Ever since George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer last May, many people around the world have been burdened by the sin of racism—and rightly so. Racism devalues human beings created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Scripture makes no distinction between so-called races, referencing only one race—the human race (Acts 17:26; James 2:9). Though we might have different levels of melanin (a pigment) varying our skin shade, we are all descended from Adam and Eve.
Christians who want to take action against racism are pressured to agree with culture’s directives, philosophies, and motivations for social justice. However, before they engage in any activism and discourse, Christians must understand the difference between social justice and biblical justice—and why these are not synonymous.
Addressing the issue head-on is Dr. Voddie Baucham, dean of theology at African Christian University in Zambia and frequent Answers in Genesis conference speaker. In a recent interview, Baucham explained, “Social justice is about redistributing resources and opportunities.” Social justice is championed by movements such as Black Lives Matter, which has been likened to a religion. But in this religion, “the answer is something other than the forgiveness that we find through God in Christ,” Baucham said. “The answer is somehow you have to do enough penance. . . . This religion is promising salvation, somewhere other than God.”
Social justice leads us to believe that we can save ourselves apart from God and then build a just society. “And unfortunately,” Baucham added, “there are many Christians who are sounding like they’re satisfied with this.” Social justice is a call for collective penance from society for the accused sins of “structural, institutional racism” and “white privilege” rather than individual racism. Baucham said these differing viewpoints are confusing and further dividing people.
Biblical justice is always about the gospel of God’s saving grace, with a focal point on forgiveness through Jesus. The gospel message is so powerful partly because it is the true story of equality: We are all born sinners—capable of the most heinous sins, including racism—and we all deserve God’s righteous wrath. But God so loved the world that whoever believes on his Son, Jesus Christ, will be saved.
People cannot repent of institutional racism; they can only repent of the sin in their own individual hearts. When they acknowledge that sin, they can allow the gospel message to change them and enable them to obey Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39).