Social Justice and the Gospel
What part if any does social justice have in the Gospel?
Surely it is true
The gospel is the promise of right relationship with God by no doing of our own, is peace and joy and fullness in Jesus Christ crucified and raised from the dead, who is present to us and for us here and now in the Word proclaimed in the reading/preaching and received in, with, and under the bread and wine. Jesus Christ himself is the Good News!
That is, the good news is not just a bunch of words and movements--as a promise might be viewed made on its own--but an actual presence"here and now" of God in Christ through the Spirit, or "peace and joy and fullness in Jesus Christ". So we can say the real person of Jesus himself is the Gospel. I hope that much is not controversial.
But then, what follows? Can we--should we--say that social justice is distinct from the Gospel, an effect of it rather than an item contituting it? No.
This is true as well, I should think:
When what is good for the community is not also good for an entire organ thereof, what we have identified as good as such for the community then is also somehow sinful and certainly not the fullness of God's gospel and will.
That is, a dualism between the good of the church and social justice is false; at least this is how I read Christopher.
So, to pick on Derek a little, I think this is off the mark:
But our preaching and our teaching becomes disoriented if somehow the logical corollary becomes the focus and the central thesis from which it proceeds is obscured. The Church’s primary responsibility is the proclamation of the Good News of the Gospel, then the works of mercy that flow from this revelation. To preach the works alone, or to assume that the connection between the faith and the works is obvious and need not be said is to risk corruption of the Gospel with which we have been entrusted.
The primary responsibility of the church is not preaching and proclaiming alone, of course, but sacramental--the very existence of the church is bound up with the Eucharist and Baptism. Works do not merely flow from the sacraments of the church; they constitute them. Without works, there could not be any material signs of grace. This is implied too by the Offering which formally begins the Eucharist, as distinct from the Proclamation of the Word. It is the very works of the congregation, and through these works their very lives, that are sanctified and brought into the real presence of Christ--and the Father more importantly--through the Eucharist. Hence we can speak meaningfully of a sending at the end of the Eucharistic liturgy that has the real presence of Christ continue with us outside the building and in the secular world. Or what is much the same, the church continues to exist throughout the rest of the week. We should see the action of the Eucharist and the rest of our lives as a whole.
But injustice is inconsistent with the real presence of Christ. This is not a matter merely of our moral response to the Gospel. The kerygma/didache distinction is more rational than real;
worship without justice is worthless. Hence we pass the peace before beginning the Eucharist proper, and confess our sins, begging forgiveness. Surely if discerning the body--the presence of God--is a precondition of receiving the Body and Blood of our Savior, and this discernment requires repentance, we should beware of putting injustice out of mind. Receiving in faith--entering into the real presence--is impossible without repentance; presumption to the contrary is sin. Without desiring justice in the liturgy of the Eucharist, there is no actual Eucharist. It is strange then to separate them; it would seem better to see justice as partially constituting the reception of the Eucharist; call it "infused" or "imparted" justice: no matter.
For any sin is social injustice, and any righteousness social justice. In addition to any human or mortal sinned against, we are always in the presence of the Holy, Holy, Holy God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It has been a clear implication of the doctrine of the church from its earliest days that any sin is at least sin among at least four persons, and at least between the sinner and God. Or: sin always affects communion, our being with God in three persons. It is incoherent to see the quality of communion apart from Holy Communion, and thus to see justice as apart from the Gospel.