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Part II. Contributions to Society. lesson 3 of 4
Lesson 7. Social Justice

Through today’s lesson, we hope you will want to join in the task of bringing justice and fairness to the people around you.

1.Help the weak. Jesus commanded Christians to care for the weak. Jesus mentions six types of needy people in his teaching about separating the sheep from the goats: hungry, thirsty, strangers, those needing clothes, the sick, and those in prison. 1

2.Slavery. Throughout history, many people have been slaves.  Slaves were common in the Roman Empire in the First Century, when the New Testament was written.  Paul told slaves to obey their masters, just as though they were obeying God2  Some people have mistakenly thought that Paul endorsed slavery.  But Paul also says that we are all one in Christ, slave as well as free person. 3   The process by which the Christian idea of equality finally influenced society to prohibit slavery is an amazing story.

3.England. The greatest breakthrough in this movement came in England. A member of the English Parliament4 was renewed in his Christian faith, and he began to work toward passing laws that would end slavery.  This process continued for many decades, but he did not give up, until finally in 1807 England prohibited slave trading.  He continued to work toward stopping slavery altogether.  After he died in 1833, the English Parliament voted to free slaves and stop all slavery in areas controlled by England.

4.American slaves. The process in America was more difficult.  The Americans had stopped slave trading in 1807, just like England.  The economy of the south depended on slave labor, and the people there did not want to set the slaves free. Many of the Christians in the northern part of America risked their lives to help slaves escape and to work toward bringing slavery to an end.  The Quakers are famous as a church group that tried to help slaves.   Finally, since the two sides could not agree, the north and south parts of America fought a war for four years, starting in 1861. Fortunately, the American president was very famiilar with the Bible.  In 1863 the American president, Abraham Lincoln, declared all slaves in America to be free..

5.Civil Rights. The challenge of reaching mutual tolerance by black people and white people in America has led to amazing examples of black leadership.  Because he was not permitted to pray with white people,  in 1814 a black Christian pastor, former slave, formed a new denomination for blacks: the African Methodist Episcopal church.  In America, the Christian church has become the main source of comfort and community stability for black Americans.  The most famous black American pastor is Martin Luther King Junior.  His preaching and leading of marches asking for rights resulted in passage of the 1964 Civil Rights acts, which removed restrictions on Americans who had originally come from Africa.  He was shot in 1968.  The people of America are still involved with facing the results of so many years of slavery and of finding ways to bring all Americans together in equality. Some parts of Africa still have slaves.  The government of China is careful to punish anyone who makes someone else into a slave.  Today, slaves are prohibited in most countries, and the people of the world are reminded of the importance of equal rights through the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.Today, every country faces a challenge, which is, how to guarantee human rights, because there are some people who look down on women, on minorities, or on those who have different ideas or religious opinions. Christians can help in this mater, because they can keep reminding everyone that all people have value in God’s sight.

6.Hitler. The world faced the danger of an attack on religion when in 1933 Hitler came to power in Germany.  Hitler was not a Christian.  Starting in 1938, Hitler began killing Jews: in total, he killed about 6 million Jews.  Now we know that Hitler’s campaign against the Jews was only the first step. After the Jewish people were killed, he planned to suppress the church.  Both Christians and Jews agreed that human government was responsible to God, and Hitler could not accept that: Hitler wanted the state to be the highest power.  Hitler believed that according to his policy of Nazism, people had to put the government in first place, and he knew that any group that accepted the Bible would put God first, not the government.  The Bible states that government is a gift from God.  We respect and support government because it is a gift from God.  Hitler demanded that all Christians unite into a “German Christian Church” to carry out his plans.  About one third of the German Christian leaders opposed Hitler’s attempt to spread his false ideas inside the church, and many were imprisoned and killed.  The most famous is a pastor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  He was the principal of a seminary, and when Hitler closed his seminary in 1937, he continued to teach in secret.  He was arrested in 1943 because he helped 14 Jews to escape from Germany.  He was killed in 1945 because he passed on messages from a group that hoped to kill Hitler.  Bonhoeffer’s books remind us that following Jesus can sometimes require that we give up our freedom and our life.  Whenever government has tried to play the role of God, Christians have been persecuted. Many millions of soldiers were killed fighting against Hitler, but in 1945 World War II ended and the remaining Jews in German prisons were set free.

7.Prisons. Prison conditions throughout history have generally not been ideal.  The movement to take better care of prisoners started with Christians in England.  In 1773, asheriff who was a Christian started  traveling around Europe to promote prison reform,  but with no result.  In 1817 a Quaker woman5 took other women with her to visit woman prisoners, teach them to sew, and read the Bible to them.  Her movement received much publicity, so finally in 1823 the British Parliament passed prison reform laws.  Today in America, there is a large Christian ministry called “prison fellowship” that visits people in prison and brings the love and hope of God to them.

