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Social Justice

Social Justice

They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out. Acts 16:37

It can be easy while reading the New Testament to get the idea that, as Christians, we’re not supposed to stand up for ourselves or object to mistreatment. Jesus commanded us to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) and when the apostles were beaten by the Jewish religious leaders, they considered it an honor to be persecuted for Christ (Acts 5:41). We’re commanded to choose joy when we face trials (James 1:2) and remain thankful in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). So, one could get the idea that when any injustice is done, we’re just supposed to accept it.

Most of us don’t tolerate injustice quietly though. We’re quick to scream “It’s not fair” and few of us will simply sit back and endure mistreatment. The temptation though, to apply this “Just accept it” attitude to others who are suffering from inequality. When we see those taking a stand against injustice, if we don’t personally feel the unfairness, we often downplay their experience, preferring that they just accept their lot in life. It’s not that bad. Why do you have to make such a big deal? Just move on.

In today’s passage though, we’re told how Paul stood up to the injustice done to Silas and him. In the story, the two apostles were stripped, beaten, and jailed by the Roman magistrate for disturbing the peace. The next day, when the authorities attempted to have them quietly sent away, Paul objected. They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? His words struck fear in the magistrates, causing them to humbly apologize to Paul and Silas.

The story makes it clear that Christians aren’t forbidden from standing up to unfairness. When injustice is done to others, we as Christians, should be the first to object. Turning the other cheek doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to discrimination or inequality. Sometimes, loving our neighbor may well mean doing whatever we can to seek justice. We may, at times, be called on by God to endure hardships or persecution but ignoring the evil and injustice around us isn’t inherently Christian or Christ-like.

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