another. We abuse; we steal; we kill; we neglect. Earth does not look like heaven.
“While Jesus prayed, ‘Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,’ we point to the grand disparity of earth and the notion of heaven and dispute the existence of God. We often wonder: ‘If there is a God, when will He do something?’ However, in Christ, this doubt transforms into one of the best prayers we can pray: ‘God make our world heaven—make it whole.’”
Jesus teaches us to pray this way: “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” With that in mind, we in the social justice office have taken Matthew 6:10 as our mandate. It is our prayer that the Holy Spirit will continually infuse the Salvation Army with God’s heart for justice and ignite again his fearless army for battle.
The Salvation Army Social Justice Department in Australia has written this timely definition of our social justice work: www.salvosocialjustice.org.
“It is our belief that working for Social Justice is working to see the Kingdom of God on earth. When we pray The Lord’s Prayer, we ask ‘Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven,’ Matthew 6:10. We are calling for God’s Kingdom on earth to look like God’s Kingdom in Heaven. God’s Kingdom is God’s ideal plan for the world. Therefore, those elements on earth which would not be present in his ideal plan—those social ills and problems which make us uncomfortable when viewed in the light of holiness—are not part of a world based on God’s justice. While this is not a clear–cut definition, it is a concept through which we view the world, and one which encourages us to continue seeking God’s face.
“Social Justice is an extension of our holiness—not an add–on. An exploration of Jesus’ life shows that He was a person who lived a life that brought Justice – God’s kind of justice. Our desire to live lives modeled on His (that is, a desire to be holy) includes a desire to live a life that brings God’s justice.
“Social Justice is not simply a list of issues—it is a lifestyle made up of a series of choices, every day, to live a life which treats others as Jesus would. Social Justice is not something we ‘do’ – it is the aim. We want to see God’s Kingdom on earth – we want to see Social Justice – so we live lifestyles that will see that world exist in the present. Our aim is not to do Social Justice; our aim is to live lives that bring Social Justice.”
In the “Jesus and Justice” Book Study (The Salvation Army ISJC 2011) it reads, “Jesus’ mission is captured in a single vision with two dimensions. His hope for a restored humanity envisions well–being for people who are spiritually poor and people who are socially poor. And in their midst, righteousness and justice mark the events of His days and nights. Jesus lives right and makes life right with others. In Jesus’ code, to love is to be just. To be just is to love. And when we claim to follow Jesus, we are disciples of justice. Jesus’ mission on earth in His time is our mission on earth in our time.”
So, we pray “Your will be done on earth as in heaven” and desire to live it 24/7. Our prayers are invitations to God; “Lord, bring Your will into our city, culture, government, and marketplace.” This prayer is certainly one of trust and confidence in His sovereignty. This prayer is also one of compassion, empathy, and desperation in a lost and dying world. It is also one of action; asking God to do something and humbly submitting ourselves to be used as He sees fit to accomplish His Kingdom—through us.
by Major Sue Dunigan