Complexity and Consistency: a Christian Response to Social Issues

Christians should understand both the complexity of solving social issues of our day like abortion, gun control, racial inequality and more, and the need for consistency in our care for them.

Topics: Politics | The Gospel

When it comes to understanding the systemic nature of sin and evil, Christians should be at the forefront. Yet, when faced with many of the social issues facing our country today, outside abortion, we seem resigned to the possibility that laws or legislation might address the problems.

Christians, if anybody, understand the world is broken, making sin and evil pervasive. The Bible, and a few thousand years of tradition, teach the effects of sin in the world are both micro and macro. All of creation, from people to the cosmos itself, is fallen. Because of sin, there is death, despair and destruction on every level. Jesus Christ is the only remedy—the means by which these realities are reversed. But we are called by God to participate in the making of all things new through the systems He has ordained in our world.

When it comes to the issue of abortion, Christians tend to apply this understanding of involvement in laws and legislation. We understand this injustice as an attack on personhood because we believe humans are created in the image of God and have equal, inherent value, dignity and worth. We know abortion is an evil that must be addressed from the top and the bottom. From the bottom up, we know it is only through the gospel and individual lives being transformed that we will ultimately see change on this issue. But we also understand it from the top down—there is value of seeking justice and giving mercy to individuals, pushing back darkness through protests, policies, ministries and a host of other solutions. Our efforts have been far from perfect, and we still have work to do, but the Church has put forth great effort from all sides to eradicate abortion.

We often don’t have a similar approach to other social issues, though. We tend to abandon the broad scope of how people change and fail to apply a biblical understanding of humanity and sin. When it comes to racial injustice, we’re often quick to rebuke individual racism, yet we become uneasy when conversations emerge about the effects of systemic racism and the need to reform employment, education, criminal justice and housing. When it comes to gun violence, we’re often quick to rebuke murder and mourn the loss of human life, yet we become defensive when conversations emerge about stricter gun laws.

There are a number of reasons why we act and react inconsistently. There’s certainly a need for teaching and education, but many times it comes down to proximity. Abortion is an issue that we can, although wrongly, hold at a distance because it doesn’t always infringe on everyday lives, while these other issues hit us much closer to home. Whether it’s a good and right desire to protect our families or a long-living family tradition of hunting or shooting for sport, whether it’s avoiding the sorrow and responsibility that comes with admitting we live segregated lives and have explicitly or implicitly benefited from the effects of equality and injustice, these issues interfere with our individual identities, liberties, traditions, preferences, hobbies and comforts. They even sometimes expose what the Bible would call “idols,” those things we hold and elevate above God Himself.

That’s not to say all these issues are the same or should be handled the same. It also doesn’t mean that gun control, at any level, is the ultimate solution for gun violence and mass shootings or that we shouldn’t first examine our own personal prejudices and preferences when it comes to race. Yet the challenge for evangelicals is to not pick and choose how we see and address the problems of our world based on our own experiences and upbringings. We’ll probably still land in different places and draw different conclusions, but we must let Scripture bear weight on every matter of our day. Even where it doesn’t explicitly address current events and issues, the Bible still speaks to these matters, giving us clear and consistent wisdom, themes and principles, as well as an overarching story and a perfect example in Jesus Christ, from which we develop ideas and instincts that help us live faithfully. With this biblical framework, particularly as it helps us understand humanity and sin, the Church has seen the need to attack abortion from every possible angle, from changing hearts to changing laws, and we must take that same approach to all the issues our world faces today.

We know Jesus didn’t come to merely redeem souls; He came to redeem the world, individuals and institutions. We know that’s true for abortion and we need to be honest that it’s also true for racial injustice, gun violence and other potent problems in our world. Even though it will press and push us in some uncomfortable, uneasy ways, we must open our mouths to admit ignorance and relinquish the things we’ve made idols of in our lives. We must be willing to acknowledge the complexity of brokenness and the creativity God has given His people in being agents of change in the world—from every angle.