Last night here in Pretoria, I went to a showing of the newest Invisible Children movie. Before the movie was played, I was in the main building where there were dozens of Christian ministries and non-profits represented. I didn’t know everything would be so “Christian” because I knew that Invisible Children has never made any kind of profession to be religious. So, I was hopeful that this night would be about Jesus.
The program started out with an Afrikaans girl who prayed. Her first word was “Jesus…” She prayed that God would open our hearts to the injustice in the world. She prayed that we would be empowered to do something. She prayed, “In your Name, Amen.”
That was the last time I heard Jesus’ name.
There were other people who spoke after the film. They talked about how South Africa could help. They said they “had meetings…and thought and prayed about” how to be involved. They said this is an “interdenominational” movement. They said that we “cannot turn a blind eye toward this.”
And you know what? I would be all for it — if it had to do with Jesus.
By my guess, I’d say there were about 3,000 people at the program, and as always in a group that size, most probably do not follow Jesus. As I sat there, I said to my friend Rylan, “They missed a huge opportunity to share the gospel tonight.”
Then you might say, “Well, James, this isn’t about the gospel. It’s social justice. It’s a non-religious movement. It’s about people working together to make a difference.”
And I would reply that if that’s all it is, it’s a problem. It’s a problem because there are thousands of people who may be fooled into believing that if you give a couple bucks, write a few letters, spend a night on the streets, and buy some merchandise you will have done your duty. Even greater than that, it’s a problem because there are possibly thousands of people who will not understand the greatest injustice ever committed: we have sinned, and continue to sin, against Almighty God.
We will not properly understand injustice in our world until we understand the injustice of sin that lives in our hearts. We have highly offended God. We have trampled upon his glory. We have committed awful crimes against the Creator. We deserve to die because of our evils.
But God sent Jesus to earth. The God-man came down to live and work and teach and bring us back to God. He lived without any injustice in his heart, because he was God. Even so, we couldn’t overcome our own injustice. In fact, we are so unjust that we did the unthinkable.
We killed God.
But it wasn’t for nothing. God used his own death to justify all those who come to him. No one understands injustice more than God does. Jesus was innocent, and he was murdered. No one has been sinned against more than he has. Because of this, we will not be rightly passionate about social justice until we understand the justice that God satisfied when Jesus’ died on the cross. Therefore, if any social cause is not grounded in Christ, it is meaningless.
Invisible Children is neither a good nor a bad thing. It depends on who you are in it for. If the blazing center is Jesus, then it is good. If it is for any other reason — noble as it may be — it’s bad.
The sad fact is that anything not done for Jesus — for the glory of God — is a sin. As great as it seems for someone to rescue children from being slaves of a crazed terrorist, it doesn’t justify anyone before God. If anything doesn’t bring glory to Jesus and lead people to him so they might be rescued from bondage — physically and spiritually — it simply draws attention away from Christ and toward something else.
The prophet Isaiah puts it this way. “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (64:6). The phrase “polluted garment” in Hebrew means “bloodied rag.” I know this is gross, but in our day, this is akin to a bloodied tampon. You say that’s disgusting. You say that’s vile. It’s in your Bible. Disgusting is the point Isaiah is making. Anything “righteous” that is not done to the glory of God is like a bloodied tampon. That’s how disgusting social justice is to God if it is void of Jesus.
Know that I’m not bashing Invisible Children. I don’t hate social justice campaigns. This blog isn’t about that. It’s about you and me. It’s about our wrongs. It’s about our injustices. It’s about our hatred, resentment, bitterness, greed, envy, jealously, lust, malice, harshness, lying, cheating, stealing, mocking, jeering, and a thousand other sins that we commit daily.
It’s all injustice. Against God. Against his glory. Against his perfection. And it’s ugly. So ugly that God had to die to forgive us.
My plea is that you examine yourself and repent so you don’t stand before God and show him a bloody towel and say, “Look at my good deeds.” I pray that you stand before God and point to Jesus and say, “There’s my righteousness. There’s my goodness. There’s my justice.”