Eugene Cho

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

passion-2011-worship-and-justice

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

My Instagram

Window seat. For the win. As leaders, we must not see ministry and family as competing commitments.  We must not sacrifice our marriage and kids for the sake of "ministry." How can we? Loving our families IS ministry & good leadership.

And on a side note, we took this goofy photo for Mother's Day last Sunday at @seattlequest. I was shocked! What in the world happened to our kids? Our 13 year old son blocked four of my shots on the basketball court yesterday. He's since been grounded... I fear that we ask God to move mountains, forgetting that God also wants to move us.

In fact, it's possible that we are that mountain. Time flies. The eldest is wrapping up her 1st year in college and the college tours have begun for the 2nd child. The youngest enters high school in the Fall. Can't say enough about how proud Minhee and I are of the kids - not just of their accomplishments but the people they are and are becoming.

But...man...we can't wait to party it up when we're emptynesters. Party at our house. It's going to be epic. Humbled. Grateful. Mindful of God's grace and faithfulness in my life. It's all grace... It's an unexpected honor to be invited back - even with some mini-drama - to @princetonseminary to receive the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award - exactly 25 years after starting my journey there as a student in 1992. Wow.

Princeton isn't necessarily for everyone. And to say that I loved everything about my experience would be misleading but it was very formative. Ir challenged me to examine why I believed in what I believed. It reminded me that God could handle my questions. It prepared me for a post-Christian context where I am not entitled to be heard but I had to earn the right to be heard, and of course, it taught me that all is good with a Philly cheese steak at Hoagie Haven.

No one is an island to themselves and I am certainly an example of that. Many people - women and men, young and old, and of many backgrounds - prayed, encouraged, mentored, and loved me along the way. Grateful for my professors at seminary, my many classmates, and the numerous fellow staff and co-laborers I've had the privilege of serving Christ with past and present. And of course, I'm forever inspired by my parents, my children, and my wife, Minhee. Thank you for your faith, hope, and love...and oh, for your patience. Only your family will know and see both the best and worst of you. They've seen my worst...and keep on believing in me.

Thank you again, PTS and President Barnes, for this honor. Then, today, and tomorrow...by God's grace, just striving to be faithful to my Lord and Savior...to preach and live out the convictions of the whole Gospel. Amen. So humbled and grateful to be with @catalystleader in Cincinnati to encourage leaders from all around the country about the invitation to Uncommon Fellowship.

Preached from John 4. We can talk, preach, sing, philsophize, liturgize, and spit rhymes about Samaria...but we still have to talk through Samaria.

my tweets

  • "They got money for wars but can't feed the poor." ~ Tupac #trumpbudget || 18 hours ago
  • Heartbroken. Praying for Manchester & the UK. For those mourning loved ones. For those injured and fighting for life. Lord, in your mercy. || 2 days ago
  • Window seat. For the win. https://t.co/yG66Sm2bvu || 4 days ago
  • As leaders, we must not sacrifice our family for the sake of ministry because loving our family IS good leadership: instagram.com/p/BUVAGVwg-5z/ || 4 days ago
  • We long for a Gospel that comforts but resist the Gospel that disrupts. Having the former without the latter seduces us into complacency. || 4 days ago
  • Love wins in the end but in the meanwhile,it fights for things that matter. Love isn't sentimental. It's both gentle & fierce. Love endures. || 5 days ago