One of the many social outreaches of our church in Sao Paulo is the prison ministry, headed up by a friend of mine who travels every day to various correctional facilities all over the state with his team of pastors and evangelists, praying for inmates, providing basic needs such as blankets, food and clothing, and teaching them that they can be free internally, and even change their way of life externally as well. In fact all the social outreach groups in our church are full of day-to-day spiritual heroes: the Angels of the Night who feed and clothe the homeless in some of the roughest areas of the city every night of the week, the addiction outreach, the church’s home for the mentally disabled, the hospital visitation ministry, the outreach to abused women, and more. We can’t call ourselves true followers of Jesus if we don’t care for those who are suffering on a physical level, even if they’ll never thank or repay us. It’s part of the gospel, and part of serving Him.
But even if we do all of that, “you will always have the poor with you,” as Jesus said. Real injustice goes far deeper than just human rights violations and poverty. The roots of any type of evil are spiritual, and unless those roots are pulled up by spiritual means, they’ll remain as stubborn as ever, growing and destroying more lives.
There is a trend among young Christians who feel that the Church as a whole has failed to bring about the justice that Jesus taught. Their solution is to radically change their way of life to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, build shelters and homes, schools and clinics for the underprivileged. In their minds, they are being Jesus to the world, and many give up their comfortable lives as well-educated professionals for this radical life-style. That’s very noble, and caring for the physical needs of those who are suffering is a great necessity, but interestingly, many of these young people who are so adamant about social justice, are ambivalent about God’s justice for their personal lives. Death to sin, living in holiness and righteousness are minor points for many who are caught up in this trend. They want to be heroes for the world while pridefully refusing to obey the commands of Jesus. How can a filthy life rid the world of the filth of injustice? Can Satan drive out Satan?
Satan is the one who steals, kills and destroys. Of course he uses political corruption and incompetent social structures, but what sense does it make to rebuild a structure when a spiritual force keeps finding ways to knock it down again? God wants us to make permanent changes, and that only comes through spiritual warfare. And spiritual warfare begins with our own personal lives on a smaller scale. When we are made pure through rejecting sin and living for Jesus, true justice comes to life within ourselves. We are seen as pure and righteous in God’s eyes, which then gives us authority to rebuke and bind up demonic principalities. We can develop the spiritual eyes to see the roots of injustice in a homeless person, an addict, a refugee or a prisoner, and then we can fight on a level far greater than just food and shelter.
So then, you may ask, why aren’t more good, and moral Christians impacting the world? It’s because of another extreme of believers who want to be “holy and righteous” just for their own benefit, who won’t fight for the freedom of others, who won’t get in the trenches to set captives free or sacrifice their comfort to involve themselves with “undesirables.” And just as much as do-gooders without holiness fail, these types of Christians also fail by refusing to get their hands dirty and serve as soldiers in warfare. Jesus commanded us to be holy, even as He is holy, to not even think evil thoughts, much less commit evil deeds, and He also commanded us to care for the suffering, the poor, the prisoners and the sick, to cast out demons and to raise the dead, to preach the gospel and to be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. The one who doesn’t love Me will not keep My words. The word that you hear is not Mine but is from the Father who sent Me.” (John 14:23-24 HCSB)