Eugene Cho

We have to see justice as part of discipleship and ultimately…our worship of God.

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Over the years, I’ve been given by some the mini-reputation as a leader in the field of justice. At first, I took it as a compliment and  of course, I still do because I care a lot about justice. I know that people mean well. But I care about justice not  just for the sake of justice. I care about justice…because I care much about the Gospel.

And sometimes, when I hear folks talk about justice in the church, I cringe…

I cringe because if we’re not careful, we’re again compartmentalizing justice rather than seeing it as part of the whole Gospel; We need to see justice as a critical part of God’s character and thus, our discipleship and worship.

Just like we shouldn’t extract the character of “love” or “grace” or “holiness” from God’s character, such must be the case with justice.

People often ask me, “What’s the most critical part about seeking justice.”

My answer:

We must not just seek justice but live justly. Justice work and just living are part of our discipleship. Justice contributes to our worship of God. Justice is worship.

You will know a tree from its fruit. 
In other words, you will show evidence of where you are rooted if you produce fruit that is close to the heart of God. To that end, I believe you cannot credibly follow Christ unless you pursue justice.

I know that a lot of people will push back on that statement. Some say that salvation hinges on whether or not you believe in Jesus, and that is true. But do you really believe in Jesus when there is no evidence that you are doing what He compels us to do?

Early in Jesus’s ministry, He boldly proclaimed His revolutionary vision for the kingdom of God in a synagogue on the Sabbath, and the religious authorities surrounding Him stood amazed at His teaching. He stood up to read, and someone handed Him a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

He found these defining words and read them:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
(Luke 4:18–19)

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.

This was a proclamation of justice for the poor, the blind, and the prisoner, fulfilling a kingdom vision that included “the least of these.” A kingdom vision that even His closest disciples did not fully understand at the time. Shortly after this time, Jesus was rejected.

There was confusion. There was anger. The religious leaders listening to Jesus got angry, and their curiosity and amazement turned to apprehension, even fear. They believed that this humble arrival of the King was not how it was supposed to be. So an angry mob chased Him out of town and tried to run Him off a cliff (see Luke 4:29).

Biblical justice often does not make sense from our human perspective: The last shall become first. The weak will become strong. The poor will become rich.

What paradoxes!

How can you read the Scriptures or examine the life and ministry of Christ and not sense that mercy, justice, and compassion—particularly for those who have been marginalized—aren’t dear to the heart of God?

When we read through the Bible, it is clear to me that God cares about justice. The Word of God is God’s revelation for the world, showing how the world can be set right. We see that Jesus is not some mere historical figure—Jesus is the Son of God; He is God incarnate. His words and actions testify to the kingdom of God, where things will be restored, where there is justice, mercy, and compassion.

All of this matters because we are not just talking about ideas. We are not just hypothesizing about a “what if” scenario. This matters because justice involves people and their lives and their value before God. When justice happens to the least of these, God celebrates.

As Christians, we know and understand justice beyond secular definitions. It is not peripheral. It is not external. It is not secondary. It is critical. It is part of our identities. It is part of our discipleship. It is an important part of our witness to the world.

Part of the above is an excerpt from my book, Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World than Actually Changing the World? (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2014), 42-44.

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8 Responses

  1. Matt Edwards says:

    Good stuff! What do you think it looks like to work for justice from the perspective of people who love mercy? I get that we should be about liberation for the oppressed, but how do we treat the oppressor?

  2. youngwoongyi says:

    well written, pastor. ^^

  3. Bruce Strom says:

    Thank you! I join you in cringing – sometimes from evangelicals who don’t understand that the gospel is justice – both involve tzedek (justice/righteousness) which is restoring what is broken and righting what is wrong. That begins with us as we learn what it means to love God which is our act of worship. But worship doesn’t end there. Love of God compels us to love our neighbor. I sometimes cringe at my liberal friends who separate justice from worship and the gospel. They go hand in hand.

    Looking forward to the book.

  4. Lisa says:

    I had never made the connection between justice and discipleship before reading these words. Thanks for the challenge to live justly not just do justice.

  5. Lydia says:

    This is so true. So many times we forget that for love to abound, justice must follow! We need to hold that banner along with the banner of Christ.

  6. […] worship and justice: “We Have to See Justice as Part of Discipleship and Ultimately…Our Worship of God” by Eugene […]

  7. […] worship and justice: “We Have to See Justice as Part of Discipleship and Ultimately…Our Worship of God” by Eugene […]

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One Day’s Wages

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These are crazy times in our country and larger world but nevertheless, we're going to keep pursuing the things that God has placed upon our hearts. We're pressing forward...doing our part to reflect mercy, compassion, and justice - locally and globally.

Wednesdays are my @onedayswages office day and I especially love the culmination of hard work for our interns, volunteers, 2 full-time staff, and board as we collaborate with our NGO partners. This week, we signed these checks as we granted out over $75,000 to provide better health care for mothers and their families in Mali and Nepal.

THANK YOU for making this possible Your classic play it cool because you're visiting your old stomping grounds at Princeton and pretend you're not cold but in actuality, you're freezing picture. 20 years, 2 weeks, and counting. What a journey with this woman. I love her...and I want to keep growing in love, honor, and respect. Great to catch up with @jlin7 in Brooklyn at the Nets game. Grateful for his partnership with @onedayswages to support our Girls' Empowerment Fund. The season hasn't been what he hoped for with major injuries...but we can't wait to see you back on the court soon and do what you do. Stay encouraged, brother. Thanks for your faithful witness for Christ. Playoffs! Let's go #11. Point Guard. Living my hoop dreams through my girl.

pc: ed tanaka Following Jesus is not just about going to church. It also involves repenting, seeking justice, loving kindness, walking humbly, feeding the poor, clothing the naked, speaking up for the voiceless, welcoming the refugee, and fighting for the rights of vulnerable. Sometimes, it's scary but Jesus nevertheless commands, "Follow me." Be brave.

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