8.Values. Today many people’s lives feel empty.  Christianity can make a contribution to give people meaning and hope. Paul writes that the love of money is the root of all evil.  But today many people believe that the source of happiness can be found in buying many things. This focus on money is called “materialism.”   Believers can model a life that does not need to buy many things in order to find happiness.  Christians can do this because they believe God’s promises.  For example, the Christian need not depend on money for joy, because the Bible says joy is found in the presence of God. 7 Some people seek money not for happiness but for security.  Those who have suffered in the past suppose that they can avoid suffering in the future by making more money. But the Bible teaches that security does not come from money.  Security comes from God.  Those who believe this put money in the correct priority, which is to put God above money. The Bible tells us that money is temporary, but the one who does the will of God lives forever8

9.Francis. One of the most famous people to use faith to gain freedom from the love of money is Francis of Assisi. (Assisi is a city in Italy). As the son of a wealthy merchant, he could have had a life of luxury. After being wounded in war, he saw a leper begging by the roadside, and recognized that helping the beggar would be a way of showing love for Christ.  In 1206, Francis of Assisi renounced his father’s wealth and left home; his father disowned him.   He and his followers wandered the roads of Europe, preaching about God’s love, and demonstrating it by serving others.  They formed an organization called the Franciscans; they are Catholic monks who dedicate themselves to education and spreading the gospel. Francis of Assisi popularized the idea of celebrating Christmas by putting small figures of shepherds and the other Christmas figures in a miniature stable.  This is sometimes called a “manger scene.”

10.Morality. Today it is common around the world to misuse God’s gift of sex. God tells us to flee from sexual sin. 9  If we follow God’s guidance and avoid sexual intimacy outside of marriage, we are saved from many physical and psychological problems.  While people often point to the pressure to “meet their needs” as an excuse for breaking God’s laws, Christians are taught that they can live in God’s way because God has promised to meet their needs. Jesus promises that the needs of this life will be provided for us as we put the Kingdom of God first in our lives. 10 Today many people believe that they cannot be successful unless they lie and cheat.  Paul writes that it is inconsistent to lie, since believers have a new nature.   11 People know that it is inconsistent for a Christian to lie.  Christians aim to be an example of people who do not cheat on tests, do not lie on applications, and do not leave things out of their tax statements. Good morals makes a difference in history.  Many historians say that England would have suffered the same chaos and extremes as France in its revolution of 1789, were it not for the fact the renewal prompted by John Wesley had improved the morality of many people in England.

11.Helping the Poor. Wesley’s ideas were continued when in 1865 a Holiness Church evangelist12 in London founded the Salvation Army. These Christians organized themselves in a military way in order to dedicate themselves to serving the poor, and used military-style music to gain attention. They were concerned about poor people living in overcrowded homes filled with family violence and drunkenness. They provided not only cheap meals but also the love of God. They helped transform drunken child beaters into stable fathers and good workers.

12.Love of Country. Christians have been noted for the way they help their countries to become stronger. The Bible teaches Christians to obey the laws and pay their taxes.  Paul writes that lease read Romans 13:1-7.  Governments are established by God. 13  In the Roman Empire, when this was written, Christians were good citizens even though the government sometimes persecuted them.  From this verse, a Christian learns that it is God’s will to care for everyone in his country, not only people who are similar to him or related to him.  Christians today also can help to make their cities and countries strong and prosperous, by being honest.    In 1905 a sociologist 14  concluded that the economic success of the western world was helped by Christians, because they worked hard, saved, and were honest.  Christians can show others how to love country and be good citizens.

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Footnotes:

1 Matthew 25:31-40.

2 Ephesians 6:5-9.

3 Galatians 3:26-283

4 William Wilberforce

5 Elizabeth Fry

6 1 Timothy 6:10.

7 Psalm 16:11

8 1 John 2:17.

9 1 Corinthians 6:18-20.

10 Matthew 6:33.

11 Colossians 3:9.

12 William Booth

13 Romans 13:1-7

14 Max Weber

Word List: Hitler  希特勒  Francis of Assisi   Franciscans [fang ji hui shi]  方济(濟)会士(會士)manger scene, also called a creche or a nativity scene. 馬槽舞台  Martin Luther King Junior  马丁路德金  materialism [wei wu zhu yi]  唯物主义   sheriff [xian zhi an guan]