The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. described the church of his day as “dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social justice.” This was because he saw the church as one that ought to play a key role in the flow of social justice in the society; a view most clergy didn’t agree with as they believed racial and economic injustice “are social issues with which the gospel has no real concern.” Referencing the early church as an example, King believed that the church ought not exist simply as a thermometer that records “the ideas and principles of popular opinion,” but as a thermostat that ought to transform the “mores of society.” But does this view still hold true today? I would say while Dr. King’s thoughts have provided an illuminating perspective for church-state activism today, there is still need for more awareness of the role of contemporary church towards social reform. Many churches still view social injustice as “issues with which the gospel has no real concern.” And so much still needs to be done to enforce the views of Dr. King into contemporary society. John Stott provides a helpful advice on how the church could respond to social issues today as he noted: “We need to pray that God will raise up more ethical thinkers, who will not just climb Mount Sinai to declaim the Ten Commandments but will argue that God’s standards are best. Just as we need theological apologists who will argue the goodness of God’s gospel, so we need ethical apologists who will argue the goodness of God’s law.”
The German reformer, Martin Luther, equally advised in favor of civil disobedience like Dr. King in a situation where those in authority were issuing unjust laws contrary to the Law of God as he stated: “While all people must respect their secular rulers, Christian preachers have the right and the duty to rebuke rulers who do not fulfill their task. To rebuke rulers in this way is praiseworthy…and particularly a good service to God. It would be far more seditious if a preacher does not rebuke the sins of the rulers.”
So I believe the most effective way for the contemporary church to be involved in the flow of social justice is to understand first of all that it is the duty of the clergy to rise up under the authority of scriptures and rebuke ungodly leaders who do not fulfill their task while being mindful of not compromising on the fundamental mission of the church which is discipleship. I maintain that to be relevant on this matter, the contemporary church may focus on producing two sets of ministers; those who will be responsible for declaiming the teachings of scriptures in the church for the edification of the saints and those who will be responsible for arguing out the goodness of God’s law towards social transformation. Let us remain in prayers for all the church men around the world who God is currently using to ensure a free flow of justice for the poor and the weak in our communities.